Oldest in the world, a title not easy to come by, but a Michiana family business has earned it. Nothing runs, like a Gilsinger John Deere.
“We had thought that we were one of the oldest,” said President Paul Gilsinger.
At 114 years old, the Gilsinger Dealership in Winimac is the oldest John Deere Dealer, in the world. Started back in 1899, it didn't exactly look like todays store.
“My grandfather had the store in Pulaski, which was a general store, hardware, groceries, farm machines, appliances, gas station,” explains Paul. “I mean the whole works, and in 1958 the decision was made to move the John Deere to Winamac.”
Working alongside with his uncle, Current President, Paul Gilsinger, started work at the dealership at a very early age.
“I was 12 years old and I started out behind the parts counter, and of course doing the routine things, pulling parts for mechanics, sweeping the floor all of those, clean the showroom, wash the windows, the whole thing,” said Paul.
From parts boy to manager, Paul took over the dealership at the age of 21 after graduating from Notre Dame.
“We were very small, we had my aunt and my uncle and myself, and probably three full time employees,” says Paul. “I mean it was a mom and pop shop, and it grew and things changed just like agriculture has.”
Those changes include, six stores and over 100 employees, mom and pop, still work side by side today and their son Matt and daughter Anna also can be found in the buildings that bear their name.
“I knew that I wanted to work here when I was two years old, and there are stories about when I was little running around back here in the shop,” says Matt Gilsinger.
Gilsinger's has been a family business since 1899, passed down through the generations, and today their customers also span generations.
“My father and grandfather back in the 1940’s bought some John Deere equipment and we have been John Deere essentially ever since,” says Farmer Phil Brown. “Now it goes through myself and my two sons that farm with us now.”
While many relationships have started in this store with a purchase, it is the support that makes them strong.
“It has been a good relationship,” says Brown. “We are big into the service thing and they have always been able to work with us and provide service and parts and stuff like that, and show us how to work the equipment. The new stuff that comes along, all the new electronics and things that come along. You have to have a learning curve on that and they have been able to help us with that.”
“I wanted to keep it still feeling like a family business,” says Paul. “I consider the people that work for us, part of our extended family and I consider all of our customers part of our family too.”
A family tradition that runs just as deep as farming.
On Thursday we continue with a glimpse of how farming technology has changed, and how that has influenced how the Gilsingers do business today.