Fourbrothers

Richard Boon carries out maintenance work on a tractor motor underneath the glow of a neon sign that originally stood in the Royse City town square back in 1939.

Twenty-eight years ago, Archie Kelly purchased a small dealership in Royse City selling Ford tractors to farmers in the area. Today, almost three decades later, Four Brothers Outdoor Power has changed dramatically as the demographics of the area have switched from mostly agricultural to residential.

“Our original name for the company is Four Brothers Ford Tractor,” said Russell Kelly, son of Archie Kelly and now vice president of the company. “It was originally started by my dad and my three older brothers. I don’t know why it was ‘four brothers’ at the time. My mom named it. I think that ‘Four Brothers Ford’ just sounded good.”

Russell, along with his brothers Morris, Eddy, and Rex own and operate the company located east of downtown on the north Interstate 30 service road.

Their father was born in Sanger, located north of Denton. He worked as a Dallas fireman for 30 years and eventually became a captain. He moved to Farmers Branch and lived there until 1973. Archie is now retired at age 78, but still has the industrious spirit that helped to drive the success of his company, Russell said.

“We had a trucking company, which my mother also named. It was called Ark Delivery - A-R-K. My dad’s name is Archie Ray Kelly. He had a fleet of 18-wheelers, bobtails, and delivery vans. I think at the peak of that business they had 40 or 50 trucks. They did local deliveries in the Dallas area. They did that until about ‘83 or ‘84. Then he sold that business and my dad and all my brothers came out here to try to grow this business exclusively.

The brothers purchased the dealership from Erby Campbell, who owned the local Ford dealership in 1978.

“This dealership was actually on the square in Royse City. Ford was at the time had what we now call a PAR, or a Primary Area of Responsibility. We had to put the dealership as close to the center of our PAR as possible. Royse City was the natural location for that area.”

In the early days of the family business, the dealership sold equipment almost exclusively to farmers. The Royse City area was once overflowing with farm production, in fact it is the original reason for the city’s existence. Kelly doesn’t know when Campbell began the tractor dealership, but the sign that now hangs in the maintenance garage dates back to 1939.

“Originally in ‘78 we were strictly a tractor dealer - nothing but tractors and tractor-related implements. When economic growth and housing began to develop in Rockwall and east of Rockwall in Royse City, we saw our clientele change from mainly farmers and people that had acreage to more residential or maybe small acreage, five or 10 acres. So we began carrying lawn mowers, trimmers, and large-area commercial riding mowers.

“Really commercial landscape contractors are now our primary customers,” Kelly said. “I would say that of that 50 percent of our business that is landscape-oriented, 60 percent of them are commercial landscape customers. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but there’s a lot of landscape contractors running around Rockwall County. There’s a lot of high-end people living in Rockwall that don’t mow their own yard. You can drive anywhere in the world and you’ll never see as many landscapers as you see in Rockwall.”

Kelly admits that the transition of his business is not a result of high-detail forecasting, but more a change that came their way.

“I’d love to tell you that we were smart enough to see that coming,” Kelly said. “The reality of it is we had a salesman call on us that introduced us to the term ‘ZTR’ - zero-turn radius mower. We didn’t even know what they were. He said ‘this is an up-and-coming thing, you need to take these on.’ We looked at them and thought they were really neat. So we ordered a couple. The first year, we sold three or four. The second year we sold 20. Our best year was ‘04 and we sold about 350 of them.

“So we got into the ‘zero-radius turn’ market. It’s an industry term for a type of commercial finishing mower. It’s a riding lawn mower that literally turns in a perfect circle. Those came into their existence in their original form probably in the late 70s or early 80s,” Russell said.

ZTRs gained popularity and Four Brothers jumped on board with the product in the early 90’s when ZTRs began to become a real viable machine to do commercial mowing with, Russell said.

“Now, that’s become about 50 percent of our business. A lot of people don’t even know what that is, but if you have a large area to mow that’s the best way to do it,” Russell said.

And with the change in scope and demographics, the inevitable outcome was a change in the name of the family business.

“About eight years ago, we established a D.B.A. and its now Four Brothers Outdoor Power,” Kelly said. “That better reflects the fact that we now sell more than just tractors. This used to be ‘Ford Tractors.’ Now they’re called ‘New Holland Tractors.’ We were unable to keep that Ford name when New Holland bought the line of tractors.”

Though now not the main focus of the business, the dealership has never completely left the agricultural trade, and still maintains stock and service for the remnants of what was once a thriving farming community.

“Pretty much anything in the Rhino line or the New Holland line is what you would consider ‘agricultural equipment’,” Kelly said. “Those two combined equal about $4 million of our sales. There is some agricultural business left in the Royse City area, but just a few. As far as a corporate farmer, there’s probably only one. There’s a few smaller guys that are baling hay or having small crop production like maybe 400 or 500 acres. As far as a guy that’s really in the farming business working thousands of acres, there’s probably only one within 50 miles.”

To support sales, Four Brothers also has a seven-man service department where they do maintenance and warranty work on-site, being able to repair any product line that they sell - big or small. Doug Sullivan is the parts manager and has been at the company for 15 years. Service Manager Greg Dodson has 20 years of service. Among them are other employees, such as Office Manager Teresa Clements, who has been with the company for 22 years.

“We are 100 percent certified to service any product that we sell,” Kelly said. “What that means to the end user is that we don’t have to send anything out to get it worked on. We continue to attend instructional workshops and stay current on all the lines we sell.”

The family has launched a Web site - mowpart.com - which sells parts by mail. That venture is not yet profitable, but orders for parts have been received from as far away as Africa.

Four Brothers has received New Holland’s presidents every year since 2000, and is in line to get it again, as the dealership carries a 36 percent market share when the industry average is about 17 percent.

The proudest part of the business though is not the numerous awards that line the walls of the offices, but the continuity of service to the community.

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