Caroline Implement Co. Inc.

Equipment sales and service and relationships that span generations
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Sean O'Reilly

The life span of most agriculture equipment is a decade, but a relationship with a trusted ag dealer like Caroline Implement Co. Inc. lasts a lifetime. With two locations in Marion and Shawano, Wisconsin, family-run Caroline Implement is a leading equipment dealer, selling and servicing the brands producers have come to know and trust to get any job done. Tractors (ranging from lawn and garden, compact, utility and large ag), harvesters, planting and tillage, hay and forage, crop mapping and auto steer — name the equipment need, Caroline Implement has the answer.

The company offers a full suite of solutions, targeted at traditional to large-scale dairy producers and corn and soybean operations, but also lifestyle customers, large property owners, municipalities, commercial, industrial and government customers as well. Caroline Implement’s main line is John Deere, but the business also stocks a range of Landoll, H&S, Kuhn Knight, Demco, Frontier, STIHL, Westfield, Haybuster products and many more.

“Our story is one of longevity, consistency and continuity in operations,” says David Raether, president of Caroline Implement. “When a customer stops in to buy a new or used piece of equipment or to service something they already own, they know they can talk to the same person, whether that’s a month, a year or five years later. We have very low employee turnover.”

Formative years

David’s father, Gordon Raether purchased the business in 1947 — then a small blacksmith shop on the south side of Main Street in Caroline, Wisconsin. Gordon started the company with just his car and a wagon. He would deliver after hours what he was able to sell during the day. If a day delivery was necessary, his wife, Luella, would come down to the shop with their children and Gordon would make the delivery.

In September 1950, the Raethers purchased a cement block building on the south side of Main Street from Ervin Bleck, which became the primary office for the next 33 years. Ken Raether joined Gordon in the business upon high school graduation in 1959. After he returned from the army in 1966, the business was incorporated.

“I worked in the business in the summer when I was a young man, but then I went off to college to be a teacher and did that for six years before going back to the business full time in 1979,” recounts David.

The ‘60s and ‘70s were a formative time for Caroline Implement with the rapid growth of agriculture machinery across the nation. John Deere became a leading brand and many other short lines were added. An addition to the facility allowed for tractors with cabs to be repaired and serviced inside.

By 1980, Gordon began to scale back his workload and his sons began to take charge as co-owners. After his death, the business moved to a new site 2 miles south of Caroline to Marion — a move that more than tripled the parts and service space.

In 2002, Caroline Implement acquired the K+K Equipment dealership in Shawano to provide additional resources for area producers as well as large property owners and homeowners. A 1,500-square-foot showroom floor expansion followed in Marion and the addition of a wider selection of merchandise to fit the needs of any yard, home and farm. In 2013, an 8,100-square-foot shop addition doubled the available shop space in Marion. In 2015, a storage facility was added at the Shawano location.

A personalized approach, leading lines

Capacity doesn’t mean much without the personnel and service to back it up — an area where David says Caroline Implement truly excels. “We offer personalized service for every customer,” he says. “We’ve been doing business with many customers over generations. My salespeople and I are selling equipment to children and grandchildren of people my father sold equipment to back in the ‘50s and ‘60s.”

While the company’s relationships and approach to customer service are old school, David says Caroline Implement always stays current with the latest agriculture equipment and products. “John Deere’s line of products under the ag management solutions [AMS], including crop mapping, auto steering, data and storage, are some of the best in the industry,” he explains. “John Deere does a great job offering the latest precision farming technology and ensuring we have the solutions available our customers want.”

Caroline Implement can control which product lines to promote and really focus on, but one area that always is a curve ball is the commodities market. “A few years ago it was the slowdown in corn and bean prices that started to impact us. Lately, the bigger challenge is in the recent downward trend in dairy prices. This is taking excess dollars out of our customer’s pockets and that’s a big problem because the dairy industry is our primary market,” says David.

With little control over the ups and downs of prices, David says Caroline Implement continues to make its name in outstanding service and support. “We couldn’t do this without the great team we have,” David speaks of Caroline Implement’s team of 35 employees. “At the end of the day, knowing you have helped your customer achieve their goals is the best feeling.  We emphasize this problem-solving mission to our staff and everyone has this like mindset; whether it’s a service problem, parts or a technical issue, we’re here to try to help them solve the problem and be more efficient and effective in their business.”

“We’re here for our customers, every season, every time,” adds David. Just ask any one of Caroline Implement Co. Inc.’s employees or customers at both locations and folks will understand why the company has been in business for close to 70 years. 

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Landoll Corporation
Schenck Accounting, Tax & Business