Big R, longtime Greeley farm and ranch store, sells to Murdoch’s (video)
Big R’s history
Big R of Greeley has been a farm and ranch supply store since 1960. When it was built, it was the largest retail store in Greeley. It now spans over 20 acres and includes the main store at 310 8th St., a tire shop, and the farm store across the street to the north. It will become a part of the Murdoch’s Ranch and Home Supply chain of 26 stores across the Rocky Mountain West. The store officially changes hands at 10 a.m. today.
The range of emotions at Greeley’s Big R store on Tuesday, well, ranged.
Some turned away, others vowed to bawl, others were hopeful of a more certain future.
After 55 years, longtime and newer employees approached today with a bit of trepidation. Today, the Greeley mainstay retail outlet for the farming and ranching community, and everything in between, is officially Murdoch’s Ranch and Home Supply.
“It’s been busier today than it’s been in a long time,” Big R cashier Erin Torres said Tuesday, Big R’s last day as a privately owned store in Greeley.
Owner Rocky Francis, closing in on 66 this summer, had been shopping the store’s sale for the better part of nine months so he can finally retire. Francis grew up in the store, which started originally as Ranch Wholesale and Supply in 1960 by his parents. In 1991, Francis bought the store.
“I’ve done everything from clean bathrooms, sweep floors, and things like that, all the way up to owner,” said Francis this week. “Both my parents are dead, and both were very active in the business. It’s one of those things where you go upstairs, there’s an empty desk, and another empty desk, and now you’re it.”
Francis had sought a buyer among his buying chain, which included the likes of Jax and Bomgaars. Murdoch’s, which is a farm and ranch supply store based in Bozeman, Mont., was the only retail chain that made a bid.
Big R of Greeley and Murdoch’s share several commonalities, according to a news release: stocking many of the same products, strong customer service and commitment to the community.
“Last but not least, Murdoch’s shares the belief that the employees and their expertise are the core of any successful business,” the release stated. “In recognition of this, Murdoch’s has offered employment to over 40 Big R of Greeley team members.”
The store officially changes hands today, but some customers were still unaware as of Tuesday.
“That surprises me,” said Gary Turley of Greeley, as he walked into the store Tuesday around lunch. “I shop here about once a week.”
He said he’d wait to see how the transition would work.
“I’ll tell you once it gets done,” he said. “Sometimes it’s for the better and sometimes, it’s for the worse.”
Employees went about their business on Tuesday, wrapping up loose ends, but as if it were any other day. Some had planned to return under the Murdoch’s label; others didn’t.
Wendy Purcell, who was in Big R’s marketing department, spent the last decade, plus a few years, working at the store. She will retire along with the store’s name, as Murdoch’s uses its own in-house marketing department.
“I’d like to think we will be missed,” she said. “I think it will be a shocker to people. There are people in town who still call us Ranch Wholesale.”
Purcell, like many employees, grew up shopping at Big R with her family.
“I remember I came to see Santa here when I was 7 years old,” she said.
Torres, too, remembers toddling around the store long before she graduated to cashier.
Murdoch’s representatives did not return calls for comment but released a statement in a news release.
“Rocky was in business for more than five decades for good reason and adding what he built to our company only makes our organization stronger,” said Rick Ungersma, president and CEO of Murdoch’s, in the release. “Big R and Murdoch’s both understand that our customers are the only reason we exist in the first place. The opportunity to become a part of the community in Greeley is an exciting step for Murdoch’s. We look forward to building on the success that Big R of Greeley has enjoyed, and we aim to be a positive addition to the city of Greeley.”
Its corporate website reports that the chain’s first store opened in Bozeman in 1994, and it has since branched out to 26 stores in four states. In Colorado, Murdoch’s also is located in Longmont, Westminster, Littleton, Parker and Fort Morgan, along with a host of branches on the West Slope. The chain will have more than 1,300 employees by the end of this year with the addition of Greeley and a store in Columbia Falls, Mont., the release stated.
The store under new ownership will be remodeled in the next 18 months, according to the release.
Francis plans to come out the other end with a fishing pole in one hand a hammer in the other. He has plans for those fishing holes, and 30 years worth of home projects left undone.
Though his employees bequeathed a size 20 work boot affixed with their signatures as his official send off, Francis said he is not one for big to-dos.
“It’s going to probably just pass,” Francis said of the store becoming a part of a corporate chain. “It’s one of those things that I’m glad I’m not going to suffer a stroke and have to find someone or do something on a fast basis. This has been a planned event for the last nine months.”
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