This is no tale of two cities, but Lakeland Equipment can trace its roots back to a guy named Charlie Dickens.
Dickens had owned a John Deere dealership in one of the most rural parts of Wayne County. Business partners Marty Phillippe and Gene Roling bought the shop in 1983 and incorporated the business as Lakeland Equipment.
The company — which sells new and used tractors, farm equipment and lawn-care equipment — has grown substantially since then. Lakeland has six locations in and around Monroe County and was recently named as one of the top small businesses in the Democrat and Chronicle's "Top Workplaces" program.
"We cover every type of equipment that you can imagine," said Tom Beaty, Lakeland's general manager for all its locations. "We provide parts, service and equipment."
That first shop in Savannah, Wayne County, was expanded early to add more showroom and office space. Phillippe and Roling then extended their market area to cover most of Wayne County, including the fruit-growing region in the north on the shores of Lake Ontario.
They hired a customer-service representative, put him on the road and dubbed him the "Van Man."
Business boomed, Beaty said. "That had never been done before. We started to expand our reach." The promotion was so successful that John Deere Co. officials promoted similar operations throughout the country.
The Lakeland business grew in 1990, when Bob McNamara and Mike Wilson — like Phillippe and Roling, also former John Deere employees — joined the team and opened dealerships in Henrietta and near Geneva.
In 1999, a new facility in Avon, Livingston County, was added. Ten years later, Lakeland bought out Ontrac Equipment, a John Deere dealership with several shops in the Rochester area. Stores in Canandaigua and Henrietta were closed and shops in Brockport, Chili and Macedon were expanded.
Lakeland's customers range from farmers to municipal to individual property owners. Monroe County and the town of Greece are among the municipal customers, Beaty said. The largest rural customer is an Avon farm covering 3,000 to 4,000 acres.
"This is our busiest time of the year," Beaty said. "For 6 to 8 weeks in spring, we go nuts."
Lakeland has been working on expanding its service area in the Avon and Brockport shops. That's out of necessity due to an ever-increasing emphasis on technology in agriculture.
"As the stuff gets more complicated, the dealers need the size for GPS specialists to support the tractors and equipment," Beaty said. Using GPS technology helps farmers more specifically target what type of work or fertilizer is needed in certain areas of their fields.
Beaty said Lakeland officials were pleased with the "Top Workplaces" designation and said the honor comes from an emphasis on customers and "taking care of our employees."
"It's the people that make everything happen, not the bricks and mortar," Beaty said. "We give them every opportunity to grow with the company. ... The owners work in the business day to day. We're very family oriented."
Alan Morrell is a Rochester-based freelance writer.
Top workplaces 2014
Location:Lakeland has six stores: Two in Monroe County (Brockport and Chili), two in Wayne County (Savannah and Macedon) and one each in Livingston County (Avon) and Ontario County (hamlet of Hall, near Geneva).
Executives: Marty Phillippe, president; Mike Wilson, vice president; Bob McNamara, vice president and secretary. McNamara is retiring soon, and Andy McNamara (his son) and Ryan Payment (Bob's son-in-law) have joined as minority owners.
Employees:150 total, including 45 in Monroe County.