50 years of family ownershipPublished 7:40am Monday, March 10, 2014
According to retired business owner Robert Ausra, most tractor dealers close their doors before reaching their second birthday.
Naturally, he considers the fact the farm supply business he founded has been open for the last 50 years to be a somewhat significant accomplishment.
Ausra Equipment, located on Yaw Street in Dowagiac, celebrated the milestone during its annual open house event Friday. The business is currently owned by brothers Steve and Bob Ausra, who bought the store from their father in 1989.
Robert Ausra and his wife, Jackie, opened the tractor dealership in 1964, the year that Southwestern Michigan College was founded. Ausra initially sold farm equipment as a second job, as he still worked fulltime with National Standard when he and his wife opened the business. However, he soon focused all of attention toward his company when business began to pick up.
“We’ve just kept getting bigger over time,” his son Steve Ausra said.
While the business has remained on Yaw Street since their opening, the total size has increased substantially. Today, Ausra Equipment spans nearly an entire acre, and has a staff of 25 employees.
“We’re currently the biggest Case IH tractor dealer in the state of Michigan,” Ausra said.
The fact that the family-owned dealer has remained open for half a century is due in part to their loyal base of customers, most of whom live within 30-miles of the store, Ausra said. The store has cultivated their customer base through person-to-person interactions.
“Our customers are our friends,” Ausra said. “We treat them the way we would want to be treated.”
The company has also responded to the changing needs of local farmers as well, selling equipment suited for growers with farms small and large.
“Back when we first opened, we were selling tractors for about $10,000,” Ausra said. “Today, our largest tractor costs half a million.”
The business generates around $50 million in sales every year, Ausra said. However, the trait the family is most proud of is the fact that many of their members continue to help man the Ausra business.
“[Bob and I] worked our whole lives here,” Steve Ausra said. “We’ve grown up with it.”