Bill Bayliss takes pride in the property improvements he sees around Douglas County.
As owner and salesman at Monteith Equipment in Roseburg, Bayliss has sold hundreds of tractors to landowners.
“Our equipment helps keep the county looking better,” said the 59-year-old Bayliss. “Otherwise, there’d be a lot more blackberries and poison oak.”
Bayliss said the company’s customer base has expanded from bigger equipment for livestock and hay producers in its early years to midsized tractors for the county’s growing vineyard, blueberry and hazelnut industries. Monteith also supplies smaller tractors and riding lawn mowers for use on one- or two-acre parcels.
“We’re glad to see the diversity,” Bayliss said. “We’ve got riding lawn mowers up to 135-horsepower tractors.
“When we deliver a piece of equipment and know it’s the right piece for a person’s needs, it’s very rewarding,” he added. “To then see later what our tractor and its implements have done on a person’s property is satisfying.”
Monty Monteith and Henry Flury established the business in 1965 at its present location, 2165 N.E. Stephens St. Its first business name was Flury Supply Tractor Shop because it was an offshoot of Flury Supply, a business that Monteith and Flury had opened about 10 years earlier a half mile farther north on Stephens Street. The tractor shop carried the J.I. Case Construction and Farm Equipment and Sperry New Holland Hay and Forage Equipment lines.
Bayliss, a 1972 South Umpqua High School graduate, went to work in the tractor business in 1979 after attending Oregon State University for a couple of years. He also had worked for the Douglas County Farmers Co-op for two years. Bayliss’ father, William Bayliss, a veterinarian in Myrtle Creek, graduated from Medford High School with Monteith. The two were longtime friends.
“Monty kind of recruited me from the co-op,” said Bayliss, adding that he proceeded to learn the tractor and implement business on the job.
After Monteith and Flury decided to dissolve their partnership in 1981, Flury took sole ownership of Flury Supply, and Monteith took over ownership of the tractor shop, renaming it Monteith Equipment. In 1983, the company became the area’s Kubota Tractor dealer. The Case and New Holland lines were gradually dropped over the next several years.
Longtime Garden Valley-area farmer Don Kruse said he’s been doing business with the tractor company since its early years. Kruse Farms owns six Kubota tractors purchased from Monteith.
“They’re probably the best farm dealer I’ve dealt with,” Kruse said. “We’ve been very satisfied with the quality of sales and service that we’ve received.
“Monty was much like Bill, very personal,” the farmer added. “They are excellent when it comes to customer service.”
When Monteith began to think about retiring, he had several conversations with Bayliss. In 1997, Monty and Betty Monteith agreed to a 15-year deal to sell the business to Bayliss and his wife, Sally. Monty Monteith died in 2009, but the buyout was completed last year with Betty Monteith.
“There’s definitely been ups and downs,” Bill Bayliss said. “In one year, 2007 to ’08, our business (gross sales) was cut in half. That was a bitter pill to swallow. But we had some reserves to help us get through. Since 2009, we’ve had slow, steady growth.”
In 2007, at the height of the building boom and prior to the economic downturn, the business had 10 employees. It now has eight — three mechanics, two salesmen, two parts men and a secretary-bookkeeper. Sally Bayliss took over the latter position after the recent retirement of 19-year employee Nancy Knife.
Darrel Mitchell, who shares sales duties with Bill Bayliss, has worked for the company for 28 years.
Bayliss credits loyal employees and customers for the business’ survival and success through the years.
“We’ve dealt with agricultural families for years,” he said. “They’re extremely loyal customers, and we’re extremely loyal to them. From those customers to new people moving to the area, we’re happy to help them with their needs.”
Tim Bare, manager of the K-Bar Ranches near Myrtle Creek, said the ranch has been doing business with Monteith since it opened.
“They’re honest people to do business with,” Bare said. “They’re a family-owned business that strives to provide service for the equipment they’ve sold.
“They have transitioned to Kubota, and that’s probably a better fit for them because most properties in the county have gotten smaller rather than larger,” he added.
The Baylisses are adding Umpqua Valley Tractor to the business name to better identify its products and marketplace.
“I’m just really proud about this business and everyone who has made it what it is,” Sally Bayliss said. “Bill and I are really glad we can honor Monty and Betty by keeping their work and business moving forward, keeping it current and making it a thriving business.”
• News-Review business reporter Craig Reed can be reached by calling 541-957-4210 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.