Looney Implement closes after half-century in business

Hughes John Deere dealership owner calls it a career

By John Rech news@theeveningtimes.com

Another longtime fixture in the Hughes community has closed. Lock’s Grocery store closed after a nearby fire damaged the building. Last year, Hughes schools were forced to consolidate with West Memphis at the start of the school year — the recently blue and white painted Gus Malzahn Football Stadium stands overgrown and abandoned. Now after 51 years, the town’s John Deere dealer, Looney Implement, is part of the town history, too. Bill Looney established the business in 1964. Last Wednesday afternoon, he stood on the retail sales floor looking out the window as a crew loaded up the inventory after a sale. After commuting daily for more than half-a-century from his home in West Memphis and working with three generations of farmers, the 92-year-old called it quits. Looney started the business with his brother out of sheer need. “We got here kind of by accident,” said Looney. “We were from near Waverly. We were doing custom wheat cutting near here, and we broke down and needed a part. We had to drive all the way to Memphis to get it. While there we asked about the dealership, we knew it was for sale. They said we could get it if we qualified. With the help of very dear friends in West Memphis we were able to start.” His wife of 67 years, Elaine said it all came naturally for Bill. “The first tractor he bought he took all apart and put it back together again,” said Mrs. Looney as she and Bill looked around the empty store Wednesday. “It’s been a good one.” “I started working on a John Deere tractor when I was 12 years old in the 1930s,” said Looney. “I’ve learned a lot. I was fortunate to have real good customers and learned how to work with different personalities.” The landmark building was designed by his son, an architect during the ‘70s. Looney had seen innovations and technology improvements in the agri-business over five decades. Prices on equipment have gone up. “Back when I started a common tractor like the 4020 cost $6500-$7,000,” said Looney. “Horse power then was 95 now we are running 500 on a motor. A tractor today is upwards from $200,000, a picker is $600,000. You can see farmers strapped paying debt. It’s tough on them.” As the afternoon wound down Looney put a cap on the John Deere business. “We had the largest parts inventory around,” said Looney. “We were always open. We had people come here from five states. I don’t know what they’ll do for parts now.” Asked if he wanted to thank his customers one more time he replied, “I appreciated my customers and I tried to thank them every time they came through the door. That is why they came back.” He looked forward to spending time in his orchard. “I guess I’ll do like everyone else this time of year,” said Looney. “I’m going to pick pecans.”

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