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After 110 years, Urbana farm equipment store to close

URBANA — After 110 years in business at the same location, Knott & Geisbert Inc. Mowers & Farm Equipment is closing up shop. A two-day liquidation auction is planned for Friday and Saturday to dispose of inventory with an estimated value of more than $1 million. The company’s 3.5-acre site on Urbana Pike is for sale as well, for $3.25 million.

Third-generation business owner and operator Roger Hood “Hoodie” Geisbert III said he was concluding business for several reasons.

“I guess I’m getting older,” Geisbert said. “I’m 75 and my wife passed away, who was a main part of the business.”

In addition, Geisbert said the community’s agricultural base is declining because of houses being built and land being bought up. “So it’s time to go,” he said.

The company was established in 1900 by Frank A. Knott. Originally created for carriage construction, Knott soon expanded his services to farm equipment. In the following years, Knott’s son, Joseph, joined his father in the family business.

In 1932, Knott’s son-in-law, R.H. Geisbert Jr., became a partner in the family business, and the name was officially changed to Knott & Geisbert. The business expanded, and in 1946, Knott & Geisbert added John Deere equipment to its product line and became an authorized GMC truck dealership in 1949.

In 1964, Knott & Geisbert became Knott & Geisbert Inc., and in 1974, the business was officially handed down to its current owners, Hoodie Geisbert III and Joseph Knott II.

Urbana’s population is growing, but that means farms are being sold and taken out of production, Geisbert said.

Frederick County agriculture development specialist Colby Ferguson said losing the company will affect those with older farm equipment.

“I have a colleague who used antique tractors and older equipment for farming,” Ferguson said. “This place was his No. 1 source for parts, and that’s one of the biggest impacts closing the business will have.”

Ferguson said as older equipment becomes more outdated, the need for a company that focuses on antique machinery diminishes.

In addition, Ferguson said today’s farm equipment is becoming bigger and the day of “getting this piece and that piece to fix a machine is becoming extinct.”

Except for a stint in the military Geisbert spent his entire life with the company, starting at age 6. He is proud of its history.

“We took on Allis-Chalmers farm equipment in 1932, then Minneapolis-Moline in 1935, then John Deere in 1946, GMC trucks in 1949 and in 1973, we added White Farm Equipment,” Geisbert said.

The high point of Geisbert’s career was being recognized in 1978 as the largest corn planter dealer in North America, he said.

“The agriculture community has declined since that time, and of course, that cuts back on your business and your customers,” Geisbert said.

The company stopped selling corn planters and trucks in 2008 because of the drop-off in business.

Knott & Geisbert Inc. has tried to be community oriented and promote agriculture among young people and the FFA, Geisbert said.

“We were a mainstay in the community for many years,” he said.