Photo: Russ Ruh in 2013 will celebrate 40 years of partnership within DeKane Equipment Corporation. Here, he is pictured in front of a company tractor.
by Elizabeth Rago
BIG ROCK—In 1972, Hinckley-Big Rock High School junior Russell Ruh, commonly known as Russ, was hired by partners Robert Hardekopf and Merle Thorson to work in the Service Department of Big Rock Implement Company. With one slip of a gear case, young Russell’s life would not only land him in crutches, but also behind the counter taking inventory of implement parts. Recognizing Russ’s natural knack for managing parts, Robert decided to keep his enthusiastic young employee permanently in the Parts Department.
Forty-one years later, Russ Ruh celebrates the 40th anniversary of his partnership with Hardekopf, James Shrader, Mike Johnstone, Peter Kaus and Brent Shrader of DeKane Equipment Corporation. Adding to the foundation of rich local history in Big Rock, most do not know that DeKane Equipment Corp. first came into existence in 1880.
Before the turn of the century, a gentleman by the name of Levi Davis started a general store establishment, located by what was previously the bandstand (presently the big gazebo) by the big rock on Route 30. Levi’s General Store stocked coffee, sugar, and tea, all of which were delivered via horse-drawn covered wagon. A small ledger book documenting transactions, including livestock taken in as trade for goods offered was found in the 1950’s by future owner, Robert Hardekopf, among stacks of old papers and items from previous owners. Robert brought the ledger book to owner, Carl Thurow, insisting the worn records were too valuable to discard. Carl kept the journal, and incidentally, it has never been seen since.
Since the general store began, ownership changed hands and names three times, and by 1954, Hardekopf and Thorson solidified the current future of the company, Big Rock Implement.
Sixty-five years later, Robert Hardekopf is still walking through the doors of DeKane Equipment, almost half the lifetime of the business itself.
So, what has kept this historic company flourishing since 1880?
“Hard work, quality product lines and consistent superb customer service,” Ruh said. “Companies like DeKane are few and far between now. We work with customers in a 50-mile radius with farm, construction and consumer (lawn and garden) equipment.”
Establishing roots in a small community such as Big Rock also means supporting local organizations and families. DeKane Equipment Corp. staffs 20-25 area employees, has been a major contributor to the Big Rock Fire Department and annually participates in the Big Rock Plowing Match.
“It all starts with establishing a positive personal relationship,” Ruh said of DeKane’s successful past. “Our customers like and trust us because we offer competitive prices, on-site repairs, and if you have a problem, we fix it the first time.”
As the landscape of the Kaneland area has changed over the years, DeKane has stretched its farm equipment service both out west and to the east of Big Rock, and offers Versatile tractors; lawn and garden equipment like Stihl
lawn and garden products; Kubota tractors; Cub Cadet mowers and tractors; Woods; Grasshopper; Scag; Dixon equipment; Honda mowers; generators and Troy Bilt tillers. An ever-evolving business, DeKane Equipment Corp. has come a long way from selling sugar and coffee, but their consistent message of providing customers with high-quality products and friendly, knowledgeable and trustworthy staff members remains true.
DeKane Equipment Corporation will host a 40th anniversary celebration on May 18 at 47W619 US Route 30. The festivities will be suitable for all ages.
For more information about DeKane Equipment Corporation, or to find out more about the 40th anniversary celebration, call (630) 556-3271 or visit www.dekane.com.