Berchtold Equipment Company

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Profile appeared in our 31-1 Issue – April 2014

Seeing as Kern County is home to a huge agricultural community, there are few residents who haven’t heard the name Berchtold. But while the longtime farming equipment company might be known, the history of the family-owned business might not be.

Berchtold Equipment Company, Santa Maria

Berchtold Equipment Company, Santa Maria

Born in 1870 to German immigrant farmers in Iowa, Joseph Berchtold would use his family’s experiences in agriculture to found  Berchtold Produce Company, the precursor to Berchtold Equipment Company, a business that has lasted over a century.
The company, founded officially in 1910, sold produce and hardware, but eventually expanded into selling a variety of farm implements and tractors.
In 1916, 46-year-old Joseph married Wilhemina Westlund (Minnie), a Swedish immigrant from Finland.
On July 3, 1919, Joseph hired a contractor to build the current Berchtold Equipment Company facility at 330 East 19th Street, one block west of the original location.
During the mid-1920s, Joseph changed the name of the business to Berchtold Grain and Implement House and became a dealer for Minneapolis Moline, a pioneer of the cab-enclosed tractor, a relationship that lasted more than 30 years. And 1922 also saw the birth of Joseph and Minnie’s only child, a son who would come to be known by all as “E.G.” and who would follow in his father’s footsteps.

Original location, 1920s

Original location, 1920s

Though the Great Depression closed many a small business, the Berchtolds persevered, determined to keep the doors open through hard times.
By 1939, E.G. graduated from Kern County Union High School. Understanding the importance of education, E.G. would attend UCLA and graduate in 1943. He then served in World War II as a naval officer in the Pacific.
In 1945, E.G. returned from the war to assume management of the business from his 75-year-old ailing father.
Two years later, E.G. married Frankie Franklin, a tenacious woman who had recently arrived in Bakersfield from rural Illinois.
In 1948, the couple’s first son Stephen was born. The following year, Frankie joined the company and began assisting E.G. with management and general operations of the growing business.
Sadly, 1950 saw the passing of Joseph Berchtold, but joy after the birth of two more sons; Mark in 1951 and Geoffrey (Jeff) in 1957.
The ‘50s also brought with them changes to the business.
In 1957, E.G. gave up the Minneapolis Moline product line to become a dealer for Ford Tractor products and Hesston hay equipment. At the same time, he changed the name of the business to its current moniker, Berchtold Equipment Company.

Berchtold Grain and Implement House, 1930s

Berchtold Grain and Implement House, 1930s

The 1960s saw the completion of the third generation of Berchtolds with the birth of daughter Marcia in 1963 and the expansion of the business to include “field” forklift products and, in 1969, the addition of the premier line of skid steer compact loaders as the company became a Bobcat dealer.
E.G. and Frankie’s sons came of age in the ‘70s and followed their parents into the business. Stephen began working full time in 1972 and quickly became a specialist for the Bobcat line of products. Mark joined in 1974, initially taking on the role of Service Manager. Jeff joined in 1978 establishing himself as a specialist for the Kubota line of products for which Berchtold Equipment Company had become a dealer in 1973.
But 1978 was also a sad year as Minnie passed away.
The third generation then poised themselves to grow the business in the coming decades.
In 1985, Marcia joined her brothers as a full time employee and, in 1987, she relocated to manage the new branch store that had just opened in Santa Maria.
The 1980s and early 1990s marked a period of mergers and acquisitions in the national tractor and equipment industry. In 1986, Ford Tractor Company acquired the New Holland line of products, primarily hay harvesting equipment, and renamed themselves Ford New Holland.
The Ford heritage remains, but in 1991, Ford Motor Company sold their remaining interest in Ford New Holland and the product line became known as it is today as New Holland. These changes didn’t affect the services offered to customers of Berchtold Equipment Company, but they did affect the brands that customers were used to seeing at the business. Regardless, growth was steady.

1950s

1950s

In 1995, Berchtold Equipment Company expanded to a third location by opening a branch in Delano.
By the mid 2000s E.G. and Frankie had, at this point, been managing the company for sixty years, putting in a lot of hard work and overseeing expansion and success. The couple decided that the future of the company should be put in the hands of the next generation and so, after many family discussions, Mark Berchtold became the owner and president of the company on January 1, 2008.

In 2010, Berchtold Equipment Company celebrated its 100th year in business.
Today, the company continues to evolve with the changes in the agricultural and construction equipment industry, but holds true to its mission of being dedicated to high quality customer service. Current staff continues to get help from E.G. and Frankie, who, though retired, are so engrained in the Berchtold legacy that they still come in most days to lend a hand.
Berchtold Equipment Company currently operates store locations in Bakersfield, Delano, and Santa Maria, and is a leader in the industry through its flagship lines of New Holland, Bobcat, Kubota, and Harlo, along with many other supporting short lines that have been with Berchtold for over 30 years. Presently, Mark and his wife, Beth, along with their three children are poised to guide Berchtold Equipment Company well into the 21st century and the fourth generation of Berchtold stewardship.

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