It came as no surprise to Allen and Sarah Jarosz when their vintage tractor parts business, Deerely Departed, outgrew their Milan farm.
It had been a fitting start for a company whose customers collect and restore John Deere tractors of yesteryear. But since they began manufacturing and selling the hard-to-find parts in 2003, the operation had grown so much that they needed modern conveniences their farm could not provide.
“We decided we needed to have our own storefront because we had customers wanting to come to us to get their parts,” Allen Jarosz said. But weather could make navigating the road to their outbuilding difficult. The remote location also proved troublesome for the large delivery trucks and there was no showroom.
They were surprised – but pleasantly — when they found a new home for Deerely Departed in a 9,000-square-foot storefront in the heart of downtown Davenport.
Sarah Jarosz said the couple had focused their 18-month search for a new facility in Moline. Deerely Departed previously had a presence in the former John Deere Collector’s Center in downtown Moline, which closed last year.
After happening upon the building at 318 E. 2nd St., Davenport, her husband said they purchased it for $290,000 and moved in earlier this year. Built as a car dealership, the building was last owned by Butch Pennock and housed his Doors Inc. business for about a decade before it moved to a new location.
“Butch deserves all the credit for rehabbing this building after the 1993 flood,” she said, holding before and after photographs. The building was move-in ready with both a showroom and ample space for manufacturing.
Deerely Departed produces new parts for antique John Deere Two Cylinder tractors. “We tried to base our products on parts no other vendors had,” he said, adding that most of its parts no longer are made by Deere & Co.
“We found that the consumable parts were in high demand,” or parts that tend to wear out such as manifolds, brake shoes and mufflers, he said. In all, they offer 1,700 different parts.
Deerely Departed employs 11 full- and part-time employees — most of whom are family or extended family.
Since the company’s early days, Sarah Jarosz has been in charge of the day-to-day operations, including filling Internet orders single-handedly in the beginning while raising their two now college-age children. They are the parents of Matthew, 21, and Megan, 18, who both attend Black Hawk College.
Her husband said the business has continued to expand each year. “It was growing 100 percent year-over-year until 2009, when it grew 60 percent,” he said, adding that the recession even hit the hobbyists.
The new store features a showroom with parts merchandise as well as interactive computer stations where customers can learn about tractor parts and memorabilia. The store also offers an assortment of John Deere memorabilia from the 1800s through the 150th anniversary items for sale.
“This all started as a hobby in my basement,” said Allen Jarosz, whose day job is as a commercial pilot for United Airlines. He is in his 26th year with United — regularly flying from Chicago to the Orient. But in the post-9/11 era — and with some lean years for the airline industry — he said he began seriously thinking about a new career.
Jarosz realized there was a need for the type of fabrication he was doing in his basement, especially as he had trouble finding parts while restoring six of his own antique Deere tractors.
To build up an inventory, he said and his wife scoured salvage yards to find the original parts to reverse engineer. “Plus, Deere has a lot of information on their Web site” about the old collectibles, he said. “We stay away from products that have the Deere name on them.”
While most of the parts are manufactured and assembled in the Davenport building, located just off the Government Bridge, the company also works with about six other small manufacturers for some of the components.
According to Tom Flaherty, Downtown Davenport Partnership’s senior vice president for community growth, Deerely Departed is another welcome addition to downtown. “It’s one of 12 new businesses that have opened up in the downtown this calendar year.”
He added that the store was a big draw in March during the Gathering of the Green. Thousands of John Deere enthusiasts converged on downtown Davenport for the conference and about 1,500 attended Deerely Departed’s open house and tour.
Among the guests were Tim and Vickie Pratt, who were back in the store a week later — after making the trek from Darlington, Wis. — to buy more parts.
“It’s hard to find parts for an old tractor,” said Tim Pratt, who is retired from farming but restores tractors as a hobby. He currently is restoring an unstyled John Deere 1937 A tractor.
“This is very handy; it’s only a two-hour drive,” Vickie Pratt added.
Sarah Jarosz expects walk-in traffic will increase once more people know they now have an actual storefront. “Customers were always asking ‘Can we come pick up our parts?’ ”