Fact not opinion – the South is a beautiful place. There is no denying that some of earth’s greatest gems, natural and man-made, call one of the “fly over states” that make up the South home. Many consider Arkansas to be God’s country because of the abundance of incomparable scenery and recreation. What is equally as worthy of admiration is the backbone of Arkansas, small business owners, farmers, the 5 a.m. risers, and the ‘I will rest when it is finished’ work ethics that fuel our area, and enable it to thrive.
This is what Yell County Gin Company epitomizes. Originally opening in 1947 as a cotton gin, this historic business in the heart of Dardanelle was passed through several hands before Delma Merritt purchased it on April 1, 1966. Humble beginnings led to expanded offerings as they evolved into a supply store, “selling feed, seed, fertilizer, and many other farm related goods.” Furthermore, in 1976, Yell County Gin Company made the decision to quit ginning cotton as the “cotton crop was moving out of western Arkansas.”
In 2014, at 89 years old, Delma made the decision to retire, leaving the reins in the hands of his son, David, who left the business in 1983 to open his own John Deere dealership.
“I got out of the business for 10 or so years and came back in 2004,” said Merritt. In December of 2013, third generation member and son of David, Dylan Merritt, joined the family business full-time. “With Dylan being here, he understands new technology and helps out a lot. This is a changing business. Before, your customers were in a 20-mile radius, but now with things like Craigslist, our scope is much larger,” said Merritt.
Over the years, the structure of the business has changed, but the heart of it has not. “Dardanelle is an old, historic city. There have been times we have thought about moving across the river where there is higher traffic count, but we want to keep our business in Dardanelle to help prosper Yell County,” said Merritt.
For Merritt, the best part of being a family business is the self-satisfying feeling of being able to work for himself and maintain, but also being able to help people out. “Your customers become more than customers. They become your friends. Someone told dad when he started that you ‘have to do business with your friends, because your enemies are not going to trade with you’,” added Merritt.
Yell County Gin Company currently has three full time employees, one part time employee. “It continues to take more and more. Business is growing, and a lot of it has to do with the economy. Cattle prices good, tractor sales boosted, it has made a difference,” explained Merritt.
“When you come here, we work to understand your needs and what you are trying to accomplish and what will really fill your need. We do not want to just sell you something, but also educate you on how to use it, and use it effectively,” said Dylan Merritt.
What the Merritt family values in business is quite simple, but certainly important. “Everything for us comes back down to ethics, truth and trust,” said Merritt.
Yell County Gin Company is located at 709 S 2nd St. in Dardanelle, AR, and be reached at (479) 229-4841. Be sure to visit their website, www.oldgintractors.com for more information.