By now everyone knows that the Barre landmark business — Demers Power Equipment at 81 South Main — has closed and its line of quality manufacturers and highly rated service was sold to Aubuchon Hardware and at least one other local small engine retailer.
But not everyone knows that this was a business started over 66 years ago by Rheal J. Demers in the basement of his home at 81 South Main St. in Barre.
Dennis Demers, Rheal’s son, pointed out that at this post-war time the new lawn and garden industry was beginning to grow rapidly and his father assimilated into this service industry very easily.
“He repaired small air-cooled engines, sharpened reel-type lawn mowers, and even repaired bicycles,” he said.
In 1950, Dennis Demers pointed out, Rheal built a brand new building at 81 South Main and added more services and new equipment such as Toro, Simplicity, and Lawn Boy. Demers Repair Shop was born!
“Through a lot of hard work and long hours with invaluable help from his wife, Mary, as office clerk and bookkeeper, they built a well respected lawn and garden business and bicycle servicing dealership,” recalls Dennis.
In 1970, Dennis, the oldest son, returned from college and joined the family and formed a corporation — Demers Repair, Inc.
Then in 1972, Rheal and Mary’s second son, Ed, joined the business as Office Manager.
At this time, Rheal and Mary were able to retire and Dennis became General Manager.
“The business added Stihl products in 1976 and continued to grow, and in 1978 the present building was expanded and remodeled,” Dennis said.
In 1997, Ed left the business for an opportunity with the State of Vermont Tax Department, and in 1998 Ken Boutin joined the business, which started doing business as Demers Power Equipment.
Dennis and Ken continued to grow the business to become one of Stihl’s “Elite” Dealers with a “Gold” Certified Service Department, an achievement Dennis is still very proud of.
“Our Service Department has always been great. We’ve been lucky to have had exceptional mechanics/technicians and Ken is among the best,” believes Dennis.
Boutin is now doing the same kind of small engine/power equipment work for Aubuchon Hardware at its beautiful new facility next door to Demers Power Equipment on South Main Street. Aubuchon assumed the Stihl product line in which Boutin is a specialist.
Tucker Machines, further up on South Main, assumed the Toro line of equipment from Demers.
“When Aubuchon made their big move to South Main (next door), they approached me on selling the business. At first I wasn’t sure but the more I thought about it and how close to retirement I was, it became clear it was an opportunity that might not come again,” Dennis said. “All the pieces came together nicely and I’m really looking forward to having more time with my wife, Sandy, who has done such a wonderful job as bookkeeper and office clerk.”
In the spring, Dennis will finish selling the remaining used equipment and parts and tools.
In Dennis’s 46 years in business, he’s seen a lot of changes in the small engine/power equipment line — and in his own business. Demers was big into bicycles with $10K of inventory in the 70s, 80s, and early 90s, but that industry faded as the outdoor power equipment industry grew.
And there was consolidation in manufacturers that Demers carried like Toro buying WheelHorse and Lawn Boy.
From mowers to bikes to snowblowers and chainsaws, string trimmers, etc., Demers has always had a reputation for having the best and backed by the best service. They have also always given back to the community. They leave big shoes to follow!