Employees of Morris Sales and Service in Virden are looking for work after the dealership officially closed its doors March 12, part of restructuring efforts after Morris Group, including Morris Industries, came under creditor protection earlier this year.
The company was approved for creditor protection Jan. 8, 2020 by a Saskatchewan court.
The company has since been embroiled in restructuring efforts, including a “wind-down” of Morris Sales and Service.
The company was “saddened,” to announce the closure, a statement on the Morris Industries website states.
The company claims that Morris Sales and Service, “has been unable to generate the liquidity required for continued operations.”
“The Virden store and its loyal employees have served the local community and surrounding area for the last 53 years,” the statement read.
The company went on to urging Morris brand customers to check for the next closest dealer now that the Virden location is closed.
David Draper, former sales staff with the dealership, said they received final notice of the closure March 4, although the news was expected.
Last year, the company had told the dealership that it would be shutting its doors, although the timeline for the closure was pushed back several times.
Farmers with Morris equipment will now have to look further afield for parts, staff at the former dealership have said.
Draper says the next likely location for Morris parts and service would be Van L Equipment in Reston, Sask., or even the company’s manufacturing plant in Yorkton.
Local farmers and Virden residents, likewise, will likely feel the loss of local service.
Those with Kubota lawn mowers will likely have to look to Brandon for service.
Staff at the now closed dealership say they are not giving up hope quite yet. During a public meeting March 11, Draper said they were hoping to hear from another company wanting to set up shop in Virden, allowing them to continue the business under a different agreement.
“We’ve been looking at different options to try and keep it in town,” he said.
The dealership’s “hands have been tied until this point,” due to dealer agreements and the ongoing credit protection proceedings, he noted.
Morris Industries would have had to split their dealer agreements or be bought out for that kind of deal to happen, he added.
They have heard from several companies who have noted a gap in dealerships between Brandon and Moosomin, according to Draper.
“Different companies are looking for different things so to put a whole package together, to say that that’s happening, I can’t say that,” he said.
Keeping Kubota, another major company to sell out of Morris Sales and Service in Virden, will be a challenge without Morris Industries, Draper told the room, although he has also not written off the company’s future involvement entirely.
At the same time, residents were told during the March 11 meeting, “you’d need a lot of Kubotas,” to equal the business the dealership had derived from Morris air seeders.
“We don’t want to give up,” Draper said. “But there’s no building, nothing in place yet to make that happen.”
The dealership had been renting a temporary building for months prior to the closure. Morris Industries initially had plans last year to build a new location for the business after selling the original building.
The end of their relationship with Morris Industries also signals an end to that rental, Draper said.
The Municipality of Wallace-Woodworth has incentives in the works that they hope will entice businesses to the area, such as a new potential partner for the dealership.
The municipal council hired an economic development officer last fall. The incentives are not yet set in stone, although Reeve Clayton Canart noted that a tax rebate based on assessment has been proposed.
“I just think that it’s disappointing to the area if it goes ahead and closes,” he said of Morris Sales and Service. “They’ve been in business here for 50-some years. They have a real history in the area, a real following of clients with their products and service — lots of parts, I know, and they’ve employed a lot of people and cover a big area for our surroundings.”