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Rural King
Exterior photo of the Mattoon Rural King in Mattoon, Ill., on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010. (Journal Gazette/ Times-Courier, Kevin Kilhoffer)

On June 5th, 1960, Kermit Speer and Keith Beaird founded Rural King Supply in Mattoon. The original store was started in a former implement building of 7,200 square feet.

The company started with two employees, besides the owners. In 1963, an addition to the main building was added. In 1966, a warehouse was built, and in 1970, a second addition was added to the store.

A new building was finished and opened in September of 1976. In 1999, a new store, warehouse and corporate office consisting of 210,000 square feet was opened across the highway from the old store. The old store and warehouse were donated to the Catholic Charities.

In 2003, a 94,000-square-foot addition was added to the warehouse. In 2007, another 96,000 square feet were added to the warehouse. In December, a third warehouse expansion was started that will add 104,000 square feet.

In 1962, Kermit and Keith opened another store in Paris, Ill., in an old packing house with eight rooms. In 1970, land was purchased across from the Edgar County Fairgrounds and the new Paris Rural King was constructed. In 2001, that building was torn down and the current 55,000-square-foot Paris Rural King was built. Paris was Kermit and Pat Speer's home for 15 years.

The Vandalia, Ill., Rural King was opened in 1966 in an old building on U.S. Highway 40 East. A new Rural King was built in November 1973 on Van Tran Avenue, which has been renamed Veterans Avenue. An addition to that building was completed in 1983.

In 1979, Gary Melvin, nephew of Kermit Speer, purchased an interest in Rural King. Gary began his career working in the store, learning the products and serving customers. Today he is CEO and co-owner of the 46 Rural King stores, and trucking company. Gary's son, Dave, is now employed as transportation director and his son, Alex, is vice president.

Bruce Speer, nephew of Kermit Speer, purchased an interest in Rural King in 1982, with the opening of the Litchfield, Ill., store. Bruce began his career as the manager of the Litchfield store. In 1985, he and his family moved to Terre Haute, Ind., where he opened and managed that store for five years. In 1990, Bruce moved to the Mattoon corporate office to help with purchasing and expansion of the Rural King stores. He is currently vice president and co-owner of the 46 stores.

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Kermit Speer, one of the original owners and sole owner of the Paris Rural King, lives in Mattoon and is still active in the business. He has been and is yet today a mentor and a source of business knowledge and experience for Gary and Bruce. Keith Beaird, Kermit's original partner, died in 1978.

Rural King continues to grow. With a total of 46 stores in seven states, the philosophy of hard work and customer service still exists. Rural King now employs more than 2,600 people full and part time.

 

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