It’s 10:00 am on a Friday morning in Willis, and the parking lot for Southern Tractor bustles with trucks coming and going. An employee works in the warehouse on the side of the building, while a couple of customers enter. Southern Tractor has left their old red barn building, but they sure haven’t left the tractor game in East Texas. Recently moving just two blocks north on the IH45 frontage road, the business has relocated into a large new building in order to expand their roots and grow with the surrounding area. The team of six employees had been settling into their new location for just two weeks at the time of meeting with Postcards, adapting to their new environment and enjoying the new space. Attesting to their strong work ethic, no one stopped working the whole time we were there. We stood at the front counter, interviewing them as they actively tended to customers who came in.
The family decided to enter the market of selling tractors as residents in the rural, farming town of Woodville, Texas. “We were trying to make a livin’,” Linda Durham says about starting Southern Tractor in 1972. Since the original location in Woodville, the company expanded into Texas, with their second location opening in Lufkin. The area had a need for what they offered, and therefore the business was able to branch out even further into Willis in 2008 and Porter in 2010. They are now one of the top tractor dealers in the southern states.
Linda’s daughter Amy has worked with her mother since 2004 and says her mom has taught her well as to the ins and outs of the business. Amy has spent all her life immersed in the business and watched Southern Tractor grow into what it is today, as the company was started four years before Amy was born.
There are currently three Southern Tractor locations with a close-knit staff at each to give customers the most personable and accessible service possible in the industry. Their Willis location has six employees, with both the Lufkin and Porter locations having a team of five each. One of the service managers has been with Linda at the business for 17 years, with another employee having stayed loyal for 35 years and counting, a testament to the amicable and team-driven environment of the company. Tommy Roberts is the salesman, and he has been with the company for over six years. Says Linda, “Tommy is very knowledgeable about the product lines we offer and loves to help people figure out what they need for the job they have.” The three mechanics have over 50 years experience combined. Amy says, “We work hard to get units out of our shop and back into yards where they need to be.”
In ’72, Southern Tractor’s first products they started with at the Woodville location were Long tractors. Since then, the business has expanded in a parallel fashion with the surrounding East Texas area that continues to grow more quickly as the years go by. When you walk in the front doors, clean and organized products of popular and reliable brands line the walls. Southern Tractor takes pride in the product lines they carry by putting their focus on quality over quantity.
Southern Tractor offers a range of products from Kioti, Hustler, Bad Boy, Cub Cadet, Stihl, and Echo. They are especially proud to carry Stihl—the top-selling brand of handheld equipment. The business is distinctive from box stores because they offer what others don’t by being a “servicing dealer”—meaning they offer parts, sales, and service at all three of their locations. You can have your new piece of machinery serviced, registered, and covered with a warranty in one visit with the team at your local Southern Tractor. In addition, they also sell a wide variety of implements—basically anything that attaches to a tractor. With additional space offered by the new showroom, Southern Tractor is able to carry the full line of Stihl equipment—and they have gold and silver certified Stihl mechanics on staff.
The business pushes on toward defending their reputable success as a dealer in Texas, the biggest tractor selling state in the country. “Willis is growing, and we are growing with them.” Linda says definitively. “I’d build another one if I had the people to work it.” At the rate they’ve been moving, it wouldn’t be surprising for the family to one day open more locations in more rural Texas towns with a demand for farm and tractor equipment. Linda lives in Willis and is at the store’s beck and call when she is not there herself, which is rare. If you stop by the Willis store, chances are you’ll catch her.
12770 IH45 N
Willis, TX 77378