Long-time Lawrence, Kan. John Deere dealership has been sold to a Baldwin City company. Baldwin-based Heritage Tractor Inc. is set to take over ownership of Deems Farm Equipment, said Ken Wagner, CEO and president of Heritage Tractor.

Wagner said the company was leasing the current Deems building for the next year, but also was looking at other options.

"Our intent is to stay in the Lawrence area," Wagner said. "We may change locations, though, to make it a little more accessible for the farmers. Traffic out there is a little bit of an issue."

Deems has been operating in Lawrence since 1954 and is owned by relatives of the original Deems family that founded the dealership, according to a company web site.

Heritage owns dealerships in Baldwin City — where the company has its headquarters — and also in Topeka; Paola, Kan., and Harrisonville, Mo.; and Clinton, Mo.

Wagner said the Lawrence dealership would continue to offer a line of mowers and other products that appeal to homeowners, but he said the dealership hoped to place a larger emphasis on traditional farm machinery.

"We're going to re-energize on the ag side," Wagner said. "Agriculture is still a big part of the economy here. It can easily be overshadowed by the university and the manufacturing, but agriculture has some very deep roots here. There is a lot of good ag ground around Lawrence and Douglas County."

Wagner said 11 of the 15 employees that Deems had will come to work for Heritage. He said Tim Deneke would transfer from the Baldwin City dealership to serve as the manager for the Lawrence dealership.

Wagner said his company had been in discussions with Deems about buying the dealership for the last six months. He said the John Deere corporation for several years has been encouraging consolidation of its dealer network.

"They got all of us dealers together and said we were either going to have to be buyers or sellers," Wagner said. "And we decided we wanted to stay in this business."