J.M. Equipment Co., a Central Valley farm and forklift equipment dealer founded in 1936, plans to close its original location in Modesto as well as its longtime Stockton store to consolidate at a larger facility in Manteca this spring.

The dealer hopes to move all Modesto and Stockton employees, as well as its equipment lines, into a former auto dealership built in 2002 at 321 Spreckels Ave., said David Baiocchi, one of the company's six owners.

Recognizing the company's long history in Modesto, Baiocchi said he and his partners gave deep consideration to the consolidation.

"It wasn't an easy decision. It was strictly a decision of economics and strategy," he said. "We want to continue for another 74 years, so we have to do things that are smart. We have to run a business with our heads and our hearts."

Ideally, the dealer's locations would be spaced roughly two hours travel time apart in the San Joaquin Valley so no customer would be more than an hour away, Baiocchi said.

"So as we looked at our available options, having a store in Modesto and having a store in Stockton really didn't make a lot of sense," he said.

While J.M. Equipment plans no layoffs due to the consolidation, the company has reduced staff over the past couple of years because of the recession.

"We've felt the sting of the economy, and we've felt in the downturn in our revenues and profits just like everybody else has," Baiocchi said.

The dealership's owners purchased the Manteca property in late December from GMAC. It includes a 32,000-square-foot dealership building and more than 7 acres of land.

Public records show the sale price was $3.5 million.

After the move, J.M. Equipment will have major locations in Manteca, Fresno, Patterson and West Sacramento. It also will establish new parts supply locations, each staffed with a full-time delivery worker, in Turlock, Stockton and Lodi to serve customers and field technicians.

In addition, the Patterson facility will be enhanced with a full shop and field service department this spring.

"We leave Modesto and Stockton with a heavy heart and a little bit of trepidation," Baiocchi said. However, he added, "We've talked to our customers, our vendors and our employees, and we've explained the reasons for these moves, ... and we've gotten really good responses from all three. We think it's the right move at this time and think it's going to work really well for everybody."