Stock + Field

Stock + Field

WATSEKA — Stock+Field will soon be known as a former Watseka retailer as the company announced it is closing all 25 of its stores.

In addition to the Watseka store at 1200 E. Walnut St., among the company’s other locations are stores in Gibson City, Pontiac and Danville.

The company informed employees of the closures through its website on Monday.

“This will put a hurt on us,” Watseka Mayor John Allhands said Tuesday. “It’s a shock. We will certainly be putting out feelers to fill that location. The Watseka and Iroquois County community can support a farm store like this. We will work to get this location filled as quickly as we can.”

Formerly known at Big R, Stock+Field ownership cited 2020’s challenging economic times and noted the company was not immune to these hardships. In a Monday news release, its Chief Executive Officer Matthew Whebbe spoke of challenging economic times. The now-Minnesota-based company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Jan. 10 at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court District of Minnesota.

The stores are slated to be closed as of March 31 and liquidation sales will be underway.

In a statement Whebbe, of St. Paul, Minn., said the company has partnered with providers of new merchandise and will be selling items at massive discounts in the coming weeks.

“Even (and especially) in a pandemic — the customer should be able to get some wins,” Whebbe wrote in a letter posted on the company’s website.

“We’d like to thank our fantastic employees, our loyal customers, and especially the rural communities we partnered with for so many years. We hope to reopen stores at some point in the future, but for now, please come in, say hello to your favorite employee, and enjoy the ridiculously low prices. This won’t last long.”

The farm, home goods, outdoor and sporting goods retailer has stores in Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan. Stock+Field is similar to local retailers such as Tractor Supply Co. and Farm & Fleet.

Watseka businessman Jerry Gibbs sold the chain of 23 Big R stores to Whebbe in August 2018. He added two Michigan stores to the chain after the purchase.

When Gibbs sold Big R, the chain had about 1,100 employees.

Big R was founded in 1964 by Gibbs’ father-in-law and mother-in-law, Bill and Pat Crabtree. Gibbs joined Big R in 1973. In 1976, he became a part owner and later its majority owner.

Lee Provost, an award-winning reporter, has been writing local news stories for The Daily Journal since 1988. He is a lifelong resident of the region. Provost can be reached at lprovost@daily-journal.com.