In 1949, Gar and Esther Tootelian, second-generation immigrants, scraped together their small savings and built an agricultural chemical and fertilizer business in Reedley, Calif., just 30 minutes south of Fresno. The business, named Gar Tootelian, Inc. (GAR) prospered quickly, a result of the couple’s commitment to customer service, honesty, hard work, faith and family. Today, those values are still the guiding principles for GAR, which was named the 2016 Retailer of the Year by the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA).
“We’re not the biggest or the oldest retail business, but we work every day to be deeply invested in faith, family and our community,” said Karen Musson, the Tootelians’ daughter, who accepted the award on Wednesday during the ARA annual convention and expo in Orlando. Musson co-owns GAR with her sister, Linda Salwasser. Musson’s husband, Greg, serves as president and CEO of the company.
The award, sponsored by Monsanto, ARA and AgProfessional magazine, honors retailers who represent the best of the industry. Retail outlets nominated for the award are evaluated based on innovative business practices, community and industry leadership, environmental stewardship, reliability, technology utilization, customer service and effective employee development programs. Recent winners have included The Andersons, NEW Cooperative, Morral Companies, Wheat Growers, Lyman/Tremont Group, Central Valley Ag and Willard Agri-Service.
Still A Family Operation. Today, GAR is the nation’s largest, single-location retail operation. The facility covers a little over 15 acres and includes a new 55-square foot warehouse. Since 2012, the company has invested more than $10 million in expanding and improving its facilities and ability to rapidly meet the needs of area growers. GAR’s annual sales of nearly $100 million are generated through its staff of 40 Pest Control Advisors who provide fertilizer, crop care products, and water and regulatory advice to over 1,400 farmers.
Despite their business success, Karen Musson said what she values most about GAR is that her parents’ legacy is still alive and thriving.
“We’re definitely a family operation,” Greg added. “Customers are considered family. When someone comes to work for us they’re treated like family and with a great deal of respect. That’s something Gar insisted upon and that’s been a great philosophy and tradition to continue.”
GAR farmer-customer Don Klassen, Dinuba Calif., said the retailer is deserving of the national recognition the ARA award provides. “GAR does a great job. They have helped us with regulatory compliance, and they keep us up-to-date with rules, regulations, safe product handling and employee practices.”
Along with its farmer focus, GAR is actively involved in the Reedley community, supporting dozens of local charities, schools and activities. 2016 marked the third time GAR worked to raise funds, a total of $231,000 this year alone, to provide meals through the Community Food Bank for individuals and families in need, according to Andy Souza, CEO.
Everything the company does always comes back to its focus on serving people, Greg said. “I tell all of our people the same thing: always do what Gar would have done—you are Gar. You just do what’s in people’s best interest and never waiver from that.”