Who Were the Founders of Rural King Farm Stores?


Quick Answer

James "Kermit" Speer and Keith Beaird are the founders of Rural King. They founded the company in 1960 and oversaw the first two locations in Paris and Mattoon, Illinois.

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Full Answer

The very first Rural King location was a 72,000-square foot warehouse in Mattoon. Prior to opening the business, Speer was a farmer and a World War II veteran, having served in the U.S. Army in the Pacific. Later, his nephews joined him in operating the business. As of 2015, Rural King has approximately 80 stores in 10 states.

Rural King's extensive inventory reflects the founders' background in agriculture and farming. The store sells farming supplies, such as agricultural chemicals and irrigation parts, as well as home improvement items.

Speer, who died in January 2015, was born in Illinois, the fifth of eight children. He later married Patricia J. McBride. He and his wife had no children, but 23 nieces and nephews, 45 great-nieces and nephews, and 47 great-great-nieces and nephews survived Speer. Speer also outlived all his siblings.

Today, many of Speer's descendants are part-owners of the company and serve as store managers and regional managers and in various executive capacities at the corporate level. Speer and Beaird donated the original Rural King warehouse to Catholic Charities in the 1990s.

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