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5/2/2004

A paRting of the ways

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — Only the shingle above the hitching post has been changed.

Big R Ranch & Home Supply has changed its name to Murdoch’s Ranch & Home Supply, and owner John Murdoch promises that’s the only difference customers will notice.

The reason for the change, he said, was simply to avoid confusion.

“I’ve actually had guns brought back to my store to replace,” said Murdoch, who owns 12 stores in four states. The problem is, his stores don’t sell firearms — but other Big R stores do.

“It’s like going from one Sears store to another and they’re all different,” said Murdoch, a former Longmont resident whose company is headquartered in Bozeman, Mont.

He explained that although different stores may be under the Big R name, different owners take different approaches with the merchandise they stock. Certain owners will stock guns and other sporting goods, while others may not carry any. It all depends on who owns the store.

“In Washington, we have some stores 10 miles apart” that are under different ownership, which can lead to confusion — and frustration — for customers.

In Colorado, Murdoch owns stores here, at 2255 Main St., and in Littleton, Clifton and Salida, but he has no stake in the Big R’s elsewhere, such as in Greeley or Trinidad.

“I got a letter from one of the other owners — he was very thankful” for the name change, said Murdoch, whose stores are in Colorado, Montana, Washington and Wyoming.

Longmont store manager Terry Kosek, who has managed the store here since its Country General days, said the Murdoch stores specialize in a narrower but deeper selection of goods.

“We have a much deeper clothing line,” Kosek said, noting that his 46,000-square-foot store carries the entire Carhartt line. “I think we’re deeper in essentials. We’re never out of the basics.”

Kosek said he expected full-size signs to arrive in the next week or so for the sign pole next to Main Street and for the front of the store. In the meantime, he and his employees have been busy changing all of the interior signage in the store — a lengthy process.

“You don’t realize how many Big R’s there are in this store,” he said.

Murdoch lived here for about seven years when he was president of ConAgra’s retail farm store division. He opened his first Big R in Bozeman in 1994 and has steadily built his business since then.

He bought Longmont’s former Country General after it closed in late 2001, reopening it as Big R in spring 2002.

The city has certainly become more urbanized since he lived here, he said, but his Longmont store’s business has been steady, and he feels like there will always be a market for his store’s products here.

“When you can buy a $75 to $80 pair of Lucky jeans and six pounds of horseshoes — that just doesn’t happen everywhere,” Murdoch said.

Tony Kindelspire can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 291, or by e-mail at tkindelspire@times-call.com.