Rising from the Ashes: Mid-West RBR Ag Services Re-Opens After Devastating Fire

Editor’s note: On July 18, 2022, a fire destroyed Mid-West RBR Ag Services site in luka, IL. Since then, the crop application and agricultural equipment dealer has spent the last 14 months rebuilding its business, culminating with a re-opening of a newly built facility on September 7, 2023. CropLife IRON caught up with Ethan Keiser, Operations Manager at Mid-West RBR Ag Services, to provide details of the events over the past year and the company’s outlook to the future. You can also see photos from the day of the fire, the new facility’s construction, and the open house in the photo gallery below.

CropLife IRON: Tell us about the history of Mid-West RBR Ag Services.


Ethan Keiser: We began promoting RBR application equipment more than five years ago in southern Illinois and Indiana, via Mid-South Ag Equipment. After establishing a foothold with the customer base and the market, we decided to place a permanent brick and mortar location in Southern Illinois. A retired ag retail facility seemed too fit to pass up.

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In February 2018, Mid-West RBR was started and created as a subsidiary of Mid-South Ag Equipment. Designed to serve farmers and commercial ag retailers in Illinois and most of Indiana, a support staff was put in place, including a service shop, a mobile technician, and inventory in a parts warehouse. Over the coming years, the southern regions of both Indiana and Illinois grew consistently. Mid-West RBR has grown to be a full-service application supplier for ag retail locations across southern Illinois and Indiana.

CLI: Can you describe the night of the fire and its aftermath?

EK: On July 17, 2022, a summer storm passed through Iuka, Illinois packing plenty of lightning, thunder, and rain. Around 3:48 a.m., on that Sunday morning, lightning struck the metal siding of the parts warehouse. A small fire quickly turned into an un-manageable one, in the decades-old warehouse and ag retail facility. By 10 a.m. that morning, all that remained was crisped metal siding, a few skeletons of tables, and parts scattered about on a wet pad of concrete and gravel lot.

CLI: How did your team at Mid-West RBR respond to the devastation?

EK: On Monday morning, without realizing it, the team started a new, un-charted chapter in our business. Everyone jumped in. A hunt for a makeshift location was underway and within a few days they had found a home. A special thanks goes to Ed Lewis in Flora, Illinois, who opened the doors to a large warehouse he had available. A makeshift shop, office area, and parts warehouse were born. This would serve as a temporary workspace for the next year.

CLI: How did you decide to rebuild the facility in the same location?

EK: Much discussion was had as to where the business would claim ‘home’. With consideration to employees and the reception of customers in the area, it was determined the best option was to build back better on the same piece of ground. Stakes were set about 50 feet west of where the previous building once stood and construction was soon underway. Breaking ground in February 2023, almost exactly six months later, the move-in, or back, process had begun.

CLI: Can you tell us about the emotion and excitement of re-opening RBR Mid-West Ag Services this month?

EK: On September 7, 2023, we held an open house to welcome all of our customers, local supporters, staff, and anyone else who contributed along the way. It has been a long road for the staff, one of tragedy, heartbreak, and sorrow. Tension, frustration, and stress. Astounding efforts to clean up after destruction, move products and equipment to temporary space and then back to a permanent home, adapt, and overcome less-than-ideal circumstances. However, we are here. We are READY. We intend to focus ALL of our efforts on our customers, their success, and get back on a path of something that started from nothing. We are your application headquarters and look forward to growing and serving Indiana and Illinois application.