I am wondering what exactly does "fleet" mean in the common store name "Farm Fleet" or sometimes I see "Farm and Fleet."
My interpretation for the former is a whole fleet of equipment.
But, when I see "and" in the latter, it makes me think that it's everything to go with the big ticket items you'd buy such as coveralls to wear on that brand spanking new tractor you just bought.
Here is their contact form. Why don't you ask them? Perhaps they will include it in their FAQ. (Their History does not give many clues.)
There's a chain of stores back in the Midwest called "Fleet Farm" and I always assumed they were using "fleet" to mean "speedy" or "expeditious." Now I have to wonder about that "fleet" part. They carry much more than just farming hardware … more of a general hardware and housewares store, and no heavy equipment beyond riding mowers and bobcat-size loaders/excavators.
It's Farm & Fleet here, where I live. South central WI. At Xmas, it's the place to go for toys for the kiddos. The first time I ever heard of the chain, I was still living outside of Pittsburgh, PA and was on the phone with the realtor we were working with to find a house here. I was asking questions about the village--as I'd never been to Spring Green--and asked if there was a pharmacy. She told me the nearest Farm & Fleet was about 20 miles away. I was confused. We went back and forth a few times before she realized I was talking about a *pharmacy.* Strange conversation.
I think I found an answer to the original question in this thread. I was browsing around the Mills Fleet Farm site and found a history page. According to that record, the organization took the name Fleet Farm in 1960 saying it was "derived from fleet discounts to farmers." Whether for parts or entire vehicles, "fleet discounts" is just another marketing strategy. Fleet Farm had previously been an auto dealership, and still does work on vehicles. They also sell tractor parts and accessories, but not tractors, harvesters, etc. So they can maintain your "fleet," but to buy your "fleet" you'll need to see John Deere.
So your assumption is correct, Nathan C. The word "fleet" in all these store names refers to the collective machinery needed to run a farm (or home or whatever).
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