RV Business Honors Top 50 North American Dealers

Fifty North American RV retailers were honored Wednesday (Oct. 7) for
their professionalism and dedication to consumer care as part of the 2nd
Annual RV Business Top 50 Dealer Awards reception and dinner. The
dinner, at which 380 dinner guests honored dealers and heard remarks
from keynote speaker Mike Huckabee, was held during the Recreation
Vehicle Dealers Association’s (RVDA) annual RV Dealers International
Convention at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

In this, the first year including Canadian dealers, the response was significant given the general economic atmosphere.

“Our goals are two-fold and really very simple,” Mike Schneider,
CEO of Affinity Group Inc., publisher of RV Business, told attendees
prior to the presentation of the 2009 awards. “We want to showcase some
of the finest examples of top-notch dealers in this country and at the
same time help raise the bar for the entire industry. And we do so at a
time when – as you are well aware – the RV industry has been hit hard by
what is arguably the worst economic time in the last 30 years.”

But Schneider pointed out that recent indicators have indicated to
an upswing in the market that may again lead the nation out of a
downturn. And this resurgence in the case of the RV arena, he
maintained, is being accompanied by an accelerated pace of product
development on the part of a number of companies that may put the
industry on a more competitive footing in the years ahead.

“Add all these positive signs to perhaps the most important factor –
that RVers continue to be out there in droves using and enjoying their
RVs – and the future does indeed look good for the RV marketplace,”
noted Schneider, who was joined at the podium during the program by RVIA
Chairman Jim Sheldon, RVIA Public Relations Chairman BJ Thompson and RV
Business Publisher Sherman Goldenberg.

“Certainly, we may not be looking at a meteoric ramp up out of The
Great Recession — and there are still soft geographic pockets of the
country — but it’s clear to many of us that it is happening and, to use
the old cliche, ‘the ship is turning.’

“That said,” he added, “we’re convinced more than ever that
celebrating excellence and highlighting professionalism is always the
right thing to do, regardless of the times — perhaps now more than ever
as we emerge into what could be a new era of growth for the RV industry
in 2010 and beyond.”

As for the Top 50 selection process, Schneider in his pre-dinner
comments explained that an independent panel of industry veterans
coordinated by RVB had selected the top 50 dealers based on applications
submitted by dealers who had been nominated by North American RV
builders. Winners were deemed to be among North America’s best in terms
of F&I, technician training, aftermarket stores, civic involvement
and – more than anything else – consumer care.

“What really makes this story amazing is that even with the
headwinds of 2009, we received about 40% more applicants than in 2008,”
said Goldenberg. “The competition was a lot tougher this year, which
tells us that those who applied — and especially those who were selected
by the judges — are truly exceptional. You know they have to be doing
something right to not only withstand the down economy, but to exemplify
best business practices at the same time.”

The 50 finalists collectively generated approximately $1.6 billion
in sales last year and have received hundreds of awards from
manufacturers and their local communities.

Here (in alphabetical order) are the 10 North American “Blue
Ribbon” dealers recognized in Las Vegas as being over and above the
rest:

ArrKann Trailer & RV Centre, Edmonton, Alberta

General RV Center, Wixom, Mich.

Guaranty RV, Junction City, Ore.

Ketelsen Campers of Colorado, Wheat Ridge, Col.

Lazydays RV SuperCenter, Seffner, Fla.

Mike Thompson’s RV Superstores, Santa Fe Springs, Calif.

Parkview RV Center, Smyrna, Del.

Poulsbo RV, Kent, Wash.

Tom Johnson Camping Center, Marion, N.C.

Topper’s Camping Center, Waller, Texas

The following (in alphabetical order) are the other Top 50
retailers, all of whom will be promoted in the national press, in
dealers’ hometown newspapers and in the pages — and on the Web sites —
of Affinity’s trade and consumer magazines, RV Business, Trailer Life,
MotorHome, Highways, Coast to Coast and Camping Life:

Aberdeen RV Center: Aberdeen, Miss.

Aloha RV: Albuquerque, N.M.

Altmans Winnebago: Carson, Calif.

American RV Sales & Service: Grand Rapids, Mich.

Apache Village RV Center: Hazelwood, Mo.

Beckley’s Camping Center: Thurmont, Md.

Big Country RV: Bend, Ore.

Bill Plemmons RV World: Rural Hall, N.C.

Boat N RV Superstores: Rockwood, Tenn.

Can-Am RV Centre: London, Ontario

Carolina Coach & Camper: Claremont, N.C.

Coachlight RV Sales: Carthage, Mo.

Coates RV Center: Columbus, Minn.

Colonial Airstream & Itasca: Lakewood, N.J.

Crown RV: Conyers, Ga.

Curtis Trailers Portland, Ore.

Dandy RV Superstore: Anniston, Ala.

Dixie RV Superstore: Newport News, Va.

Dodd RV, Yorktown, Va.

Giant RV: Montclair, Calif.

Greenway RV Sales & Service: Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.

Hilltop Trailer & Sales: Fridley, Minn.

Kings Campers: Wausau, Wis.

Little Dealer Little Prices: Phoenix, Ariz.

Modern Trailer Sales: Anderson, Ind.

Mount Comfort RV: Greenfield, Ind.

Pleasureland RV Center: St. Cloud, Minn.

Quality RV Center: Draper, Utah

Reines RV Center: Manassas, Va.

Richardson’s RV Centers: Riverside, Calif.

Rick’s RV Center: Joliet, Ill.

Roy Robinson Motorhome & RV Center: Marysville, Wash.

RV America Inc.: Johnstown, Colo.

Steinbring Motorcoach: Garfield, Minn.

Tennessee RV Sales & Service: Knoxville, Tenn.

Terrell Camping Center: Terrell, N.C.

Thompson Family RV: Davenport, Iowa

Trafford’s RV: Center Conway, N.H.

Veurinks’ RV Center: Grand Rapids, Mich.

Woody’s RV World: Red Deer, Alberta

Meanwhile, two U.S. dealer principals received an individual honor
named after the late Dave Altman, a popular southern California dealer
and association activist who passed away last year. “The Dave Altman
award is a ‘Lifetime Achievement’ honor for individual Top 50 dealers
who have displayed throughout their careers the kind of style, grit,
honesty, leadership, consumer care and business acumen with their
employees and customers that has set them apart from the pack and made
them role models to all of us,” said Schneider.

The 2009 Altman Award recipients, the first of whom was honored posthumously:

Veteran Iowa towable dealer John R. “Johnny” Ketelsen, who passed
away in August, started selling pickup campers from the front yard of
his farm and founded Ketelsen RV in Marion, Iowa, in 1962. He gained
fame as a Country & Western musician entertainer and as the most
aggressive and successful Coleman folding camping trailer dealer in the
U.S. His legacy today stretches from Ketelsen RV, now owned and operated
by son Gary in Hiawatha, Iowa, to Ketelsen Campers of Colorado in
Wheatridge, owned and operated by son Randy.

Ketelsen traveled extensively with his own western dance band, the
Johnny Ketelsen Band, which broadcast daily for 20 years on WMT Radio in
Cedar Rapids, and was known for adhering to old-fashioned values, as he
treated his customers as friends for life. He was instrumental in the
formation of the Iowa RV Dealers Association, serving as its president,
and was a founding member of the national RVDA in the late 1970’s,
having served on its board of directors into the early ‘80s. In the
process, he mentored countless dealers and was later inducted into the
RV/MH Hall of Fame.

“His commitment to RVDA and the RV industry was unwavering,” son
Randy Ketelsen said upon his father’s Aug. 17 passing. “He understood
the importance of a strong dealer organization from the beginning and
did all he could to support it.”

High profile motorized and automotive retailer Herb Nill, the
veteran head of Guaranty RV in Junction City, Ore., who stepped up to
the podium with son Shannon last week to accept the award. Herb Nill
founded one of the largest and most well-known dealerships in America,
Guaranty RV, in Junction City, Ore. Having put himself through college
selling cars, Herb saved $5,000 and borrowed another $5,000 from his
father in law in 1966 to buy a Chevrolet-Oldsmobile dealership, Guaranty
Chevrolet, which later split into side-by-side businesses when he added
Guaranty RV Center.

Herb and Sally Nill believe strongly in the RV lifestyle and enjoyed many RV adventures in raising their family.

Like Ketelsen, Herb — still quite a active in the business — has
taken great pride in treating everyone in his life – employees, vendors,
and customers alike – with respect and honesty. He’s also proud of
being a salesman and always believed that good customer and industry
relationships were keys to success. Anyone who has had the good fortune
of being around Herb in any capacity knows how strongly he believes in
those attributes.

And also like Johnny Ketelsen, Herb got his family involved in the
business so that today the second-generation of Nills — sons Shannon,
Marty and Eric — are building upon the successful foundation that their
father set for them.

Serving in this year’s Leadership Alliance in support of the RV
Business Top 50 are Platinum co-sponsors ADP Lightspeed, Salt Lake
City, UT; Blue Ox, Pender, NE; Coach-Net, Lake Havasu, AZ; Cummins Onan,
Minneapolis, MN.; Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp., Gaffney, SC, RV
Trader and RVTraderOnline.com, Norfolk, VA, and Ultra-Fab Products,
Elkhart, IN, while Protective Asset Protection Division, Chesterfield,
MO, is a Gold sponsor.

To view the complete list of the Top 50 dealers and to learn more
about members of the Leadership Alliance, visit www.RVBusiness.com.

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