It was an act of God that turned Camping World in Bellemont into a makeshift junkyard just before dawn on Oct. 6, 2010.
As reported by the Arizona Daily Sun, the two tornadoes that touched down in the tiny community before 5:30 a.m. derailed train cars, blew semi trucks off the highway and destroyed nearly the entire inventory of the RV dealership. Bill Coverdale, the general manager of Camping World, said only two of the RVs were spared.
“Thirty-two were a total loss,” Coverdale said, remembering standing over the shredded remnants of the recreational vehicles in the days following the storm.
The tornadoes also tore down the fence between the dealership and the highway and damaged the main roof.
“There were a lot of leaks,” he said, noting the rooftop-mounted heater was eventually found in the parking lot.
Coverdale declined to answer how much damage the storms cost or how much was covered by the insurance company.
Camping World is scheduled to reopen the Bellemont store on March 15, offering with a larger inventory of vehicles, bigger staff and a new roof after being closed for 17 months.
The company temporarily opened a sales lot in Flagstaff last summer while repairs of the main location continued, but Coverdale is glad to be back home in the location he helped to open in March 2009.
“It is pretty exciting,” Coverdale said.
The phone was uncommonly silent earlier this week as employees began unpacking pallets of inventory for the showroom.
“There have been so many people who are excited about the grand opening,” he said.
The company has increased the size of its staff from 15 employees to a total of 23 for the grand opening in mid-March.
Coverdale is optimistic that the RVs — which range in price from as little as $4,000 for a small trailer to more than $150,000 for a decked-out model — will sell in the current uneasy economic market.
“The bottom line is that people are having fun again,” he said.
Company officials have decided to nearly double their pre-tornado inventory to 60 new RVs. But RV sales are only one aspect of the company’s offerings. Coverdale said they are the “Walmart of camping supplies” — stating they have everything the person would need to raft down the Colorado River, hike down to Supai or go camping in the Coconino National Forest.