Dan Gamel, struggling with a lousy economy, closed all but one of his California dealerships Friday (Dec. 19) and laid off 150 employees for three months while he sells motor coaches online and by appointment.
The Fresno Bee reported that the Camp America store and dealerships in south Fresno, Modesto and Rocklin are closing until spring. The Redding outlet is staying open because the store is profitable, Gamel said.
All the real estate – totaling 85 acres with much of it on prime frontage – is for sale.
“It doesn’t make sense to be in business the way we are in this economy,” Gamel said. “I thought we could make it and hang on, but every month brought a more dire situation.”
This is the second time that Gamel announced he is closing. Last summer, he said he was going to liquidate his inventory, but wound up changing the way he does business. He slashed his inventory two-thirds, cut his work force 64%, reduced the number of dealerships and switched manufacturers, signing a deal with Coachmen RV Co., Middlebury, Ind.
He wound up staying open, but said a physical dealership could become a thing of the past – replaced by emerging online business.
Gamel said he plans to reopen in March or April and try again to sell his $14 million worth of inventory.
The fracturing of the deal with Coachmen factored into his decision to temporarily close, he said. The deal fell apart after Elkhart, Ind.-based Forest River Inc., a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, acquired the recreational vehicle division of Coachmen in November.
Gamel said he intends to stay in business with his newest concept, which could debut next year: mall storefronts with entrances that resemble the front of an RV. Customers would sit in recreational vehicle furniture while they shop online.
The first ones will open in malls in Concord and Redding, he said.
“We’re not going away,” he said. “We’re just going to be quiet for a while.”