Andy Wheeler had a soft touch. From his friendly television ads to his laid-back demeanor with customers, Wheeler was a gentle salesman.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Wheeler, who used that relaxed approach to build a parcel of dirt south of the Strip into one of the country’s biggest RV dealerships in the 1990s and early 2000s, died unexpectedly on March 6 in Las Vegas. He was 81.
“He was known all over the United States. I came from Iowa, and worked in Phoenix, and no matter where you went, they had heard of Andy Wheeler,” said Jack Carstens, who worked for Wheeler from 2000 to 2005. “They might not have met him, but they’d heard of his store.”
Added Tom Letizia, a local advertising executive who created ad campaigns for Wheeler’s Las Vegas RV: “Andy was a great businessman. He did things the old-fashioned way. He liked to talk to people. He wasn’t about high-tech things — he was a face-to-face guy. We’ve lost one of our great Las Vegas characters, and it’s hard to see a good guy like Andy go.”
Wheeler, a native of Wichita, Kan., worked in sales his entire career. He sold “everything, but always new products — never any products that were established,” said his wife of 42 years, Marlene Wheeler.
Wheeler found his niche after the couple moved to Las Vegas in the mid-1970s. He took a job in 1977 with an RV dealer near Industrial Road and Tropicana Avenue.
“We just felt as though we could do certain things better,” said Marlene, who was also in RV sales.
So the couple opened Wheeler’s Las Vegas RV in 1982 on a 1-acre lot at Spring Mountain Road and Procyon Street. But they had big plans and needed space to accomplish them. They bought 20 acres at 13175 Las Vegas Blvd. South, about a mile south of the site that today houses the M Resort. They debuted the bigger store in 1992, complete with a parts store and service center, and continued to assemble nearby land parcels over the years. Today, the store sits on 40 acres, and is part of roughly 100 acres of Wheeler family real estate holdings in the area.
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