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Hurricane Katrina was a disaster of historic proportions, but it also was a business opportunity for those with goods needed to help with relief and recovery.
The Muskegon Chronicle reported that providing displaced Hurricane Katrina victims with shelter last year turned out to be a positive experience both financially and personally for owners of a Michigan dealership.
But brothers Sean and Adam Sobczak, co-owners of Lakeshore RV in Muskegon, said despite making a decent profit from the experience, they probably have retired from the hurricane-relief business.
“It was a heck of a lot of work,” Adam Sobczak said. “I don’t know if we’d do it again.”
Sean Sobczak said the experience was “a little overwhelming.”
“We are still doing paperwork a year later,” he said.
In all, the company shipped about 3,700 travel trailers to other dealers – one in Ohio and others along the Gulf Coast – where they were then sold to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for about $20,000 apiece.
The Sobczaks said they sold the units to the dealers for about $17,500, which included transportation costs.
“We like doing it from the business side because we made money, but when you saw what you’re doing to help people, you kind of forget about how much you’re making,” Adam Sobczak said.
The Sobczaks declined to say how much they netted overall on selling the trailers for hurricane relief. Sean Sobczak said the company “didn’t make as much” as some other RV dealers because they split their profit with the dealers who sold their units to FEMA.
Lakeshore RV sold about 400 to 500 trailers from its lot and then had to borrow about $31 million to have 3,000 more built. Waiting for the payback was stressful. “I didn’t sleep good for about 30 days,” Adam Sobczak said.
Meanwhile, the company had to keep track of drivers, delivery locations and paperwork.
Dow Chemical Co. also bought 100 units from Lakeshore RV. Sean Sobczak said Dow officials purchased the trailers for Gulf Coast area employees left homeless by Katrina.
That experience was something Adam Sobczak said he will never forget. The trailers were packed with items donated by Muskegon-area people.
“It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “It looked like Christmas. It was neat because we knew we were helping people.”