New Mexico’s loss is Texas’ gain as far as Jim Paxton, president of American RV and Marine, is concerned.
The refusal by Las Cruces, N.M., officials to allow Paxton to expand his dealership led him to build a $7.5 million state-of-the-art dealership 23 miles south — in Anthony, Texas.
“I’m 2,500 feet into Texas. I’m trying to talk with a Texas accent now,” Paxton joked.
More seriously, he added: “If we could have gotten zoning, we would have stayed in Las Cruces. But they want nothing but pecan groves up there. They don’t want commercial business. They made that very clear.”
The new 44,000-square foot American RV and Marine dealership located three miles north of the El Paso city limits, is the centerpiece of a 1,000-acre recreation center that Paxton plans to develop. It will include overnight and rally campgrounds, seven restaurants, a water park and retail sales in a theme western town.
“The RV dealership is the anchor,” Paxton said. “Besides sales, it will be focused primarily on supporting the RV park and rally campgrounds with on-site service and amenities.”
Paxton, a dealer since 1983, opened the new showroom in late January. The company continues to operate separate showroom and service facilities in Albuquerque, N.M.
Initially, the move appeared to be a wise one. “We sold as many RVs during four days in February at the new location than we did all of last February,” Paxton said. That reflects an upward retail trend at American RV and Marine, which saw sales in January increase 18% over January 2001.
The facility is a major improvement over American RV’s now-closed Las Cruces location, which featured a single 5,000-square-foot building. “We didn’t even have enclosed service bays before,” Paxton said. “Now we have 14.”
Escalating land costs in Las Cruces also allowed Paxton to open the new dealership without debt. “We sold the property in Las Cruces for enough to pay for this,” Paxton said.
The dealership’s exterior is decorated in red, white and blue — a motif planned before the events of Sept. 11, when patriotism became more trendy again, Paxton said. Inside, the decor is Southwest, with custom-designed furniture and free food at a Mexican cantina.
Paxton expected to break ground on the 400-site campground, that will feature 45-foot by 90-foot pads, at the end of April. A 750-site rally park will be open by June. “It’s vacant land,” Paxton said. “All we have to do is scrape it and bring in water and electricity.”
Paxton, who employs 50 people, hired a full-time manager to oversee marketing and operation of the campgrounds.
The site includes 1 1/2 miles of frontage on Interstate 10, a major cross-country highway, with interchange access in both directions.