Family-owned A & S RV Center has been a multiple location dealership for all of a few months. In January this year, the longtime Auburn Hills, Mich., dealership, a member of the Route 66 RV Network, purchased the former Freeway Auto & RV in Midland, Mich., located about 100 miles north.
Owner Larry Andree said they had wanted to add a second location for some time, and reviewed other opportunities in different markets before settling on the Midland store.
“We were looking for something that was far enough away that we wouldn’t be competing with ourselves, but close enough that it was easy to get to if we had to get up there for any reason,” said Andree, whose father-in-law started the dealership in 1960 out of a tiny gas station.
With room for 100 units on its 5 1/2 acres, the Midland store has six service bays, a small parts and accessories store and employs 10 people. The Auburn Hills location, which has undergone three expansions over its 45 years, employs 35 and boasts 200 units displayed on 10 acres. Its facilities include an indoor showroom for seven RVs, a parts and accessories store and 10 service bays. A separate building is used for product prep work, and the sales offices are currently undergoing an expansion as well.
Adding a second location was a risk, but “we didn’t go into this blind,” Andree continued, saying the business is on solid financial footing to undertake such an expansion. “In the first month we got it up and running and we’re making money already. We went into this with the thinking that the timing is right. We started in January when it’s a slow time of the year, but knowing within a month or two the business was going to hit and things would take off.”
Andree said the primary reason behind the move was that the Auburn Hills facility wouldn’t accommodate further growth. “The property and volume were pretty much maxed out,” he said, adding that the expansion also “grows the business for the third generation of owners.” Andree’s son Michael, and daughter, Kristen Manninen, are co-general managers of the dealership.
“We wanted to maintain what we had here, but add another location to increase the volume for us,” Andree said. “And we really wanted to add an existing location and not start from scratch. We wanted something that already had good product lines. The problem with starting up a new store is most of the good products are already taken.”
The Midland location carries Forest River towables that aren’t sold at the Auburn Hills store, which offers a full line of towables and motorized units from a variety of manufacturers. Adding a second location “dramatically increases the market and inventory” for both stores, Andree said. He’s already brought Roadtrek Motorhomes from Auburn Hills to Midland, and will likely add other lines.
“If a customer doesn’t like the selection at one store I can send them to the other store. They might have a product he’s already seen that he likes, so it just opens the market up quite a bit on new and used inventory,” Andree said, adding they hope to double the new location’s recent sales within a year or two.
Andree, who had been in discussions with the previous owner for about a year before finalizing the deal, said the opportunity was attractive because it’s on a major thoroughfare in a market that’s home to Dow Chemical and draws from several nearby cities.
One of the challenges is trying to work through the bugs of getting the new location on the same software systems with the Auburn Hills store, he said.