Family-owned General RV Center Inc., Wixom, Mich., which operates seven stores and is the state’s largest RV dealership, will open new stores in Jacksonville, Fla., and Salt Lake City, Utah, within the next three months.
The Jacksonville store, in a former auto dealership, will open in September with the Utah facility, also in a closed auto sales facility, opening ”probably in October,” according to President Loren Baidas.
”We just recognized that in the Midwest, there’s not much more that we can do,” Baidas told RVBUSINESS.COM. ”We think there are some areas that we can move into where the markets are under-performing.
”Jacksonville is a great market. A lot of people who live there buy RVs, but it’s a good transient market as well. We are excited about the Utah market as well.”
Both facilities — located on interstate highways — will have six service bays on about five acres and will employ about 25 people.
After taking a camping trip with his family in 1962, Loren Baidas’ grandfather, Abe Baidas, began renting folding camping trailers out of a gas station. By the end of the 1960s, Abe Baidas and his son and partner, Richard A. ”Dick” Baidas, were selling 200 units a year. This year, the company anticipates selling more than 5,000 motorhomes and towable RVs.
When the expansion is complete, General RV will operate seven facilities in four states that will employ about 350 people. Besides the Wixom headquarters store, General RV operates Michigan dealerships in Birch Run, White Lake, Wayland, Mount Clemens and Brownstown and also North Canton, Ohio, where in April 2008 the company expanded for the first time outside of Michigan.
Loren Baidas’ uncle, Robert, is General RV CEO and brother-in-law Wade Stufft is vice president of operations. Dick Baidas, who died of liver cancer in 2006, was inducted earlier this month into the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind.
”The game plan (in Florida and Utah) is similar to what we did in Ohio,” Loren Baidas said. ”We will have full parts and service departments and we’ll sell everything from fold-down campers to diesel pusher motorhomes. Both have freeway exposure and are quality locations.”
Because the company pays cash for its inventory, it hasn’t been affected by the lack of wholesale financing that has restricted inventory for many other RV dealerships nationwide.
“We don’t have that issue,” Baidas said. ”We’ve got great relationships with our manufacturers and we pay cash for everything. That gives us an opportunity to go into areas that we didn’t think about a few years ago.”
Baidas said that he senses that the national recession that has severely affected the sale of RVs nationwide is coming to an end.
”We recognize that retail financing is still soft, but we have complete faith in the RV industry and the consumer base,” he said. ”We think we are at or close to the bottom (of the industry recession) if not on the way back,” he said. ”We want to make sure there is some opportunity for us as a company so that when it does come back, we are in long-term growth markets.”
”Despite everything that’s happening with the economy, we’ve kept our head above water,” Baidas said. ”All in all, we are very happy with the way the year has gone.”