With dozens of manufacturer and supplier representatives in attendance, General RV Center on Monday (May 13) celebrated the grand opening of its Clarkston, Mich., store with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tours of the brand new facility. (To see a slide show of the ceremony, scroll down on the RVBUSINESS.com home page.)
Located on the corner of I-75 and Dixie Highway, smack dab in the heart of the rapidly developing 70-mile stretch between Flint and Detroit, the 36,000-square-foot store includes 16 service bays and more than 300 RVs on its 20-acre property. Additionally, the front of the new store features prairie-style architecture reminiscent of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
General RV Center President Loren Baidas told RVBUSINESS.com that the new facility is a “huge step” for the family-owned and operated dealership, which boasts 13 retail stores in Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Utah and Virginia.
“This store replaces a facility nine miles south in White Lake, which was our oldest building and smallest facility — it was only about 3 1/2 acres,” Baidas said. “It really limited our ability to service our customer in the level that we’ve been accustomed to, and that our customers have grown to love and expect.
“This building will help, and not just our customer experience but also our employee experience as well,” he continued. “The conditions of the old facility — a small shop, limited space, and limited capabilities — were not ideal. Yet we had to ask our employees to work in those conditions. So moving to a place like this has renewed some of their excitement and reminded them of why they got into the RV business.”
The Clarkston store’s grand opening is the latest in a string of high profile construction projects for General RV. Last December the company opened a 100,000-square-foot location in Ocala, Fla., and this fall it’s set for another ribbon cutting once the expansion to its Ashland, Va., store is complete. The combined cost for all construction projects, including a recent office expansion at the company’s corporate headquarters in Wixom, Mich., is $30 million.
“It’s really more of an investment in the facilities and the experience for our customers, and for our employees as well,” Baidas said. “We want to make sure we’re looked at as the premiere RV dealer, and premier RV partner for our manufacturers, for our customers, for our employees. We want to make sure we give the best purchase, delivery, and ownership experience in the market.
“This is just reinvesting in a few places where we felt we needed to,” he continued. “We won’t have to apologize for a facility or a building. With the White Lake store, after three customers would come in for service, the next ones would line up on the street. That’s unacceptable. We had to figure out a long-term solution for that, and this is definitely a good long-term solution.”
Given its recent pace of construction projects, Baidas said the company is now looking to take the foot off the gas a bit and instead will be investing in its employees with training and technology.
“We’re going to continue invest in the company, it just might not be as outwardly that people will see — not that we won’t take advantage of an opportunity if it presents itself. We’ll always do that, but we really want to just continue to find a way to be a better company for our customers, for our partners, and for our employees,” Baidas said, adding that he’s especially looking forward to consistently warmer weather to arrive.
“Yeah, business is good — not that there aren’t some headwinds or some challenges,” he said. “I think weather in the Midwest is definitely a challenge still. I mean, here it is May 13 and it’s 45 degrees and raining today. Hopefully that changes soon, I think that’s slowed things down, but there are other headwinds out there, too. Overall, the economy is still good and the marketplace is still good. It’s just not growing 10% like we’ve seen it over the past few years.”