Lazydays RV SuperCenter co-founder Herman Kemper “H.K.” Wallace, who helped build the reputation of what is now the world’s largest single location RV dealership, died Thursday night (June 6) at age 83 after a long battle with diabetes.
Mr. Wallace, who experienced poverty during the Depression, co-founded Lazydays in Tampa, Fla., in 1976 along with his sons Don and Ron.
But it was Mr. Wallace, whom the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times described as “the folksy country gent who lured thousands to Lazydays with the exhortation ‘Tell ‘em H.K. sent ya,’ ” whose image embodied the dealership during its early days.
As Don Wallace, CEO of the dealership that now has more than $600 million in annual sales, told the Times, “It started out as a family business that truly involved every member of the family. We put H.K. in the TV commercials because he wanted to maintain close contact with every customer. Even after we got big, he was really angry if somebody failed to bring a customer over to meet him.”
Lazydays, now located in Seffner, Fla., a Tampa suburb, began in portable office in Tampa, and the Wallaces’ initial goal was to sell two RVs a month. They did not exceed their goal until their fourth month of opeation, when they sold three units.
Since then, the company has grown to have 600 employees, a 1,000-unit inventory on a 150-acre country club-like site and it is the largest retailer of the 14 manufacturers whose products it sells.
Mr. Wallace was born in Virginia and he was one of 12 children raised by a single mom during the Depression. He had to quit school after the 2nd grade because his father died and he needed to help support the family.
After trying several small business ventures, he moved to Tampa in 1966 and co-founded Lazydays in 1976 with sons Don and Ron.
Ron Wallace was killed in a traffic accident 13 years ago.
After being president and spokesman for Lazydays for many years, Mr. Wallace retired in 1995.
Mr. Wallace is survived by his wife of 56 years, Edith Wallace; son, Don Wallace; daughter, Connie Wallace Strickland; brother, Dallas “Dick” Wallace; sister, Willie Wallace Ball; three grandchildren, Donnie, Alexa and Samantha; and great grandchild, Sabrina.
He was voted Temple Terrace Citizen of the Year in 1994, and he was involved in numerous civic and community affairs. He had a special affection for disadvantaged and handicapped children.
A memorial service will be held on today (June 10) at 2 p.m. at the Carrollwood Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witness at 8436 N. Lois Ave. in Tampa. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in the name of H.K. Wallace to the Joshua House, P.O. Box 1907, Lutz, FL 33548 (phone: 813-949-8946).