Steve Casey’s Four Seasons RV in southeast Loveland, Colo., became an RV industry “statistic” two months ago. The company, which had been owned by Loveland residents Reg and Karen Atherton for 41 years, changed hands in March.

Formerly Loveland RV Service, the RV dealership at 900 E. Colorado 402 now is owned by an out-of-state partnership that also owns Steve Casey’s Four Seasons in Wheat Ridge, according to the Loveland Reporter-Herald.

“You won’t find many little guys around anymore,” Reg Atherton said Friday (May 25) as he reflected on the family business that he built from a one-truck propane delivery service in 1971 into an RV repair and sales company.

Along the way, they owned Loveland RV Village on East Eisenhower Boulevard from 1988 to 1998, which he said was a lot of fun for his family.

The Athertons have rolled with the economic punches over the years. When insurance on propane businesses skyrocketed in the 1980s, they sold that business and focused on repairs of RV appliances, which operate on propane, Atherton said.

When the recreational vehicle industry was rebounding from oil crises in the ’80s and “manufacturers showed up, begging for business,” Loveland RV started selling new and used units.

And most recently, when the recession and record gasoline prices knocked the RV industry to the mat, the Loveland company almost completely stopped selling RVs.

“In 2008 and 2009, some of our manufacturers started going out of business,” said Sherry Loewen, the Athertons’ daughter who still works at the dealership.

Four out of the five RV makers that Loveland RV represented went bankrupt, she said. “We had about half a million dollars of inventory that no longer had a factory to back them.”

Said Atherton, “Things were going down and down, and we were kind of too small to get back up.” The sale to Four Seasons “worked out pretty well for both of us,” he said.

So Steve Casey’s Four Seasons bought a company that “always had a great name for customer service,” said Kerry McKeever, general sales manager for the new owners.

“It’s a new name, but the same staff,” he said. “Our main change is we’ve brought in a tremendous amount of inventory.”

The eight-acre lot now holds about 80 RVs for sale from all the major manufacturers, he said, with access to 220 more at the company’s Wheat Ridge location. The inventory ranges from used pop-up trailers for a few thousand dollars to $150,000 luxury homes on wheels.

According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), business is rebounding. The recession forced RV companies to lay off 55% of their workforce since June 2007, the RVIA website says.

Now, manufacturers are rehiring workers, and deliveries of new RVs have been increasing each year since the second half of 2009. And RV ownership has hit a record of 8.9 million U.S. households, according to a University of Michigan study, representing 8.5% of households.

But it’s a different market, McKeever said. “The purchase of large diesel motorhomes has declined,” he said. “It’s a lot more travel trailers and fifth-wheels.

“I guess you’d describe it as back-to-basics type of camping,” especially in Colorado, he said. “People are camping off-road more … going up fire service roads, which in most cases will require a smaller unit.”

Many of the new units are “toy haulers” — basically garages on wheels, with living quarters — which allow adventure-minded RV’ers to take along four-wheelers and motorcycles on their camping trips.

Atherton said in his earlier days in the business, RV owners mostly were retirees. “Now, it’s the younger generation buying these big motorhomes to go skiing, water skiing,” he said.