LaSalle Bristol President and CEO Rick Karcher and Rick Corry, senior vice president, sales and marketing

When Elkhart, Ind.-based supplier LaSalle Bristol began construction on its showroom in 2009, the company’s senior management didn’t realize that it would go unfinished until almost five years later because of the fiscal austerity imposed by the recession, which surfaced part way through the project. Like much of the industry, LaSalle Bristol was forced to make concessions to a tighter market, a decision that also prompted the OEM and aftermarket supplier to suspend its annual national sales meeting.

Mirroring a trend seen lately throughout the RV industry, Lasalle Bristol — providing the RV industry with key building and plumbing components since the mid-1960s — has put the finishing touches on its long-awaited 2,200-square-foot showroom, just in time for this week’s (Feb. 12-14) first national sales meeting in five years. As Rick Corry, LaSalle Bristol’s senior vice president of sales and marketing noted, it was more than the unveiling of a new showroom; it was also a celebration of the company’s emergence from hard times.

“We flew our sales teams in, all of our vendors came in, we had a kick-off at the RV Hall of Fame and then we’ve been doing product and process presentations and conferring how best to run the business with our sales organizations,” Corry said.

Gil Brown, marketing and design manager, and Beth Barney, accounting department

Robert Barr, CEO of LaSalle Bristol’s parent company Arran Isle Ltd., flew in from the U.K. for two days and was reportedly “really excited” about the company’s position and outlook. “He’s pumped about us just being able to talk about growth because for so long it was about survival and managing cash, and now it’s about how we can use the cash to grow. And that’s the fun part,” related Corry.

He said the mood is now lighter all across the RV industry, describing how various corporate executives reacted while touring LaSalle Bristol’s new showroom this week, located at the company’s headquarters on County Road 17 on the east side of Elkhart.

“We were here with Doug Gaeddert from Forest River the day before yesterday, then Mike Terlep from Coachmen, Jack Lawless from Champion Homes, and they’re all saying the same thing: This thing (recovery) is real. We’re coming out of it,” Corry said. “And now their concern is that the supply chain can’t keep up, and they’re telling us, ‘Please don’t run out of product!’ We’re like, ‘What a great problem to have!’” — Barb Riley