Company officials at Casper, Wyo.-based Teton Homes have been telling customers in no uncertain terms that the 41-year-old luxury fifth-wheel builder is closing its doors, according to several of those customers.
The Casper Star-Tribune reported that on Friday, an executive at the Massachusetts-based investment firm that owns a controlling share of Teton Homes denied rumors that the company was shutting down.
But a number of Teton Homes recreational vehicle owners who read the comments by Charlie Larkin of Webster Capital Investment Co. say company officials told them the business is no longer operating.
Calls from RVBusiness to Teton management and Webster Capital Investment were not returned.
According to the Star-Tribune, the customer comments are in line with a statement by a Teton Homes employee who answered the phone Monday (Sept. 15) and said the company is going out of business, and warranties on all Teton Homes products are void. The employee said Teton Homes plans to manufacture oilfield trailers under a new name.
“Teton Homes is done,” the employee said.
Robert Plants, a Michigan resident who lives in his Teton Homes RV full time, provided the Star-Tribune with an e-mail he said was from senior Teton Homes employee Nick Keller. The e-mail said the business is having financial troubles.
“I’m sorry to inform you that Teton Homes is in bank foreclosure,” Keller said, according to the e-mail that Plants provided.
Bob Berry, a South Dakota resident who also is a full-timer, said Keller told him in a telephone conversation that all of Teton Homes’ assets had been frozen by a lending company, and Teton is no longer able to send out parts by mail.
Berry said he repeatedly called Teton Homes last week to order parts for his 2005 Teton Homes fifth-wheel. The phone usually went unanswered, Berry said, but an employee who took one of his calls said the service department had shut down.
“All they need to do is be honest,” said Berry, adding that he’s frustrated by the lack of disclosure by the company. “I just wanted to know, hey, what’s going on?”
Amanda Smith, of Hunnewell, Mo., said someone who answered the phone at Teton Homes last week told her the company had received a letter of foreclosure from its chief investor and the company is closing its doors.
Smith, owner of a 2006 Teton Homes fifth-wheel, had originally called Teton Homes to schedule body work for her RV.
“The woman who answered the phone when I asked for the service department said, ‘We don’t have a service department,’” Smith said.
Dirk Schindel of Minneapolis, who called Teton Homes last week for technical advice about his RV, said an employee there told him that the bank had foreclosed, and that customers service was no longer available.
Schindel said he later spoke to one of Teton Homes’ regional marketing representatives who said he was aware of an apparent foreclosure.
Larkin said last week that the company was contemplating a “substantial restructuring” but no layoffs were expected. He also said recent rumors that the business was shutting its doors were not true.
“We’ve heard the same ugly rumors,” he said.
Difficult economic times nationwide have forced a number of RV manufacturers to restructure, slow down or close altogether, said Kevin Broom, spokesman for the Recreational Vehicle Industry. The credit crunch, which is making it harder for people to afford RVs, is a chief factor, Broom said.
Founded in the late 1960s by Robert “Boots” Ingram, Teton Homes specializes in luxury fifth-wheel trailers. Some of the most expensive models sell for well over $200,000. In 2005, Ingram sold a controlling share of the company to Webster Capital.
Teton Homes employed about 150 workers this summer, according to statements a company official made to the Casper Area Economic Development Alliance.