Editor’s Note: The following article and Q&A appears in Truck Camper Magazine reporting on the sale of Alaskan Trailers. For the full story click here.
Alaskan Campers has been acquired by John Macpherson, a satellite communications business owner servicing the Alaska oil, fishing, and marine industry. He’s also a passionate outdoorsman and takes any opportunity he can get to go fishing and hunting in his personal Alaskan Camper.
Alaskan Campers was founded in 1958 by Californian Don Hall. With its unique hard side roof that raised and lowered with hydraulics, the camper quickly became the prototype for Alaskan Campers. By 1965, Hall and his wife, Irene, had grown Alaskan Campers to seven factories across the United States and Canada.
Don Wheat bought Alaskan Campers from the Hall family in 1989. Having worked with Alaskan Campers for over 24 years as its Alaska dealer, Macpherson purchased the company last fall.
As Macpherson explains it, Alaskan Campers is going to become significantly more efficient, but not much else is going to change. How do you improve a product that has lasted almost six decades?
TCM: Tell us about your professional career prior to your involvement with Alaskan Campers.
Macpherson: I’m 64 years old, so how far back do you want me to go?
TCM: As far back as is relevant to your involvement with Alaskan Campers.
Macpherson: In March of 1989, we had the Exxon Valdez oil spill. I had been in the satellite communications business in Alaska for a number of years before that. Needless to say, there was a lot of mobilization that had to happen and our satellite services were part of the clean up effort.
When I reached the town of Valdez, it was already trying to support a city of people that had arrived for the spill. I spent a week sleeping in my regular cab pickup. That’s when I decided I wanted a pop-up truck camper.
My uncle had Alaskan Campers in the mid-60s, but I thought they had been out of business for decades. I just never saw any newer Alaskan Campers in Alaska at that time. Without the option to buy a new Alaskan, I bought a Jayco pop-up truck camper.
TCM: Of course Alaskan Campers was in business at the time, but the majority of their units were delivered to the lower 48. Did you want a truck camper for anything other than work?
Macpherson: Yes, I’m an outdoors guy. I like to go fishing and hunting. Having a truck camper was a natural fit for my lifestyle. I used the pop-up quite a bit for work and pleasure.
TCM: So how did you come across Alaskan again?
Macpherson: The oil spill clean-up went on for quite a few months. During that time, I flew to Cordova. I stopped at a store and picked up a Sunday Seattle newspaper for something to read. In the classifieds I found an ad for Alaskan Campers. I called Don Wheat, Owner of Alaskan Campers, and ordered an Alaskan Camper sight unseen.
On the phone I told Don I didn’t need it right away. About six months later, I went to Seattle to pick it up. I couldn’t believe how nice they were, and asked what would take to become an Alaskan dealer. Don said that if I bought four, I could be an Alaskan dealer. I only had money for three, but we made a deal. I got my first shipment of Alaskan Campers in April of 1992.
TCM: What led you to purchase the company 24 years later?
Macpherson: Don Wheat stepped down from the day to day management of Alaskan Campers over 10 years ago. His son, Bryan Wheat, stepped in and has been actively running the company ever since. I have known Don for more than 24 years, and Bryan as long as he’s been there. In other words, I know the people and product very well.
About 18 months ago, Bryan mentioned that Don was selling the company. That’s when I talked to Bryan Wheat, President, Dorrie Benson, Office Manager, Rick Bremgartner, Foreman, and members of the production crew. After learning of their intention to stay on board with Alaskan after the sale, I decided to seriously look into purchasing the company.
For the full story click here.