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RV Dealer: ‘It’s Hard for People to Give Up Their Toys’

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September 18, 2009 by   Leave a Comment

People still want to have toys, even in a rough economy.

Those pearls of wisdom are from Kathy Chowning, an owner-operator at RV Sales in Moriarty, N. M., which has sold more Excel fifth-wheels than any other dealer in the nation since 2001. Her parents started an RV business in 1967 and Chowning began her own company in this city east of Albuquerque in 1982, according to the Mountain View Telegraph.

“We have a strong customer base,” she said. “When they want something they come back to us”

She also pointed out that KOA campgrounds, national parks and the like were booming this summer. Last summer, when gas prices were far higher, there was less traffic at these sites, she said.

“It’s important to America to go out and see America and take your home with you,” she said. “It’s real hard for people to give up their toys.”

Even still, Chowning hasn’t sailed through the recession without any trouble. It used to be that the RV industry took “the cream of the crop when it came to doing loans.” That meant financing with good interest rates.

Now that source for loans has virtually dried up and credit unions have stepped in. Loans are anywhere from 7% to 14%, depending on the amount borrowed, but she said she had one come in at just under 4%.

Still, it’s a diminished market due in part to the reluctance of creditors to lend money, Chowning said.

“We’re all trying to get a little bit of a share of what is out there and is available,” she said. “All of us need to remain positive.”

Chowning called the pattern of recession a vicious cycle, one that’s hard to get out of when businesses are overly cautious.

“If we all wait around to see what the economy does, then the economy will do nothing,” she said. “You’ve got to keep it going to get it going and you’ve got to get it going to keep it going.”

Jill DeTemple, an assistant at RV Sales, said the company has seen a lot of first-time buyers, people who come in with nothing to trade in. She added that business picked up in the spring. DeTemple has been with the company for five years and called it an “honest, fair, family business.”

The company also holds a community event each Halloween, the annual Trailer-to-Trailer Fall Costume and Candy Festival.

The company collects donations from local businesses and from attendees to pay for the cost of putting on the event, which allows kids to trick-or-treat in the safety of the RV park. There is often a haunted house on the back of a semi-truck near the circle of trailers. It also collects canned goods or donations for the Bethel Storehouse.

That money is often used for holiday goodies for less fortunate families, she pointed out.

“It fills (Bethel’s) coffers right before Thanksgiving,” she said.

Usually the Chownings break even on their own costs, but last year they came about $1,000 short of the more than $4,000 they spent on the event. Chowning said she’s sending out “feelers” early on this year to make sure that they don’t end up in the red again.

If there is not enough support, she said they may end up revamping the way they do the annual event, now going on its 16th year running.

“I think I’m in panic mode,” she said. “We’re asking the community to back us up on this. We can’t lose money on things like this.”

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