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Hall Inductee Floyd Says ‘Hard Times Not New’

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April 26, 2010 by   Leave a Comment

Rex Floyd and his RV dealership — Floyd’s Recreational Vehicles — have survived seven recessions since 1969, but nothing quite like the current one.

“This one is the worst by far,” Floyd told the Norman (Okla.) Transcript.  “Haven’t seen anything like it before . . . and that’s saying a lot.”

Not that hard times are anything new for the RV industry.

When the business was “born,” as Floyd likes to say, it was nothing more than two “cabovers” and three “toppers” in Pauls Valley, his hometown.

There was no glass-enclosed showroom or 20-acre lot. The combined value of his inventory was just $2,200. A former engineer who worked in the field for 13 years, Floyd and his wife, Helen, were the only employees.

On top of that, when Floyd moved to his current location just south of Norman in 1973, the U.S. was in the midst of an oil crisis. Many RV dealers and manufacturers across the country were going under.

Floyd was in the middle of an expansion. It became a struggle.

“There was an article in the paper about how all the RV dealerships were going out of business,” he said. “There wasn’t a banker around that would loan me money to finish the building.”

Floyd said he and his wife “finished the building as we got money, but we learned how to run a business during that time.

“As you learn, you work hard to change or you’re gone . . . I didn’t want to lose the business we had worked to build.”

Floyd’s dealership did survive and it has since thrived, expanding a dozen times in the last four decades.

What started out as a small RV lot with $2,200 in inventory has grown into a 20-acre dealership, with a busy service department, a 100-space storage area and more than 20 employees.

“It’s definitely grown,” Floyd said inside his hunting lodge-themed showroom Friday morning. “We’ve got millions in rolling stock now.”

The dealership’s 26-bay service department, which has grown with the company over the years, is an important part of the business, especially in an economic downturn.

“When sales are down, parts and services usually go up . . . people tend to fix ‘em up instead of buying new ones in a bad economy,” Floyd said. “That’s how we’ve stayed in business for 40 years.”

The dealership sells an array of new and used RVs, including fifth-wheels, travel trailers, motorhomes and folding camping trailers. Its lobby has a customer waiting area with cable Internet connections, a flat screen TV and free phones, all situated with antlers and stuffed game hanging on the walls.

“Like I said, it’s grown a lot over the years,” Floyd said. “We’re one of the biggest RV dealers in Oklahoma.”

All of Floyd’s hard work — and the fact he and his wife’s business has survived all these years — hasn’t gone unnoticed by his peers. The RV/MH Heritage Foundation, based in Elkhart, Ind., recently announced that Floyd will be inducted into its hall of fame on Aug. 2.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Floyd said. “They’ve had it for years now, but I knew very little about it. I thought you had to be dead to get in.”

Floyd said he plans to attend the induction ceremony in Indiana, a special place for those in the RV business.

“There (Elkhart) and South Bend, they’re kind of like the heart of RV manufacturing,” he said. “That’s kind of where it all started.”

Today, Floyd is semi-retired, a process he said wasn’t as simple as it should’ve been.

“I guess I retired four or five years ago,” he said. “You just don’t step out of a company you gave birth to and made successful… overnight. That’s something I found out, for sure.”

Floyd is now a consultant to the company, his middle son Kenneth runs the day-to-day operations.

Kenneth Floyd, like his brothers and sisters, grew up in the family business. He said some of his best memories from childhood revolve around the dealership.

“It was hard to get up during the week for school, but I couldn’t wait to get up Saturday to go to work with my dad,” Kenneth Floyd said. “I’ve been in it since I was born, basically. As the business grew, I grew, too.”

Kenneth Floyd has worked at the RV dealership with his father since 1986, with a few years in between working at a car dealership. After becoming sales manager, he said he was drawn back to the family RV business when his younger brother left the dealership to start his own training company.

“I felt like it was my turn to leave, go out on my own,” Kenneth Floyd said. “I wanted to make sure it was me who got the job and not just because it was the family business.”

Kenneth Floyd returned to the RV dealership that bears the family name in 2003. His said he hopes this job will be his last — if his dad doesn’t fire him.

“You never know with him, but I love the business, I love the atmosphere and I love the lifestyle,” he said. “It’s not every day you get the opportunity to do a job you love, so I’m lucky.”

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