Family-Owned Wisconsin Dealer Shuts Down
A long-time Wisconsin RV dealer is closing its doors, according to a report in the Leader Telegram, Eau Claire.
Family-run Fox RV Sales sold the land and the building for the dealership to Paul and Mark Doughty of North Point RV, who intend to move the business to the Fox site. Remodeling and relocating are scheduled to be finished Oct. 1. North Point is operating at its current location until the transition is finished.
“We plan to expand the parts and accessories department and remodel the customer service area,” said Paul Doughty, North Point RV co-owner, in a news release. “The former Fox property is an excellent facility in a great location and has a large display area, as well as an indoor showroom.”
North Point RV has been in business since 1990, and the Doughty family also owns two other Wisconsin dealerships – Dick’s RV in Durand and Willies RV in Bloomer.
Fox RV got its start in 1963 when Norm and Joann Fox owned the Thomson Oil Deep Rock Station in Chippewa Falls. It was a time when gasoline was less than 20 cents a gallon and customers received a pair of nylons with each purchase, Joann recalled.
The Foxes became recreational vehicle dealers when they bought a Rolite trailer for themselves and sold another from the gas station lot. What would become Fox RV Sales moved then relocated where a Kmart currently is located. In 1988 it moved to its current location in Lake Hallie at the site of the former Stardust outdoor movie theater.
Joann helped out from time to time after her son Gary bought the business in 1998. She still keeps in touch with some former customers and took RV trips with others. Norm died in 2000.
“It’s sad; we had a lot of good times here and great employees,” Joann said. “The customers were always No. 1. They were so honest and fun-loving.”
The rocky economy and high gas prices were key factors in deciding to close, Joann said.
“We’re still selling here and there,” she said, “but it’s nothing like it used to be.”
At its peak, supply could barely keep up with demand, and Fox RV Sales had a staff of 35 employees. Norm once had a policy of polishing the shoes of anyone who came into the business.
Gary’s siblings also have been involved in RVs. His sister, Tammy Nayes, owns TNT RV Rentals in Lake Hallie, and brothers Mark and Greg have worked in the industry.
The Fox story is not an uncommon one, said Phil Ingrassia, vice president of communications for the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA). The RVDA has tracked 213 dealerships nationwide that have closed — some due to consolidation — since January 2008.
But as with many industries, the RV sector seems to be coming out of its slump. According to Hoover’s, a research firm, durable goods manufacturers’ shipments of motor vehicles and parts rose 11.4% in the first quarter of 2011 compared with the year-ago period. The statistic is an indicator of demand for recreational vehicles.
RV wholesale shipments rose 6% in April compared with the year-ago period, and motorhome shipments specifically grew 17% to 8,300 units in April, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
Frozen credit markets hurt the industry during the recession, said RVIA spokesman Kevin Broom.
“The factors behind the RV industry’s recovery include improvements in consumer confidence and the availability of credit,” Broom said. “While lending standards are significantly tighter than they were before the recession, credit markets are at least predictable now.
“Consumers with a down payment and a good credit score are able to get financing to purchase an RV — that was not the case in the latter part of 2008 and in 2009.”