Alpin Haus, one of America’s largest RV dealerships with five locations in New York, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this weekend, starting with a cocktail reception for employees, manufacturers and vendors Friday (June 6) night.
Alpin Haus told RVBUSINESS.com that representatives will be on hand at its Amsterdam location from several key manufacturers, including Keystone RV Co., Thor Motor Coach, Grand Design RV Co., Prime Time Manufacturing, Forest River Inc., K-Z Inc. and Tiffin Motorhomes Inc. Customers will enjoy barbecue and entertainment all weekend, including a magician Saturday and Sunday and a caricature artist Saturday.
Alpin Haus was founded in 1964 by Bud Heck and his longtime friend, John Daly, as a small family owned business in Amsterdam. It started as a ski shop with one full time employee and a handful of helpers.
In the five decades since, Alpin Haus has grown into an outdoor recreation powerhouse with five store locations in Amsterdam, Port Jervis, Saratoga and Clifton Park, and featuring a full line of RVs, snowmobiles, skis, boats, pools and spas.
“I remember as a kid just being there and working with my dad,” Heck said, adding that Bud, 73, remains active in the business. “Like most kids who grew up in a family owned business, we did pretty much anything that needed to be done, from working in parts and service in the pools, ski shop and RVs to serving hot dogs at our events.”
Among the dealer’s five locations, RVs are sold from the flagship RV store in Amsterdam as well as the Port Jervis and Saratoga facilities. The company, which has 200 employees, offers more than 500 RVs available at the three stores.
“We’re blessed to be part of the RV industry,” said Heck, who previously served as Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) chairman. “It’s such a tight-knit community nationwide, and RVs have been our bread and butter over the years. It’s been the lion’s share of our business.”
Heck said one of the most enjoyable aspects is the longtime relationships Alpin Haus has made with both customers and employees. Some workers are second-generation employees, he said, and some people have not only bought as many as five to 10 RVs from the business, but are also second- and third-generation customers as well.
The reason for the longevity and loyalty is simple: “Our motto is everyone is family when you’re in our house,” Heck said. “Whether you’re a customer or an employee or a vendor, you’re family.”
Alpin Haus was named a top five RV dealer by RV Business Magazine; is the recipient of the Caldera Spa’s Best New Dealer of the Year award; Top 25 Tracker Boats dealer; the Snow Sports Retailer of the Year; National Top Quality RV Dealer of the Year; the Ski-Doo District Dealer of the Year; and voted one of the Best Places to Work by Capital District Business Review numerous years.
ALPIN HAUS TIMELINE
1964 Founded as a ski shop by Bud Heck and John Daly
1967 Recreational vehicles, pools, and snowmobiles added
1969 7,000 square foot addition added to original store
1986 Present location on Rt.30 purchased and the business relocated
1987 Boats added
1994 Andy & Greg Heck purchased John Daly’s share of the business
1999 Location in Saratoga opened for RV sales & service
2002 Ground breaking for new facility at Route 5S
2003 New Alpin Haus RV Super Center opens
2008 Acquired The Fitness Center located in Route 30 plaza
2010 Ski, Pool, and Spa facility opened at Clifton Park Center; Priority RV Parts store opens on Route 5S in Amsterdam.
2013 RV facility in Port Jervis, NY is opened
Police are investigating a fire that started around 1:30 a.m. yesterday (May 1) at the Alpin Haus RV store in Amsterdam, N.Y., that destroyed two motorhomes and a travel trailer.
According to Business Review, President Andy Heck reported that no one was injured.
“The state police fire investigation unit has the area roped off, trying to figure out how and where it started,” Heck told me. “We don’t know an awful lot yet.”
The RV store remains open for business. The damaged vehicles were at the store to be serviced, but Heck did not know their value.
This is the first time in the 49-year history of the company that a fire damaged property.
Alpin Haus also operates an RV store in Wilton, Saratoga County, and has ski and outdoors stores in Amsterdam and Clifton Park.
The company’s latest expansion was in Port Jervis, where it opened an outlet earlier this year.
New York-based Alpin Haus, one of the Northeast’s largest, family owned, independent RV retailers, has announced the promotion of Jonathan Baker to sales manager of the company’s store in Saratoga Springs. According to a press release, Baker is charged with the responsibility of overseeing all sales staff and training at the location.
Baker is the son of longtime Alpin Haus employee Dave Baker, sales manager at the Alpin Haus RV store in Amsterdam. As a teenager, the worked under his father as a lot attendant before attending school at SUNY Buffalo, where he graduated with bachelor’s in business administration in 2006.
Baker returned to Alpin Haus, first as a salesperson, then serving as business manager at the Saratoga Springs store prior to his most recent promotion. He replaces Bob Brundige, who retired in March after a 40-year career at Alpin Haus.
“Jonathan has been part of the Alpin Haus family for most of his life,” said Andy Heck, president of Alpin Haus. “His dedication and passion are as evident today as they were 15 years ago when he began washing and moving RVs at our Amsterdam store. We’re excited to have Jonathan at the helm of our Saratoga Springs location.
Editor’s Note: The following is a blog posted by Mark Grimm Communication recapping an address by Alpin Haus RV President Andy Heck to the Consulting Alliance based in Voorheesville, N.Y.
What does it take to keep a family business going for nearly 50 years? A big part of the secret is good communication.
Alpin Haus began as a little ski shop in 1964 in tiny Amsterdam, N.Y., and is now one of the Northeast’s top outdoor recreation retailers. The dealer’s president, Andy Heck, points to its communication culture as one of the keys to success.
“We out-friendly the competition,” said Heck. “If you’re not outgoing and friendly you can’t work at Alpin Haus.” Employees are expected to share their enthusiasm for their products, which include RVs, skis and boats, with customers.
Alpin Haus has opened up staff meetings to all employees and, with the exception of the most sensitive financial data, all issues are on the table. Heck says he wants employees to ”tell us what we need to hear.”
The same holds true for customers with the retailer’s longstanding policy to “face a crisis head on. Don’t hide from it.”
There is evidence the approach is working. Alpin Haus has grown to more than 200 employees, won numerous “Best Place to Work” awards, and Heck says 20 employees who once left the business for greener pastures have eventually returned.
There are other ingredients in the successful stew, such as being willing to adapt, allowing employees to make decisions on the spot and managing the obstacles well such as the economy and weather. Heck said they “do what it takes” to create a pleasurable experience for those who use their products.
But good communication is always a staple. Hard to argue with success.
Alpin Haus is opening its third RV store, this one in Port Jervis in western Orange County, N.Y.
According to a report in The Business Review, Albany, the Amsterdam-based chain of RV and ski stores operates RV dealership in Amsterdam and Wilton, and ski and outdoor activities stores in Amsterdam and Clifton Park.
Andy Heck, president of Alpin Haus, said the family-owned retailer began exploring a downstate expansion four or five years ago.
“This opportunity came along, and the time was right,” Heck said.
He said the Port Jervis area is a popular destination for campers, making it an ideal location for an RV dealership.
Alpin Haus expects to open the Port Jervis store in March. It will hire 20 people to staff the location.
Wakarusa, Ind.-based Prime Time Manufacturing, a division of Forest River Inc., has expanded its Avenger product lineup with the introduction of the Champagne Edition Avenger travel trailer. According to a press release, full production began in May and features a champagne-colored high gloss fiberglass exterior. Prime Time officials recently delivered the first model to Alpin Haus RV and Marine in Amsterdam, N.Y. Shown in the photo, Andy Heck (R), president of Alpin Haus, was presented with the 2013 Avenger 23 FBS by Prime Time President Jeff Rank. Rank noted, “Alpin Haus RV and Marine has a long history of award-winning sales and service. They only became a dealer last fall but are quickly becoming one of our largest volume dealers and they’ve enthusiastically embraced Avenger and the new Champagne Edition. It’s an honor to deliver this very special Avenger to Andy and his team.” Alpin Haus has two retail locations selling recreational vehicles in the Albany, N.Y., market. Founded in 1964, Alpin Haus is an outdoor recreation specialist selling boats, snowmobiles, skis, pools and spas. Heck sees great potential with the new product, stating, “Avenger has made a big splash with our sales people and our retail customers. It has great interior eye appeal and lots of easy-to-sell features. Now with the Champagne Edition, we can offer our customers a luxurious exterior look at an entry level price point that gives us a clear advantage in our local market.” Base MSRP of the Avenger Champagne Edition is $15,300. For more information regarding Prime Time Manufacturing and the Avenger Champagne Edition travel trailer, visit www.primetimerv.com or call (574) 862-3001.
Outdoor retailer Alpin Haus will open a store in May in the Clifton Park Center in Clifton Park, N.Y., according to the Albany Times-Union.
The 6,000-square-foot store will sell ski and snowboarding equipment, and swimming pool equipment. The new store replaces the Alpin Haus location on nearby Sitterly Road, but unlike that store, it won’t sell RVs.
Alpin Haus, which is one of the nation’s largest RV dealers, has additional locations in Amsterdam (where it’s headquartered) and Wilton.
DCG Development Co. bought Clifton Park Center in 2006, and has been remaking the mall in the years since.
Alpin Haus, the Amsterdam, N.Y.-based retailer of skis, pools, hot tubs and recreational vehicles, said it plans to open two new locations in the next four to 12 months.
One, in Saratoga County, will replace its existing store in Clifton Park. Another will be located outside the Capital Region, although the company hasn’t yet announced a location, according to the Albany Times Union.
Alpin Haus has four local retail outlets: in Clifton Park, in Gansevoort and two in the Amsterdam area.
The company said the new Saratoga County store will focus on pool sales and service, as well as skis and snowboards, but will no longer carry recreational vehicles.
RV business will be channeled to the Route 5S location west of Amsterdam. The Gansevoort location also carries RVs.
“We are optimistic about future business opportunities based on the current trends in two of our major revenue generating areas,” said Andy Heck, Alpin Haus’ president. “This strategic plan for 2010 and beyond will allow us to take advantage of the burgeoning demand for basic winter and summer recreational equipment, plus will afford us the opportunity to strategically reposition our RV supply channels.
“Our goal is to simultaneously increase our RV inventory and reduce the sales overlap that currently exists,” he said.
The Clifton Park store will be replaced by next spring.
The company employs 150 people and plans to add jobs with its expansion, Heck said.
A sudden spike in sales has Andy Heck, the president of Alpin Haus, an RV dealership in Amsterdam, N.Y., thrilled that business is booming again.
“All of a sudden, we had to double our work force based on demand in two weeks. Out of the blue, one day it just started going crazy,” said Heck.
What’s even crazier is that travel experts and economists are watching RV sales very closely and Heck knows why, according to WRGB-TV, Albany.
“As our industry starts to rebound, it’s a good sign for other industries,” he said.
Travel expert Eric Stigberg over at AAA in Schenectady agrees.
“It’s certainly a part of it. People want to see what they can afford,” said Stigberg.
The boost in RV business is indicating that many are opting for the ‘Staycation’ – a more affordable close to home vacation – this summer.
“Travel is something everyone needs to do. If they missed out on it last year, they’re not going to miss two years in a row,” said Stigberg.
The biggest indicator the RV business is giving may not even be in the travel industry, it may be on the economy. With many opting for the staycation, economists believe that’s a good indicator that people are putting feelers out to see if it’s alright to spend again.
“So many were frozen last year and paralyzed as what to do in the recession,” said Heck. “We’re seeing the mood of the customer a lot different this spring. They’re still concerned but thinking, ‘I kind of weathered the storm.’ They are more optimistic.”
Alpin Haus was named one of the Top 50 RV Dealers in America by RVBusiness magazine and was one of the top five Blue Ribbon honorees.
During the winter, sales at Alpin Haus, an RV dealership in Amsterdam, N.Y., were somewhat stagnant, but when April came it was “like a switch went on again,” says President Andy Heck.
Still, Heck said the news this spring is both good and bad, according to The Leader-Herald, Gloversville.
“It’s kind of a mixed bag,” he said, noting Alpin Haus is slowly transitioning into its “true summer season.”
Alpin Haus, which last year was selected as one of the top 50 recreation vehicle dealers in America by RV Business magazine, sells many other types of big ticket items.
“April has been very good for RVs, boats and pools,” Heck said. “It’s actually pacing better than the past. It’s definitely a lot more dollars (being spent).”
Heck said towable vehicles are “going great,” but sales of motorhomes are lagging.
He said he believes people are buying more boats, pools and towable RVs with the intention to stay in the region. But he said sales of motorhomes, in which people tend to travel long distances away from home, aren’t doing as well.
“That still has been challenging,” Heck said. “There’s still a little buyer’s uncertainty.”
He’s hoping that “switch” stays on for a long time.
“People think maybe we’re better off in the economy and things are starting to pick up again, maybe,” Heck said.
Dougie Aguilera, a sales consultant at Brown’s Ford in nearby Johnstown, said the consumer’s shopping habits can be volatile.
“I think it’s like a rollercoaster,” he said.
Aguilera said he believes what triggered the nation’s economic decline wasn’t necessarily an uncertain housing market, but the $4.25 per gallon gas prices last summer.
He said his dealership found then that people didn’t want to purchase the SUVs, pickup and work trucks that are needed for this area.
“People held off and were scared,” he said.
But now that gas prices are about half what they were in 2008, he said things are “picking up” at Brown’s Ford.
“I think people put things on hold,” Aguilera said.
Sales of the four-wheel drive trucks that are so important to the area are on the rise again, he said.
“In the last several months, there’s been a renewed demand,” Aguilera said.
Sales tax revenues in Fulton County — where Amsterdam and Johnstown are located — jumped by about $228,000 for the first quarter of the year from a year ago, so people are apparently starting to spend more money locally on consumer goods. The city of Johnstown, realized a $164,862 increase for the first quarter from the same period a year ago.
The Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) contends that its hands are tied with regard to the issue of RV manufacturers being forced — under various circumstances — to buy back product from dealers.
So the national trade association, based in Fairfax, Va., isn’t taking a concrete stand one way or the other in what is becoming a major issues within the RV industry.
”We are a national dealers association made up of dealers from many states,” said RVDA Chairman Larry Troutt, owner of Toppers Camping Center in Waller, Texas, in a Q&A session with RVBusiness due for publication next month. ”It’s not our position to take a position on what the states do.”
In a March 9 letter to RVDA President Mike Molino, Richard Coon, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), asked RVDA to support amending or defeating ”buy back” legislation pending in 17 states, warning that RV manufacturers and dealers alike could be put out of business by the slew of legislation.
However, Molino immediately dismissed the request and has continued to do so as recently as a meeting held this week.
At issue are what RVIA characterizes as onerous provisions requiring inventory, in some cases regardless of age, to be repurchased by manufacturers ”with or without cause,” along with ”blue sky” requirements that would mandate manufacturers to compensate dealers for the value of their businesses and ”facilities assistance” for up to three years.
”The dealers in the different states will take initiatives (that) we will support, possibly reinforce, at their request,” Troutt told RVBusiness. ”But we do not think it is appropriate to take initiatives as a national dealer organization that would cause dealers in different states to have to abide by some ‘law’ that they didn’t initiate or address themselves within their states. It’s a state’s rights thing.
”I’m not aware of any (dealer) who disagrees with that.”
RVDA Treasurer Andy Heck, president of Alpin Haus, Amsterdam, N.Y., said coordinating state laws would be too large a task for RVDA to muster.
”Each state has different laws,” Heck said. ”(Buy back laws) just happen to be one of them. For RVDA to get involved at the state level would be a gigantic task.”
Debbie Brunoforte, RVDA 1st vice chairman and owner of Little Dealer, Little Prices in Mesa, Ariz., said dealers are ”reasonable (and) fair-minded” and that manufacturers should communicate directly with dealers about state laws that concern them.
”The difference between RVIA and RVDA is that most of the manufacturers are in Indiana and a couple of other places,” Brunoforte said. ”Yet, (RVs) are retailed throughout the entire country. So RVIA has to have a more political view and I understand that. At RVDA, we have dealers in every single state, and we’ve always felt that dealers in a particular state should choose how they want to do business.”