A little over 10 months after Carriage Inc. shut down its luxury RV operations, the former company’s 55-acre site in Millersburg, Ind., is up for sale, The Elkhart Truth reported.
The campus includes 19 buildings, according to information from Key Auctioneers of Indianapolis, the company handling the sale and also serving as court-appointed receiver for the company’s assets.
“This premier industrial real estate offers endless potential for buyers in manufacturing, engineering and distribution,” said Jeff Doner, principal broker at Key Auctioneers. “Among the property’s 19 buildings is a five-year-old, 170,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. The facility is state-of-the-art with high ceilings, wide bays, lots of power and plenty of loading doors.”
Carriage started in the late 1960s and built a reputation for quality high-end fifth wheels. The company ended production abruptly last year, putting about 200 people out of work after it was unable to reach an agreement with PNC Bank over a loan, according to court documents.
The company’s assets were auctioned off in February. Thor Industries’ Redwood RV bought the Carriage name and brands at that auction.
Editor’s Note: The following is an article from the Elkhart (Ind.) Truth featuring industry veteran Ed Kinney detailing the demise of venerable builder Carriage Inc. To view the entire story and accompanying pictures click here. Kinney can be contacted at (574) 596-7444 or email@example.com.
On a recent morning inside his studio, Ed Kinney was gluing pebbles onto his latest creation, a fairy house, and listening to a recording of singer Tony Bennett. Behind him sat a barber chair, sink and large mirror for the times when someone drops by for a quick haircut.
Kinney is an artist, a barber, an entertaining talker and a former RV industry executive who watched Carriage Inc. crumble from the inside. He harbors sadness and anger over the demise of the luxury fifth wheel maker, admitting he had a difficult time coming to terms with the company’s closure.
Yet when he talks about Carriage, the stories that come out first are the happy ones.
“Carriage, I always told people it was a magical place because of the people,” he said. “They took the time to do things right. They had a schedule but if something was wrong, they stopped the whole line to fix it. They had a lot of pride in what they were doing.”
Founded in the late 1960s, Carriage produced well-built, high-quality recreational vehicles at its Millersburg campus. In October 2011, production abruptly halted and then a few days later, PNC Bank filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer, stating Carriage was in default of its obligations to the bank.
The real estate has been put into receivership at the request of PNC and the assets were auctioned in a marathon session that lasted 14 hours Feb. 21. Kinney, the former vice president of sales and marketing, said he attended the sale long enough to see CrossRoads RV, a division of Thor Industries, purchase the Carriage intellectual property, including the name and fiberglass molds.
Ironically, Kinney’s RV career ended at the same place it began, Carriage. He had just closed his small barbershop to pursue a job offer in the manufactured housing industry that quickly turned sour. Kinney was then thrown a lifeline by Clarence Yoder, the founder of Carriage, who offered him the opportunity to learn about making and selling fifth wheels.
“Carriage was special because it was a great company with incredible people,” Kinney said.
To view the entire story and accompanying pictures click here.
On a snowy Indiana morning that was clouded with the past, the future emerged bright as Syracuse, Ind.-based Redwood RV, a division of Thor Industries Inc., purchased the brand names, trademarks and intellectual property of venerable RV manufacturer Carriage Inc. Tuesday (Feb. 21) during a court-ordered liquidation of Carriage assets.
Carriage, a luxury fifth-wheel manufacturer established in 1969, was ordered into liquidation following protracted discussions between company executives and its lenders, primarily PNC Bank out of Indianapolis. Ultimately, PNC filed suit Oct. 18 to take possession of Carriage, which reportedly owed the bank more than $5 million.
More than 700 bidders had reportedly registered with Ross, Ohio-based Myron Bowling Auctioneers Inc. for the one-day event. Bidding for the Carriage intangible assets was the high point of the event, which also included everything from lots of axles to finished fifth-wheels.
“It’s a historic brand, it’s been around for more than 40 years, and we think there’s a place for historical brands in this industry,” said Don Emahiser, president of both Redwood RV and Topeka, Ind.-based CrossRoads RV. “And we think we’re a company that’s up to the challenge of continuing its legacy.”
Emahiser told RVBUSINESS.com that the Thor division had its eye on the Carriage brand since the former Millersburg, Ind., company had faltered last fall and it became evident that the intellectual property might become available.
“Once the company shut down, we knew the name would be available and, yes, there was an attraction there,” Emahiser noted. “But up until then, no, because Redwood’s been doing amazingly well.
“It’s (Carriage) a brand name we felt we could do something with — and if it became available, who better than us to carry on the tradition?
“But it wasn’t something we planned until Carriage went out of business.”
Emahiser said his own personal link to Carriage — he was president of the builder prior to moving to Thor two years ago and helping to establish Redwood — was an element in the decision to acquire the Carriage brand.
“Not only that,” he added, “but we have a lot of Carriage DNA throughout Redwood and CrossRoads. Likewise, the changes we have going on here have attracted people with Carriage in their background.
“We have, beyond myself, in other executive positions, group leaders, foremen, all the way down to entry-level spots. So we have a good amount of the carriage DNA here. When the brands became available to us it was almost a natural to try to make a play for them.”
According to Emahiser, there is no timetable or firm plans to announce when the Thor division will bring back the Carriage name, which was reportedly purchased for $100,000.
Hamilton, Ohio-based Myron Bowling Auctioneers will be holding an auction for the liquidation of Carriage Inc.’s assets Tuesday (Feb. 21), starting at 9 a.m..
According to Myron Bowling’s website, the auction proceedings will be held at Carriage’s long-time headquarters in Millersburg, Ind.
To view the entire catalog of items on the auction block go to http://myronbowling.com/Upcoming-Auctions-28.html and click on the icon at the bottom of the Carriage listing to download a pdf.
Carriage, founded by Clarence Yoder in 1969, was a builder of luxury fifth-wheels under the Cabo, Cameo, Carri-Lite and Royals International brands.
The story of the demise of fifth-wheel RV maker Carriage Inc. has all the makings of a typical news story on a factory being shut down.
As reported by the South Bend Tribune, nearly 200 knowledgeable, hardworking employees were battling to keep their 42-year-old Millersburg, Ind., company afloat during the recession and its aftermath, only to come into work Oct. 17, 2011, and learn Carriage was closing.
It might have ended there.
But the management team of Carriage opted to make a pitch to EverGreen Recreational Vehicles LLC of Middlebury, Ind., maker of light, eco-friendly travel trailers.
“Basically they made a presentation that really fits the mold of what we’re trying to do with EverGreen, with the quality, with the green (segment) and the integrity, and had some good product design activities,” said EverGreen CEO Michael Schoeffler. “And they were in the high-end fifth wheel, and it matched our strategic plan.”
But not perfectly.
Launching a fifth-wheel brand in 2012 was about 12 to 18 months ahead of EverGreen’s schedule. However, the opportunity was too good to pass up.
“As we sat and met with these people,” Schoeffler said, “and looked at what was available in this county, we said, ‘you know, we can’t pass on an opportunity all the time, because it might not be there 12 to 15 months from now.’”
And so in November, EverGreen agreed to launch its own fifth-wheel brand, Lifestyle Luxury RV, with the aid of the former Carriage personnel.
It was the right thing to do, Schoeffler noted, “because these people have a good, long history of building high-end fifth wheels that we wanted to be in.”
In mid-November, EverGreen hired 15 people from the former Carriage Inc.
Another 60 to 85 workers from Carriage are expected to be added later this year as production of the new Lifestyle Luxury RV fifth-wheels begins in March.
More could be hired in the future, too, Schoeffler said.
“This is a product and market that is much different than what we’re in today,” Schoeffler said. “And the consumer is much different. These people have just years and years of experience of high-end luxury fifth wheels, and those customers. That’s what was so attractive.”
For Greg Kitson and his former co-workers from Carriage, getting back in their old business in a nearby location was quite a break.
“We are thrilled it was able to come together so quickly,” said Kitson, director of engineering and product development for Lifestyle Luxury RV. “We are thrilled to be able to come to look towards tomorrow to be able to put great people back to work.
“That’s where the thrill and the passion come from. The other part of the passion is building a great product.”
Officially, Lifestyle Luxury RV is a stand-alone company that is a division of EverGreen, Kitson said.
“What EverGreen did is that they’ve taken their expertise out there and put themselves out there and really tried to separate themselves from the marketplace,” he said. “Lifestyle will do the same thing.
“We’re at different price points and different products with different techniques, but all in all it still comes down to the people involved and how you take care of dealers, customers, suppliers and employees. It’s a great opportunity for all who are involved in this.”
To watch an accompanying video on this story click here.
About 200 people lost their jobs when Carriage Inc. shut down, but there is good news as many of those workers have joined forces to form a new company.
WSBT, South Bend, reported that work is currently under way in Middlebury, Ind., to open a new company known as Lifestyle Luxury RV. It aims to make high-end fifth wheel travel trailers at a vacant factory. The driving force behind the new company is a good number of people who used to work at Carriage in Millersburg, including Greg Kitson who worked at the company for nearly 20 years.
“We have a lot of people on board that have a lot of years of service, a lot of expertise in what they do and great people,” said Kitson. “They are the most loyal people.”
Kitson, along with other former Carriage employees, developed an idea to keep that workforce together and help develop a new company.
“We had a plan and a vision,” he said.
As a group, they approached Evergreen Recreational Vehicles LLC, which has been in business for three years and makes towable RVs. They proposed teaming up with Evergreen to create a new division, to make high-end fifth wheels. Evergreen already had plans to get into luxury fifth-wheels within the next 18 months.
“We were impressed with their cohesiveness,” said Michael Schoeffler, CEO of Evergreen RV. “They had the same values, the same type of business principles that we have as a company, and then they approached us within a week’s time. We put together a plan, hired them, and kicked the program off.”
Lifestyle Luxury RV will be a separate division, operated by mostly former Carriage employees under Evergreen.
For the former Carriage employees and Evergreen, it is a win-win situation. They will have a new product line and a new beginning for some with high hopes for the future.
“Carriage was a great place to work and a great bunch of people,” said Dana Everage, a former Carriage employee. “I am sure we can make this even better.”
They recently purchased 100,000 square foot vacant factory and will spend upwards of $2.5 million on improving the plant.
Editor’s Note: The following are letters to the editor published in the Goshen (Ind.) News offering thoughts on Carriage Inc.’s demise from the company’s founder, Clarence T. Yoder, and his wife Ideana, and Dean Miller, a long-time employee.
This letter is long overdue, but with the closing of Carriage it has prompted us to write.
From 1968 to 1999, Carriage, Inc. was our life. You were like a family to us, and we can never express our appreciation enough. There have been so many talented, loyal employees that have given their all throughout the years. It was your pride in the product, working together, and cooperation that made Carriage tick.
We are very saddened by this turn of events that brings an end to the Carriage era. We wish each of you our very best, and hope you will contribute to another company as you have to Carriage through the years.
Please keep in touch and thanks again.
— C.T. and Ideana Yoder
To all the former Carriage employees I consider it a privilege and a blessing to have been able to work at a place that was built on integrity. In working with you the past 20-plus years, many of you became good friends and you made Carriage a good place of employment, one that produced a quality product.
Through the years quite a number of people left for “greener pastures” and then came back to Carriage largely because of the good atmosphere that was created by you, my fellow workers. The past number of years, especially the last couple of months, has been a struggle and disappointing to many of you. As you move on to new jobs and the future, remember to keep your priorities in order and keep being a positive influence in your world.
Working at Carriage has been a good experience for me personally. Thanks to Clarence and Ideana Yoder for your years of caring for your employees and the community. God bless you all in your future.
— Dean Miller
Hamilton, Ohio-based Myron Bowling Auctioneers has reset the auction date from Feb. 9 to Feb. 21 for the liquidation of Carriage Inc.’s assets. Inspection is scheduled for Feb. 20 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
According to Myron Bowling’s website (click here), the auction proceedings will begin at 9 a.m. at Carriage’s long-time headquarters in Millersburg, Ind.
Carriage was a venerable manufacturer known for its inventive engineering and commitment to quality, building high-end fifth-wheels under the Cabo, Cameo, Carri-Lite and Royals International brands. Auction listings include finished RVs, raw materials, brand names and equipment.
EverGreen Recreational Vehicles LLC, Middlebury, Ind., announced the name of its much-anticipated high-end fifth wheel division: Lifestyle Luxury Resort Vehicles.
This stand-alone division is housed in a separate 100,000-square-foot facility recently purchased in Middlebury. According to National Sales Manager Elliott Bond, Lifestyle LRV will eventually employ a large staff consisting almost entirely of former key Carriage Inc. employees.
“The last several weeks have been full of activity with ongoing developments in the product and staff,” Bond said, “and there is a high amount of enthusiasm already circulating about the new Lifestyle LRV brand.”
In November, Kelly L. Rose, a majority owner of EverGreen, told RVBUSINESS.com the company was stepping up to capitalize on Carriage’s good name by hiring the bulk of the company’s “brain trust” and management expertise with plans to build a towable RV line that’s similar in many ways to the Carriage lineup that the Millersburg, Ind., company had built for years.
Carriage, founded in 1968, closed its doors and furloughed 180 workers on Oct. 17 as an Indianapolis-based bank filed suit. On Feb. 21, an Ohio-based company will be holding an auction for all of Carriage’s assets at its long-time Millersburg headquarters.
Among the former Carriage people playing key roles for EverGreen are Bond, former Carriage CFO Deb Albin in finance, Pete Kauffman in manufacturing and Greg Kitson in product development and design.
Myron Bowling Auctioneers, Hamilton, Ohio, is advertising the “complete liquidation” of the assets for luxury fifth-wheel manufacturer Carriage Inc., scheduled for 9 a.m. on Feb. 9 at the company’s Millersburg, Ind., headquarters.
Carriage was a venerable manufacturer known for its inventive engineering and commitment to quality, building high-end fifth-wheels under the Cabo, Cameo, Carri-Lite and Royals International brands. Auction listings include finished RVs, raw materials, brand names and equipment. (For details, click here.)
News first surfaced in mid-October that Carriage, founded by Clarence Yoder in 1969, was having financial troubles. RVBUSINESS.com reported that PNC Bank out of Indianapolis had filed suit Oct. 18 to take possession of Carriage, which reportedly owed the bank more than $5 million. The suit came a day after around 180 Carriage workers were furloughed.
The bank was demanding immediate payment of overdue loans and maintained in the suit in Elkhart County Superior Court I that Carriage owner Glenn Cushman was in default of his financial obligations to PNC Bank from as far back as September of 2009, requiring the issuance of several loan extensions.
Rick Van Es, who was hired six weeks prior to the filing at the request of PNC Bank to engineer a restructuring of the company, claimed at the time that Carriage was “blindsided” after submitting a viable turnaround plan to PNC.
“We were very much blindsided because the other thing that happened here is that the company was requested to find replacement financing for PNC,” Van Es told RVBUSINESS.com. “PNC had suggested that if the company could replace its operating line of credit – and also bring in enough money to pay down the mortgage to an 85% loan-to-value – that the bank would be happy to continue to move forward with the company.
“The company raised all the money that was required to achieve that, and we actually have not only commitment letters from those lenders, we were actually reviewing contracts and got to the point where our new lenders asked PNC for payoff letters, and PNC would not provide them. At the end of the day, what PNC said was ‘we’re not interested; we’re going to file a suit.”
After the proceedings with PNC became public, RVBUSINESS.com reported that Carriage owners and dealers rallied behind the builder.
“We’ve had an outpouring of concern from Carriage owners, 90 dealers, nothing but positive support for us, and it’s sad,” said Ed Kinney, vice president of sales and marketing for Carriage. “It affects 200 people in the community, the vendors and dealers nationwide and in Canada. Actually, we’ve got units on line right now that are supposed to be going to England, and the bank won’t work with us to make this work.”
Despite reports in local media that PNC and Carriage were close to an agreement, no deal was ever finalized.