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Cranky Ape Marketer Excels in Soft Economy

May 7, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

A slumped economy may be hampering most businesses, but it’s not harming Cranky Ape. Rather, the Cannon Falls, Minn.-based company says it’s thriving and is planning to grow.

Midwest Recreational Clearinghouse LLC -whose Internet moniker is Cranky Ape – markets repossessed and totaled recreational vehicles on behalf of banks and insurance companies wishing to sell the vehicles. The company stores, cleans and details the vehicles at eight warehouses across the nation and auctions them on its website CrankyApe.com, according to the Red Wing (Minn.) Republican Eagle.

“Our business is somewhat economy-proof,” company co-founder Jay Adams said.

Cranky Ape may even flex more muscle during an economic downturn, because consumers have less money to spend on discretionary purchases, like ATVs, motorcycles and boats.

“Despite the bad economy people still want their toys,” co-founder Brian Livingston says. “They just don’t want to pay the retail price.”

What also helps is that when the economy dips, Cranky Ape’s inventory goes up as banks repossess more vehicles.

Currently, Cranky Ape has 63 employees across the country.

The company will add a location in southern Georgia this year and by 2010 Cranky Ape looks to employ 90 to 100 workers, Adams said.

It was in 2000 while the childhood friends were attending a Minnesota Wild hockey game that Livingston told Adams about an idea he had for a new business.

The concept was based on Livingston’s observation that established auction companies focused their efforts on totaled and repossessed cars and treated recreational vehicles as an afterthought. Livingston said at that time no one specialized in marketing and auctioning recreational vehicles and the auction companies did a poor job of displaying four-wheelers, motorcycles and the like.

Adams said when Livingston pitched the idea, it clicked almost instantly.

“It was an underserved niche, which Brian identified,” Adams said, adding the friends paid little attention to the rest of the hockey game, instead brainstorming ways to turn Livingston’s idea into reality.

By 2001 the pair had founded the business, using Adams’ basement as office space and Livingston’s backyard as a storage area. Later, they stored vehicles at mini-storage in Hastings, Minn., soon filling 20 units.

In 2006 Cranky Ape had set up its national headquarters in Cannon Falls, where it now has a 43,000-square-foot indoor warehouse to store and display vehicles.

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