Sam Kidd, founder of Fun Time RV in Cleburne, Texas, died Monday (Aug. 15). Kidd was the owner of the renown dealership, located outside of the Dallas/Fort Worth area, for 29 years. He was 57 years old.
Kidd built Fun Time RV into an industry powerhouse before abruptly closing down operations on May 6, 2010. According to the company’s website at the time of the closing, the retailer had ranked as the leading towable RV dealer since 1987 and was a perennially strong player on the national scale.
“They just completely dominated the market; they were the absolute gorilla for the industry in Texas,” Clark McEwen, executive director of the Texas RV Association, told RVBUSINESS.com in a May 7, 2010 article.
Fun Time RV was known to inventory 3,000 RVs in expansive sales lots and in four inside showrooms covering 85,000 square feet. In its day, Fun Time was noted for its dinosaur display, valued at $25,000, and a 3,000-gallon fish tank.
According to his obituary, Kidd was born in Tampa, Fla., on March 23, 1954. He is survived by his sons, Samuel Eugene Kidd Jr., Jerry Green Kidd II and Alexander Bertrand Kidd; brothers, Tom Kidd and wife, Andrea, and David Kidd and wife, Angela; sister, Karen Kidd; step-mother, Ida Sue Kidd, step-sisters, Sheryl Medellin and Laura Sue Brown; and step-brothers, Terry Cagle Jr. and John Cressler.
Memorial services for will be held at 2 p.m. on Aug. 19 in the Rosser Funeral Home Chapel in Cleburne. The Rev. Randy McLelland will officiate. There is no visitation scheduled.
Editor’s Note: The Cleburne (Texas) Times-Review picked the closing of Fun Time RV as the community’s No. 8 most significant story of 2010. Here is the newspaper’s account of the incident.
In May, Fun Time RV, the nation’s largest towable RV dealership, shut its doors.
The dealership, known for its four unique interior showrooms featuring life-size dinosaurs and a 66-acre lot on East Henderson Street in Cleburne, last year sold 1,599 new travel trailers in Texas alone, according to one industry source.
Fun Time was the No. 1 selling RV dealership in Texas since 1987, according to information on the company’s website.
Another source claimed the dealership’s total annual sales exceeded $50 million.
Reportedly, GE Commercial Distribution had pulled the dealership’s floorplan financing and seized more than 500 RVs shortly before its closing.
Robert Hoover, who worked as an assistant pre-delivery inspection warrant manager, said the company had undergone cutbacks and layoffs over the past year-and-a-half, but that the employees had no idea closure was coming.
Hoover said he thought that 80 to 100 employees lost their jobs.
After Judge John Neill of the 18th District Court issued a tax warrant on May 10 for property taxes totalling $434,578 owed by the dealership, taxing entities including Johnson County, Keene, Cleburne ISD, Johnson County Emergency Services District No. 1 and Hill College Cleburne Campus got in line to secure payment of those taxes.
“At this point, we’ve secured all payment in full,” Johnson County Tax Collector Scott Porter said. “We’re completely out of the picture now and have had no more involvement with Fun Time since late [May 12].”
Porter stressed that it was not the Johnson County Tax Office that closed down Fun Time.
“Once the floorplan was pulled, and trailers began leaving, that’s when the tax office became proactive by obtaining a tax warrant to make sure the property taxes were satisfied,” Porter said.
The tax office concentrated on Fun Time’s property and new inventory, Porter said, and played no part in holding up the release of RVs and trailers on the premises.
As of Friday, there has been no recorded bankruptcy filing by Fun Time RV in Cleburne, Texas, which was shut down by one of its lenders on May 6, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
They pulled the floorplan financing and began hauling away trailers in the days thereafter, Johnson County Tax Assessor-Collector Scott Porter confirmed to the newspaper.
Phone calls to the dealership all last week went unanswered. Owners of RVs being serviced were reportedly allowed on the premises later in the week to pick up their vehicles.
Owner Sam Kidd opened the dealership in 1982 and over the last decade had expanded significantly, adding air-conditioned showrooms and turning one building into an entertainment center to help keep families occupied while shopping for an RV. Kidd was also developing an RV park on the site.
Porter said he spent quite a bit of time with dealership personnel at the site and with local banks poring over records and obtaining bank account information. The county is owed about $434,000 in property taxes for 2010, 2009 and earlier years.
Porter said GE Commercial Distribution Finance had been Fun Time’s major provider of floorplan financing for its inventory of RVs. According to public records, other lenders included First Financial Bank of Cleburne, ADP Financing, American National Bank of Texas in Terrell, Community Bank in Cleburne, North Star Bank of Texas in Denton and Textron Financial Corp.
The Thursday (May 6) closing of Fun Time RV in Cleburne, Texas, the state’s leading towable RV dealer since 1987 and a perennially strong player on a national scale, comes as no surprise to industry insiders, but still has left the state’s RV industry reeling.
The closing occurred after several lenders reportedly pulled their floorplan financing from the 26-year-old dealership owned by Sam Kidd. The doors were locked and security guards posted at the dealership, located in suburban Fort Worth.
“They just completely dominated the market; they were the absolute gorilla for the industry in Texas, “ said Clark McEwen, executive director of the Texas RV Association.
The dealership was the nation’s No. 1 single-lot RV dealership in 2009, selling 1,606 units, according to Statistical Surveys Inc. (SSI)
SSI President Tom Walworth said he was shocked to learn of Fun Time’s closing.
He called Kidd “a unique and hard-working individual” and “an innovator in the industry.”
Kidd took a hands-on approach to his RV dealership and found ways to make the units he retailed unique, by adding flat screen TVs, outside security cameras, more residential-style and other gadgets, Walworth noted.
“Sam put stuff in nobody else could have in their trailer or motorhome. He did a great job with that kind of stuff,” Walworth said.
“When they were blowing and going, Sam was involved with the interiors, did a great job staging the units on his lot. He had neat stuff in his showroom,” he added.
“It’s been kind of a tough last 24 hours for me,” Doug “Kojak” Kacsir, former general manager of Fun Time RV and current general manager of McClain’s RV in nearby Fort Worth, told RVBUSINESS.com. “Sam invented the travel trailer business in Texas. He ran four massive showrooms and had one of the more impressive facilities you’ll find anywhere.”
The dealership’s management, which had been known to inventory 3,000 RVs in expansive sales lots and in four inside showrooms covering 85,000 square feet, hoped to do $100 million in new and used RVs this year, according to its website. In its day, Fun Time was noted for its dinosaur display, valued at $25,000, and its 3,000-gallon fish tank
“With the amount of business they were doing, you would think they could float the boat and come out of it but it just didn’t happen,” added Kacsir. “No one in our industry should be saying this will be a good thing. If they think it will help the other dealers in the area, they’re sadly mistaken.”
Kacsir said Fun Time, which had 120 employees as recently as a year ago but had reduced staffing to about 50 at the time of its closure, was three times larger than the next largest towable dealer in the state. “It was never out of the top 3 in the nation in towable sales while I worked there,” he said. “There were $44 million in trailers on the lot when I left a year ago. I think there was just under $10 million when they shut it down. The unit sales are there. I just think they were too far deep in the well to get out. I am surprised they lasted this long. I was mega-stressed when I left. I could see what was happening.”
The closing is as much a function of the current state of the RV industry as it is a result of Kidd’s recent illness, Kacsir theorized, adding that Kidd, who once ran stores in Fort Worth and Denton but closed them in recent years to concentrate on Cleburne, used to put in 18-hour days on a regular basis. “If Sam were 100% healthy, this wouldn’t have happened.”