North America’s finest RV dealers were recognized and celebrated during the 3rd Annual RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Awards program Wednesday night (Oct. 6) during a reception and dinner at the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
Hosted by Affinity Group Inc. President and CEO Mike Schneider, the event — held during the Recreation Vehicle Dealer Association’s (RVDA) 2010 RV Dealers International Convention/Expo — also featured conservative political commentator and author Ann Coulter as keynote speaker.
The well-attended program also was a celebration of sorts for companies that survived the economic downturn of the past few years. “I’d like to remind everyone of this year’s dinner theme, ‘Leading the Country Out of the Recession,’ because, looking at the latest shipment reports and listening to our industry friends, North America’s RV business has obviously come a long way back from the depths of the Great Recession,” Schneider said in welcoming the audience of RV dealers, manufacturers, suppliers, distributors and industry executives and their families.
This year’s program included for the first time recreational park model dealers for award eligibility and, indicative of the event’s growing acceptance in the RV arena, featured as presenters Debbie Brunaforte, chairman of RVDA, and Gregg Fore, chairman of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
“When we set out three years ago to develop the RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Awards, our mission was pretty clear,” RVBusiness Publisher Sherman Goldenberg told the audience. “To help provide benchmarks for retailers with regard to overall professionalism, customer service, civic involvement and the general spirit and specific recommendations of the Go RVing Coalition’s Committee on Excellence.
“And I must say, sitting here tonight at the 3rd Annual RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Awards dinner, we seem to have made progress on all fronts. More important, we’ve gained credibility, thanks in no small part to the Top 50 panel of experts. We’ve progressively added Canadian dealers and, this year, included North American park model builders to the mix.”
The Top 50 Award recipients were selected after an extensive process beginning with the dealer’s nomination by a North American RV manufacturer. Dealerships were evaluated by an independent panel that sequestered itself for two days at the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind., while winnowing through the applications. In addition to the selection of the Top 50 dealers, five from the group were chosen as Blue Ribbon dealerships by the panel in recognition of performance in one or more categories which exceeded substantially the already high standards of the group as a whole.
During this year’s program, for example, a video was shown detailing the charitable work of the Lazydays Employee Foundation. For 2010, Seffner, Fla.-based Lazydays RV Supercenter was joined as a Blue Ribbon dealership by Altmans Winnebago, Carson, Calif.; ArrKann Trailer & RV Centre, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Bill Plemmons RV World, Rural Hall, N.C.; and Campers Inn, Kingston, N.H.
The highlight of the presentations was the awarding of the Altman Lifetime Achievement Award, named for the late Dave Altman, a longtime RV dealer and industry leader. While the Top 50 awards recognize dealership excellence, the Altman Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to an individual. In presenting the Altman Award to Crosby Forrest, owner of Dixie RV Superstore, Newport News, Va., (a Top 50 winner), Schneider briefly touched on Forrest’s 41-year career in the RV industry.
“The Altman Lifetime Achievement Award is given to someone who, like Dave Altman, embodies the spirit of giving in the industry — from working to make the business better to building long-lasting personal relationships with each and every customer,” Schneider said. “This year, that someone is Crosby Forrest.
“When Dixie Trailer Sales was a fledgling company in 1971, its owner, Crosby Forrest, would have to drive to a factory and pick up one unit at a time to bring it home to the dealership,” Schneider noted. “Over time, he got some help and the dealership evolved into Dixie RV Superstore — but it’s still a family-owned-and-operated business, and is the oldest RV dealership in Virginia. Crosby was a key member of RVDA for 34 years, including its past chairman, vice president and treasurer, and is a current board member. In 2000, he received the James B. Summers Award, which recognizes individuals who make a consistent and outstanding contribution to the association and its members, and was inducted into the RV/MH Hall of Fame in 2006.”
Long before the awards were presented, however, Ann Coulter had galvanized the largely conservative crowd with a sometimes humorous and oftentimes pointed overview of the changing political landscape. As noted by B.J. Thompson in his introduction of the author and commentator, “While RVBusiness is not in the business of endorsing any one political viewpoint, the trade journal’s staff is presenting here tonight a guest speaker who, like the RVB Top 50 Dealer Program itself, is relevant, stimulating and thought-provoking.” Coulter, he said, “is not afraid to speak her mind and is here to spark conversation, invigorate minds and spawn lively debate on the doorstep of the mid-term elections.”
Following her speech, Coulter also gave her assessment on a number of topics in questions posed by the audience. Attendees offered up possible queries on index cards placed on each table and collected prior to Coulter’s introduction, with Thompson taking on the role of moderator.
Along with the naming of the Top 50 dealers, the program also recognized the efforts of the Leadership Alliance, a group of companies who helped underwrite the event. Leadership Alliance Platinum members include ADP Lightspeed, Salt Lake City, Utah; Bank of the West, Walnut Creek, Calif.; Blue Ox, Pender, Neb.; Cummins Onan, Minneapolis, Minn.; Freightliner Custom Chassis Co., Gaffney, S.C.; RV America Insurance, Simi Valley, Calif.; RV Trader, Norfolk, Va.; and Gold member Protective Insurance, Chesterfield, Mo. Additionally, Mannheim Auctions, Atlanta, Ga., co-sponsored the reception, while GE Capital, Tempe, Ariz., was a co-sponser of the keynote speaker.
“I want to extend a personal thanks to the firms that stepped up this year at a time — coming out of the recession — when they could have just as easily taken the low road and not bothered to back a program that helps set the bar for retail professionalism by showcasing dealers who believe that a business, large or small, is more than a cash register, and that a consumer, in the big picture, is more than a simple cash transaction,” Goldenberg noted. “In doing so, these companies have made an overt decision to help upgrade the entire industry beyond the dealer ranks.”
The following U.S. and Canadian retailers are the recipients of the 2010 RV Business Top 50 Dealer Awards (in unranked, alphabetical order):
- Aberdeen RV Center, Aberdeen, Miss.
- Aloha RV, Albuquerque, N.M.
- Alpin Haus, Amsterdam, N.Y.
- Altmans Winnebago, Carson, Calif.
- American RV Sales & Service, Grand Rapids, Mich.
- Apache Village RV Center, Hazelwood, Mo.
- ArrKann RV, Edmonton, Alberta.
- Beckley’s Camping Center, Thurmont, Md.
- Big Country RV, Bend, Ore.
- Bill Plemmons RV World, Rural Hall, N.C.
- Boat N RV Superstores, West Coxsackie, N.Y.
- Bucars RV Centre, Balzac, Alberta.
- Campers Inn, Kingston, N.H.
- Capital RV Center, Bismarck, N.D.
- Carolina Coach & Camper, Claremont, N.C.
- Coachlight RV Sales, Carthage, Mo.
- Coates RV Center, Columbus, Minn.
- Colonial Airstream & Itasca, Lakewood, N.J.
- Curtis Trailers, Portland, Ore.
- Dixie RV Superstore, Newport News, Va.
- Dodd RV, Portsmouth, Va.
- Driftwood RV Centers, Clermont, N.J.
- Dusty’s Camper World, Bartow, Fla.
- ExploreUSA RV Supercenter, Plano, Texas.
- Greeneway RV Sales & Service, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.
- Guaranty RV Supercenters, Junction City, Ore.
- Hilltop Trailer Sales, Fridley, Minn.
- Kings Campers, Wausau, Wis.
- Lazydays, Seffner, Fla.
- Little Dealer Little Prices, Phoenix, Ariz.
- Mike Thompson’s RV Super Stores, Santa Fe Springs, Calif.
- Modern Trailer Sales, Anderson, Ind.
- Mount Comfort RV, Greenfield, Ind.
- Parkview RV Center, Smyrna, Del.
- PleasureLand RV Center, St. Cloud, Minn.
- Pontiac RV, Pontiac, Ill.
- Poulsbo RV, Kent, Wash.
- Richardson’s RV Centers, Riverside, Calif.
- Rick’s RV Center, Joliet, Ill.
- Roy Robinson Motorhome & RV Center, Marysville, Wash.
- Safford RV, Thornburg, Va.
- Steinbring Motorcoach, Garfield, Minn.
- Tennessee RV Sales & Service, Knoxville, Tenn.
- Terrell Camping Center, Terrell, N.C.
- Tom Johnson Camping Center, Marion, N.C.
- Topper’s Camping Center, Waller, Texas
- Veurinks’ RV Center, Grand Rapids, Mich.
- Wilkins Recreational Vehicles, Bath, N.Y.
- Windish RV Center, Lakewood, Colo.
- Woody’s RV World, Red Deer, Alberta
RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Award honorees will be promoted in the national press, in dealers’ hometown newspapers and in the pages and websites of Affinity’s trade and consumer magazines, including RVBusiness, Trailer Life, MotorHome, Highways, Coast to Coast and Camping Life.
Registrations for the 2010 RV Dealers International Convention/Expo are up about 10% overall and 12% for Canadian dealers, according to organizers of the event that runs through Friday (Oct. 8) at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nev.
”Registrations look great,” said Eleonore Hamm, president of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association of Canada (RVDA Canada). ”We have a few more dealerships than last year.”
Some 500 people are expected to attend the con/expo during which RVBusiness magazine (and RVBUSINESS.com) will host its 3rd Annual RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Awards tonight (Oct. 6) with a reception and dinner at the Rio hosted by Affinity Group Inc. President & CEO Mike Schneider and keynoted by conservative political commentator and author Ann Coulter.
While the award eligibility has been expanded this year to include recreational park model dealers, the format will include five Blue Ribbon retailers and one individual receiving the Dave Altman Lifetime Achievement Award.
This year’s con/expo is focusing on business processes designed to help dealerships coming out of the economic downturn.
”People are getting out of the survival mode, but everybody still needs to watch revenues and expenses, and that’s what we are going to be talking about in many of the workshops,” said Phil Ingrassia, vice president of communication for the U.S.-based Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA). ”This convention is focused on helping dealers focus on management in all areas of the dealership.”
Most ”Partners in Progress” brand committees made up of dealers who sell specific manufacturers’ brands met Monday and Tuesday and got an early look at the results of the RVDA’s Dealer Satisfaction Index (DSI) that is comprised from ratings surveys completed by retailers.
Aggregate DSI results will be distributed later with DSI awards being presented at the 47th Annual RV Trade Show Nov. 30-Dec. 2 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky. ”We moved up the release of the DSI results so that the brand committees could use them in their meetings with manufacturers,” Ingrassia said.
The five-day gathering, which marks RVDA’s 40th anniversary, will offer about 50 seminars and workshops on subjects that include the RV industry’s immediate future, F&I, employee education, wholesale financing, the use of social media, parts and service and RV rentals. The expo which opened Tuesday night has more than 100 exhibitors,
Dirk Kempthorne, former secretary of the Interior who drove to Las Vegas in his own motorhome, was the keynote speaker Tuesday during the con/expo’s first general session.
RVDA and RVDA of Canada will hold their annual meetings Thursday morning.