Arthur E. Chapman, 80, died Friday (April 2, 2010) at Greencroft in Goshen, Ind.
Chapman began his business career at Star Tank and Boat Co., which was founded by his grandfather, Arthur Schrock. The firm later became Starcraft Inc., now a division of Jayco Inc. He was then involved in starting several companies, including Supreme Corp., Rockwood, Advantage Van and Master Fab.
Rockwood started out in the early 1970s as a maker of mini motorhomes and later added travel trailers and folding camping trailers. He later sold the company to Bangor Punta Corp. It went through a series of owners before being purchased by Forest River Inc. around 1996.
He established the Maple City Industrial Park in Goshen, current site of the Keystone RV Co. complex on the south side of Goshen.
“His biggest legacy to the industry was he always kept a high focus on quality and integrity,” Don Gunden, Rockwood division general manager, told RVBUSINESS.com. “He was always honest, always believed you needed to deliver the best product you could.”
Chapman was born June 1, 1929, in Goshen and was a lifelong Goshen resident.
Surviving are his wife, the former Joyce Fanning, whom he married Aug. 20, 1950; two daughters, Linda Wargon and Kelly (Tim) Weadick; two grandsons, Michael and Marshall Weadick; and one sister, Anna (Gene) Duffin, all of Goshen.
He was a graduate of Goshen High School, where he was an outstanding three-sport athlete. He graduated from Indiana University’s School of Business, served in the United States Marine Corps and was an avid golfer.
Respecting his wishes, there will be no visitation. The family will have a private graveside service at Violett Cemetery. Memorials may be given to the Boys and Girls Club of Middlebury or the Humane Society of Elkhart County. Rieth-Rohrer-Ehret Funeral Home, Goshen, is handling the arrangements.
Mike Regan, second from right, general manager of Crestview RV Center, holds the award honoring the dealership as the top Jayco Inc. dealership for the 2009 model year. In the center is Paul Krauss, Crestview RV sales manager. The dealership, with stores in Buda and Selma, Texas, received the honor at the recent Jayco annual dealer meeting. Presenting the award were, from left, Derald Bontrager, Jayco president; Jim Jacobs, Jayco vice president of sales and marketing; and Wilbur Bontrager, Jayco chairman of the board. The Jayco Founders’ Award for 2009 for ownership and management who consistently reflect a dedication to outstanding sales and customer service and who embody the spirit of Jayco’s founders, was presented to Terrell Camping Center, Terrell, N.C. Jayco’s ”Star of Stars” award for being the No. 1 Starcraft dealer was presented to Payless Auto and RV Sales, Phoenix, Ariz., and the ”Starcraft Pinnacle Star” for having the No. 1 single location dealership for 2009 went to Colerain RV Center, Cincinnati, Ohio. About 140 dealers attended the meetings June 22-26 in Middlebury, Ind.
With the RV industry starting to pick up a little momentum, some 140 dealers gathered in Middlebury, Ind., this week (June 22-24) for Jayco Inc.’s ”Homecoming” to be followed Thursday and Friday by dealers handling Starcraft towables and Entegra Class A motorhomes.
”Dealer attitudes have been extremely positive,” Jayco President Derald Bontrager told RVBusiness during a break in the action at Jayco’s main complex on Ind. 15. ”The biggest negative we are facing this week is the availability of product. Our lead times have grown with the orders we’ve taken in the last 30 to 45 days, which is a good problem to have.”
Jayco, operating its Jayco, Starcraft and Entegra divisions with a 1,200-person workforce that is about 45% smaller than a year ago, is offering new 2010 Jayco products that include the Precept Class C motorhome, the newly redesigned Baja folding camping trailer and Recon ZX sport utility RV.
New Starcraft products include a redesigned Lexicon fifth-wheel and the redesigned Starcraft 36RT folding camping trailer.
The dealer gathering included factory tours and a ”meet-and-greet” Amish-style awards dinner Monday night at Das Dutchmen Essehnaus restaurant in Middlebury. ”The dealers really enjoy being here in Middlebury,” Jayco Chairman Wilbur Bontrager said.
Jayco’s management, at the same time, is convinced that the RV industry is beginning to slowly emerge from the nation’s deep recession, but still faces wholesale and retail lending challenges.
”Retail lending from national lending sources has eased considerably from where it was,” reported Jim Jacobs, vice president of sales and marketing. ”But I think most dealers have simply found another alternative if that’s what they needed to do. We hear a lot of credit union talk out there, and in fact, some of the credit unions are being very aggressive with their retail lending.”
An uptick in retail traffic is equally evident, Derald Bontrager said. ”Six months ago, they (dealers) couldn’t get anybody to walk though the door hardly,” he said ”Today, some dealers are seeing record days on their lots in terms of the number of customers coming through the door. Pent-up demand is real.”
On the wholesale side of the equation, Jayco continues to take a wait-and-see attitude. ”Our immediate sense is that it’s certainly gotten better, but it’s not back to the atmosphere that it was 18 months ago,” Jacobs said. ”Lenders have eased a little bit and they’ve given us more availability with dealers.
”But I think the flooring companies are going to play a critical role in the fall and winter markets,” he added ”How willing they are to allow dealers to inventory product is going to be a key component of what goes on this fall.”
Despite media reports that have tended to make the RV industry appear ”irrelevant” during the global recession, Wilbur Bontrager contended the RV lifestyle is not going to go away.
”I maintain that as long as people take vacations, our industry will not be irrelevant,” he said. ”The long term outlook is very good. (The industry) may come back at a slower pace than it has in the past. It will gradually recover. I don’t want to put percentages on increases, but we should see increasing strength and recovery over the next two or three years.”
Nonetheless, there may be more industry fallout due to the economy. ”There could be more of a contraction, not only manufacturers, but suppliers also,” Wilbur Bontrager said.
Given the bankruptcy of Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. and the purchase of bankrupt Monaco Coach Corp.’s assets by Warrenville, Ill.-based Navistar International Corp., Jayco’s luxury Entegra motorhome division is well positioned for a recovery, according to Jacobs.
”Frankly, with the two largest Class A manufacturers out there in complete disarray, we actually feel good about our position with that product,” Jacobs said. ”The next six to nine months probably will be a very slow ramp up for us with (Entegra). But long term, we know we can position ourselves as a very viable, very strong player in that market.”
”On the retail side, (dealers) are very concerned about aligning themselves with manufacturers that they believe are going to be here long term,” Derald Bontrager said. ”We talked about it in our opening remarks. We will be here.”
With regard to the Starcraft brand, Jacobs said Jayco wants to make it ”an all-inclusive” brand.
”We want to create a brand that dealers can look at and say, ‘I do not have any holes in this offering and it is something that I can build my entire dealership around.’ We have made huge strides in that arena in the last several months.”