September '15

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54 • RV PRO • SEPTEMBER 2015 rv-pro.com RVs on Display W hen the folks at Little Guy Worldwide decided they wanted to be part of the Elkhart Open House Extravaganza three years ago, they had a good idea of what they hoped to accomplish at the event. They just weren't exactly sure how to go about it. After all, the manufacturer of tear- drop trailers is located in east-central Ohio – not quite the heart of RV country in Elkhart. Although Little Guy Vice President of Sales Dylan DeHoff says that first year turned into a positive experience and convinced the company to return the next year, he confesses that Open House wasn't quite what was expected that first year. Being from out of town, Little Guy had to rent a piece of property to display its trailers. Without real knowledge of the Open House setup, Little Guy ended up down County Road 6 away from most of the action. "I wish we had known really where all this was," DeHoff says. "We kind of thought it was just a huge thing that people were going to be coming from all over. We didn't really know what to expect, but we just assumed it was a huge event and people were driving around every- where and you would have a lot of traffic no matter where you were if you were in Elkhart. That wasn't the case because everybody gravitates toward those big booths over by the Hall of Fame." Despite the bad location, Little Guy made some positive connections and enough sales to make for a good expe- rience. And the lesson was learned: This year Little Guy is located along Executive Parkway leading up to the RV/MH Hall of Fame in the heart of the action – a journey that can offer a good lesson to any smaller manufacturer thinking about displaying at Open House. The Right Spot If you're fortunate enough to be Forest River – the RV maker that initi- ated Open House Week – you know your display will be located at the Dynamax plant along County Road 6 with plenty of parking and tons of display space Likewise, Thor has secured the prop- erty immediately east of the RV/MH Hall of Fame for its impressive setup with parking just to the south of the Hall. But what about everybody else? How do they get space? "You call me," says Rob Letherman, vice president and director of real estate opera- tions for Elkhart-based Northland Corp. Northland is a land-development com- pany that owns about 800 acres of prop- erty along Executive Parkway and at the intersection of County Roads 6 and 17. Letherman says he kind of just fell into the position of the Open House land czar. "Bill and Ron Fenech (of Grand Design) used to be at Thor and it was their idea to rent the Hall of Fame," he says. "Bill goes to church with my boss, so he convinced him for us not to lease any of that space out. So, for probably three years, we never allowed anybody to rent out there. When Bill left, I thought, 'Let's Manufacturers wanting to exhibit during Elkhart Open House Week have plenty of options, but need to be aware of the best locations. By Travis O. Pryor

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