May '16

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62 • RV PRO • MAY 2016 rv-pro.com O ne of the most legendary brands in the RV industry is back on the road again. Chinook RV – once known of as "The Sports Car of Motorhomes" – has been resurrected following the company's messy demise in 2005. The intellectual property rights of the Chinook brand were acquired in January 2013 by Phil Rizzio, owner of three RV dealerships: Wagon Trail RV in Las Vegas, Creston RV in Kalispell, Mont., and Van City RV in St. Louis. Rizzio also obtained the designs, name- plate, templates, manufacturing jigs, support equipment and molds for the once-vaunted motorhome brand. He subsequently introduced a new, more luxurious version of the Chinook, called the Countryside. The new models, built on the Mercedes Sprinter chassis with an MSRP in the low to upper $180,000s, are slowly being reintroduced to the market. "We are in the process of bringing them back," says John Chelist, Rizzio's general manager. "Rizzio, about a year-and-half ago, bought the molds and everything that was still existing. All of the intellectual property: the designs, the wiring diagrams – all of that stuff and the name rights." Thus far, the rollout has been low-key. "We haven't done any major press releases or anything like that because we decided to come out slow and steady," Che- list says. "We wanted to build about 30 vans and make sure that we are getting the quality where we want it, getting the right standardized equipment and the features. We wanted to make sure we are getting things the way we want them to be." So far, the business has manufactured about a dozen of the new Chinooks at a Chinook RV Rides Again By Garrison Wells to sell motorhomes," Chelist says. "We make lots of friends, which is very impor- tant to us and is a different kind of take, a different perspective on the business." Since his first acquisition at 16, Rizzio has owned a number of luxury buses and motorhomes, Chelist says. "He just always loved RVs." With the acquisition of Van City last year, Chelist proves that you can go home again. Van City was the family business as Chelist was growing up. "That was where I started," Chelist says. "My father opened the dealership in the '70s, then he took a partner and sold out to his partner after my mother passed away." Van City was also a Class B dealer, which means that Chelist practically has Class B's in his genes. "I sold my first van when I was 11," he says. "I've been around the industry my whole life. I've been around the block. I have been around the industry for a long time and I have never met an owner like Rizzio because he cares more about the process and making things right than he does the money. He just takes a very unique approach." While Chelist believes that the RV industry is international now because of the Internet, he likes the Southwest for Class B's. "You can take the Class B's to all the state parks," he says. "You can't take a 40-footer to Zion." "We sell from the Internet, but we can sell from the other stores as well. All the stores work together inventory wise," Chelist says. But for a dealer with national aspira- tions, where you can pick up an RV is important. "If a customer lives in South Carolina and they don't want to come to Las Vegas or Montana, they can stop in St. Louis," Chelist says. "I can have it shipped there." "We are continuing to look at further expansion" he says. "It is an exciting time for us right now. We want to go into markets with our specialty stores and not cause a bunch of waves with other dealers. We just do our thing and that's it. I think B's will be the fastest-growing segment in the future, so watch out, here we come." After acquiring the intellectual property rights of the Chinook brand in 2013, Phil Rizzio, owner of Wagon Trail RV in Las Vegas and two other dealerships, has reinvisioned the motorhome as a Class B built on a Mercedes Sprinter chassis with and MSRP in the low to upper $180,000s. PHOTOS BY GARRISON WELLS DEALER PROFILE

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