Meet Your Merchant: Back in the driver’s seat
Rick and Jane Johnson were ready to retire after spending more than 20 years in the RV business.
The Johnsons had turned over their long-time dealership to their son in 2004 and planned to spend the coming years living as snowbirds in places like Yuma, Ariz.
“We kind of considered ourselves retired, although it wasn’t very long that Rick was then looking for something else to do,” Jane Johnson, 62, said.
Adds Rick, 63, “Yeah, I was retired three weeks. I worked in the RV industry down there for the winter.”
Today, they’re back in business in the capital after opening Carson City RV in January where they sell used motorhomes, travel trailers, fifth wheelers, toy haulers and tent trailers.
Their re-entry into the Carson City RV market happened after their original dealership, Carson RV, closed in August 2010. When they left the business in 2004 it had 30 employees and experienced years of growth. But as the recession worsened, the business eventually withered.
“It’s really hard in today’s economy for the big dealers with a lot of overhead to make a profit,” Jane Johnson said. “It’s just a struggle. So when (our son) went out of business, because Rick didn’t particularly care for retirement, it was our opportunity to come back in and say ‘wow, is there a demand? Are the customers wanting used?'”
As a result, the Johnsons took the used inventory from their former dealership and opened a new location off of Highway 50 on the former McKinnish Camper Corner lot.
“It seems like people, even if they have extra money right now, are wanting to go used because it is less expensive and there are some nice quality RVs on the market for lower prices,” Jane said. “It seems like everybody is trying to go as inexpensively as possible.”
And so far, the Johnsons said business is going well.
Before coming to Carson City to sell RVs, the Johnsons were ranchers in east Washington, tending to a plot of land Jane’s family had homesteaded generations before.
While they plan to eventually offer new RVs, for now the Johnsons said they’re sticking to used models.
Rick said they are attending auctions on a regular basis and constantly watching Craigslist to add to their inventory.
They also consign used units, too, which usually involves a 30-90-day contract.
As for the overall market, the Johnsons said they’ve seen rough economies before. In the 1980s, for example, they were faced with sky-high interest rates. But eventually, “it got to where everybody could afford it and everybody wanted it,” Rick said.
There still are many people interested in buying RVs, though once they have one, “they just may not go as far,” Jane said.
Regardless of the trends, the Johnsons said they plan to be in business for another 10 years.
“They all said ‘Glad to see you’re back,'” Rick said of the comments he’s received since reopening an RV business in Carson City. “Though you look a little older.”