Business View Magazine interviews Fred Lemke, CEO of Happy Daze RV, as part of our series on the motor home and trailer sector.
Happy Daze RV is a Northern California-based RV dealer that serves the needs of its customers and other RV enthusiasts in the Sacramento and Livermore areas, including Reno, Lodi, Manteca, Modesto, Vacaville, Vallejo, Concord, San Jose, and the San Francisco Bay region. Offering sales, rentals, service, and parts, Happy Daze carries motorhomes, fifth wheels, travel trailers, and toy haulers from the following manufacturers: Tiffin, Allegro, Phaeton, Forest River, Sunseeker, Grand Design, Momentum, Reflection, Solitude, Imagine, Heartland, Landmark Bighorn, DRV; Mobile Suites, Mobile Suites Aire, and more.
The company was founded by Fred Lemke, its current CEO, in 1974. It has operated out of Sacramento since 1980 and Livermore for the past eight years, with the Sacramento store responsible for about 80 percent of the firm’s business. “In Sacramento, we have two service buildings,” Lemke says. “We have what we call our ‘get-ready center,’ which is where we get all the coaches ready for delivery, and in Livermore, we have service and delivery on the same spot. We run about 70 percent new and 30 percent used.”
This year, Lemke says that Happy Daze will move between 1,200 and 1,400 units, and unlike many other RV dealers, the company did not suffer a major setback during the Great Recession, which began in 2008. “We actually made money during the Recession,” he states. “We were fortunate enough to see that things were starting to slow down, so we started cutting back on our inventory and pared it down to a point that if it wasn’t selling in good times, it sure wasn’t going to sell in bad times. We went into the Recession with lots of cash and because we had cash, we were able to do things that other dealers couldn’t. Most of my dealer friends who went out of business lost their business because the banks quit financing them; my bank never did that.”
In addition to working with the industry’s top manufacturers, Lemke believes that Happy Daze beats the competition because of his long-time staff. “All of our key employees have been with us for 15-plus years,” he says. “I’ve got some who have been here for 35 years. And we’ve always been very customer oriented, which means we get a lot of repeat and referral business. We care about the people buying from us. Our reputation is worth more to us than money. Our philosophy is to sell to you, stay in touch with you, and sell to your friends. In two, three, or five years, when you’re ready to trade, you come back to us.”
Going forward, Lemke says that Happy Daze is planning to add a 6,000-square-foot building on the Sacramento property. “We’ll start that when we get all of our permits,” he explains. Over the next several years, he plans to open some smaller, satellite stores. “We service quite an area, now – we go about a 150-mile radius. But we’re going to try to get closer to our customers so they don’t have to drive as far to get to us, and, at the same time, pick up the market share we’re not getting. I think that we’ll put a dent in the market, because we’ve got the best products. And we’re able to sell things that other people aren’t able to sell.”
Happy Daze RV is a member of the Priority RV Network. Founded in 1997, the Network buys RV products and services at substantial discounts, while passing the savings onto its customers. Its 60-plus dealers at over 160 locations nationwide offer roadside assistance, specialized insurance, more service bays, certified and master RV technicians, and the most educated sales and parts consultants in the business.
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Happy Daze RV
WHAT: A Northern California-based RV dealer
WHERE: Headquarters in Sacramento, California
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