Business View Magazine interviews Frank Roberts of Long View RV Superstores, as part of our focus on best practices in American businesses.
Fran and Shirley Roberts opened their original Long View RV Superstore in 1959, in Greenfield, Massachusetts, not far from the Long View observation tower on the town’s Mohawk Trail. The tower, with its three-state view from the top, supplied the company’s name and is still part of its logo, almost 60 years later. In 1984, the business was moved to a five acre site in Northampton, MA, and, in 1993, the acquisition of a prime location in Windsor Locks, CT brought with it the need for a new name that would better suit the company that now had two major facilities. So, Long View RV SuperStores (plural) was born.
In 2000, Long View opened a sales outlet in Canaan, NY; followed by the establishment of three locations in Florida – Leesburg and Kissimmee in 2001, and Tampa, in 2004. The company was growing rapidly, and times were good, but things turned sour during the Great Recession. In order to survive, Frank Roberts, company President and son of Fran and Shirley, says, “We had to work harder than everyone else. But the good thing is, our customer service is so much better than everyone else’s, and the loyalty from our customers is what made us keep going when things turned down.”
Customer loyalty, notwithstanding, the economic downturn hit the RV industry particularly hard, and downsizing and consolidation also helped Long View RV Superstores weather the storm. In 2009, the Northampton property was sold and its inventory consolidated at the larger Connecticut facility. Then, the Florida properties were sold, outright. Today, two outlets remain – Windsor Locks and Canaan.
But since that time, the RV sector has rebounded and so has Long View. “The industry is on track for 490,000 units; last year was a record with 435,000,” says Roberts. “There’s a real bottleneck right now in production and the dealers getting enough inventory. There’s a greater demand right now than what is coming out of the factories.” Long View’s rebound can be inferred by last summer’s complete renovation of the Connecticut dealership. “New service department, new parts department, new sales department, new everything at the Windsor Locks location,” Roberts reports.
Through it all, Long View RV Superstores is still known as “New England’s Largest and Oldest Family Owned and Operated RV Dealership,” and it still sells all classes of new and used RVs, travel trailers, fifth wheels, park models, toy haulers, and tent campers. It represents over two dozen brands from such manufacturers as Forest River, Gulf Stream, Hymer, Keystone, K-Z, Thor Motor Coach, and Winnebago. Its services include: roof maintenance, appliance services, general and engine maintenance, winterizing and cleaning services, and product installation. Its Parts and Accessories Department offers a wide supply of items which can be purchased onsite or bought, online.
During good times and bad, though, Roberts and his long-time staff remember that the most important thing is to just keep satisfying their customers. Service Manager of 23 years, Joe Nero, puts it this way: “I’d say one of the things that we do differently – a lot of dealers ‘date’ their customers and we ‘marry’ them. We want them to be part of our family; we help them on their vacations; we help them on their weekends; any one of us will talk them through a problem because we have so much experience in the industry. We’ll help them on nights, weekends; that’s one thing that we bring to the table that a lot of dealers don’t.”
Controller, Molly Meehan adds: “This is a family business; I’m the newest person in management at Long View, and I’ve been here over ten years. It feels like a family here and I think that’s how we can keep our customer service so high. We work as a great team.”
Long View is also a member of the Priority RV Network. “We have 135 dealerships across the United States and parts of Canada,” Roberts explains. “If the customer breaks down in Florida, they pick up the phone, call our service department, we book the appointment for them and hopefully, they are in and out of there within a day.”
With over 30 years in the RV business, Frank Roberts has seen it all. Still, he is cautiously optimistic about the future of the business he inherited from Fran and Shirley. “With no oil embargos, with no spike in interest rates, this business will keep growing,” he avers. “This is what people work hard for their whole lives. So that when they’re finished working, they want to retire and enjoy time with their families.”
Frank Roberts and his Long View RV Superstores family intend on helping those people get on their way.
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Long View RV Superstores
WHAT: A family-owned and operated RV dealership
WHERE: Windsor Locks, Connecticut