Home Back Issues Jan/Feb 2012 Chalet RV keeps on rolling

Chalet RV keeps on rolling

| Print |  Email
Articles - Jan/Feb 2012
Thursday, January 19, 2012

By Dan Cook

0112_ChaletRV
Cheaper and lighter than most RVs, Model XLI935 by Chalet RV typifies why the Albany company has weathered the industry's downturn.

Chris Hanson remembers that time back in early 2008 — before the crash — when he thought: “I’ll finally be able to quit my day job.”

Hanson, co-founder/co-owner with wife Brenda of Albany-based Chalet RV, was working days for Hewlett Packard in Corvallis and helping Brenda run Chalet in his spare time. “Production was up, orders were coming in. I said to myself, ‘This is gonna be the year!’ Then, everything collapsed.”

Now, nearly four painful years later, the Hansons have cause for cautious optimism once again. As the dust has settled over the demise of the once-vibrant Oregon recreational vehicle industry, Chalet is still alive and even planning to hire more employees come March.

How did this feisty little 12-year-old RV manufacturer survive when industry giants like Country Coach and Monaco Coach couldn’t as stand-alone operations? The secret appears to be part the Hansons’ dogged determination not to fail, and part the company’s ability to respond quickly to market trends.

“That’s why we survived; we were more flexible and could turn on a dime,” Chris Hanson says. “Sometimes we’d launch a new product just to get something new out there, and discontinue it later.”

Chalet’s website claims it’s “the nation’s leading manufacturer of ultra lightweight hard-sided travel trailers.” But even being an industry leader in the recreational vehicle business is no guarantee of success these days. Chalet’s focus on narrow RV niches, such as high-end truck campers and lightweight folding A-frames, means giving up volume for market share. When the industry died in 2008, share shrank in every niche.

The Hansons say they were quick to respond, fighting to stay afloat. They downsized and watched for niches that might hold out promise.

Meanwhile, they were beginning to see a definite sales uptick. But increased demand posed a financial problem: Already undercapitalized, the Hansons had to somehow find the funds to ramp up production. They got $350,000 in government loans in 2010, added a second production line, hired more workers and began to get some traction in the marketplace.

In 2011, unit sales topped 300; still well below Chalet’s pre-crash peak of 500, but a good sign. At one point during the peak season they employed 60. (That fell to 40 during the winter.) But that was enough to raise the Hansons’ hopes once again.

“We’re optimistic. The future is very bright for us,” Chris Hanson says. But will he be able to quit his day job? “I don’t even think about it anymore,” he says. “This business is just too crazy.”

 

More Articles

Measure 91: What Oregon Businesses Need to Know

Contributed Blogs
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
91 thumbBY DIANE BUISMAN

Some common misconceptions employers have about marijuana.


Read more...

College Conundrum

October 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014
BY KIM MOORE

University and college tuition fees have been rising for more than a decade, while state funds for higher education have steadily declined.


Read more...

Downtime

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY JESSICA RIDGWAY

Bob Dethlefs, CEO of Evanta, balances work and play.


Read more...

OB Poll: Wineries and groceries

News
Friday, October 24, 2014

24-winethumbA majority of respondents agreed: Local vineyards should remain Oregon-owned and quality is the most important factor when determining where to eat or buy groceries.


Read more...

A Complex Portrait: Immigration, Jobs and the Economy

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY JOE ROJAS-BURKE & KIM MOORE

Oregon Business reports on the visa squeeze, the skills gap and foreign-born residents who are revitalizing rural Oregon.


Read more...

Gone Girl

News
Monday, September 29, 2014
roundup-logo-thumb-14BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Wehby disappears, Kitzhaber fails to disclose and Seattle gets bike share before Portland.


Read more...

A Recipe for Success

October 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

Two businesswomen, two iconic food brands and one food-obsessed city. We thought this sounded like a recipe for good conversation. So in late August, Oregon Business sat down with Wendy Collie, CEO of New Seasons Market, and Kim Malek, owner of Salt & Straw, to discuss their rapidly expanding businesses and Oregon’s trendsetting food scene.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS