Sponsored by Oregon Business

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

100 Best: The Power of the Worker

March 2015
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
BY KIM MOORE | OB RESEARCH EDITOR
AND AMY MILSHTEIN | OB CONTRIBUTOR

Technology is empowering people like never before and transforming how employees interact in the workplace. How can companies attract and keep staff engaged in this rapidly changing world?


Read more...

All Rise

March 2015
Friday, February 20, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN | OB CONTRIBUTOR

Don’t just sit there. For a healthy workplace, move up and down — and all around.


Read more...

Tweeting Portland's State of the City address

News
Friday, January 30, 2015
Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 3.08.19 PMBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

For those who were working, here are a few highlights of Charlie Hales' State of the City address.


Read more...

Downtime with the executive director of Greater Portland Inc.

April 2015
Thursday, March 26, 2015

Janet LaBar, Executive director, Greater Portland Inc.


Read more...

Thy neighbor's house

March 2015
Friday, February 20, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Vacasa may lack the name recognition of Airbnb. But not for long.


Read more...

City announces plans for Portland summer-league baseball team

News
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
IMG 3888BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Baseball is returning to Portland and city officials are hoping economic opportunity comes with it.


Read more...

How Oregon will survive the loss of Hanjin

March 2015
Friday, February 20, 2015
BY JOE CORTRIGHT | OB CONTRIBUTOR

"Shipping containers to Portland is like waiting for a bus that travels once a day."


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