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Gerzeny's RV World At Florida RV Super Show

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Mainstay Joy: Gerzeny's RV World

TVP Matt Gerzeny Discusses Importance Of RV Lifestyle & Evolution Of Business At Florida RV Super Show In Tampa

VP Matt Gerzeny At The Florida RV Super Show. [Photo Credit: Tim Wassberg]

The joy of being out on the road in a motorhome is something that many Americans are finding much more approachable. Whether looking for a Class A, Class B, teardrop or travel trailer, the variety is limitless. Gerzeny’s RV World has been a mainstay in Florida as a dealer for nearly 30s and even got into building their own motorhomes. VP Matt Gerzeny sat down with MRV: The Buzz Editor In Chief Tim Wassberg at the Florida RV Super Show in Tampa to discuss user interaction, customer intention and love of the RV lifestyle.

The Buzz: When people say family-owned and operated, you guys truly are at Gerzeny’s RV World. Could you sort of talk about how that evolved, and a little bit of the history…

Matt Gerzeny: My dad started the business in 1977. And then  -- let me get my years straight --- in 1988, I started running the business. And I still have two brothers involved. And we also manufacture motorhomes, so we also have Coach House, which is a classy-plus market out there. So we build those as well.

The Buzz: Can you talk about that balance because a lot of RV dealers simply distribute. But building it, how does that give you a better appreciation, understanding, of the mechanics, the design, stuff like that?

MG: Well, when we first got into manufacturing, it was to distribute to other dealers. And what I think as a dealer we kind of learned was that there was such a demand for the product that we've actually gone factory-direct, so we don't actually even distribute them even in our own dealerships because we have no supply at all. So even though they're my brothers [who build them], I haven't been able to get them to build enough to send us to our own stores. So that hasn't worked out too well.  But I think what the manufacturing's done for us as a dealership is really appreciate some of the issues people have out there with motorhomes.

The Buzz: For example…

MG: Well, you know, things break down and before you know it, the consumer’s going through 10 different people to get something fixed. And we try to really, really eliminate as much as we can and still follow the warranty process but I know when we build our own product, at least the Coach House product, they're very oriented on quality.

The Buzz: Now, with everybody buying different kinds of motorhomes now, it’s an evolving thing, but obviously the camper themselves as the buyer is evolving. Could you talk a little bit about that from your point of view? Because certain people want Class As. Some want Class Bs. Some want the leisure vans.

MG: What I've experienced out there-- of course, we've always been known as a dealership as the largest small motorhome dealer in the US. And partly that’s why -- when we got into manufacturing --that's what we built as a Class B. We’re involved in a lot of different Class B products out there. So we seem to know that market very well, even though we know it's a small part of the industry. But it seems like now as the industry's evolved that every part of the industry is going [well], whether you're selling trailers, selling Fifth Wheels, or selling Class As…all that's still moving pretty strong.

The Buzz: Can you talk about the evolution of the RV market? It’s grown exponentially, but can you talk about was there different sort of spark factors from your point of view?

MG: I’ll tell you what I've seen as an overall in the industry. I've seen a lot of people just interested in traveling in the US. It seems to me that a lot of people have discovered our industry that really never knew much about it. And they are starting to realize that you can actually travel in a motor home for a really pretty good price when you compare it to airfare and flying overseas. Or compare it to trying to put your dog in a kennel. I mean start adding all that up, even families with their children…it adds up very quickly. In an RV, I think they're able to actually do more closer for less money.

Buyers Looking Around The Gerzeny's RV World Display At The Florida RV Super Show. [Photo Credit: Tim Wassberg]

The Buzz: Can you talk about your geographical area? Because this area is your guys' home base including a little bit further south. Can you talk about Florida as an RV destination or starting point for base camp?

MG:  Well, I'll tell you, Florida without a doubt, has always been the number two state in the country. California is number one. I'm not quite sure if California is going to have that margin anymore. I think Florida is becoming bigger and bigger. This particular show I know-- I understand they have record numbers already. They've rented places across the street for parking. There was over an hour wait the first day of the show to even get in. mean, look, we're in January. It's what, 75, 80 degrees out here. None of our reps want to go back to Indiana. (laughing) They all want to stay here. They're trying to have a two-week show instead of a one-week show. But Florida without a doubt has become a destination of RVs. The dealers, such as us, have influxed a lot of inventory. We've gotten very aggressive on trains and all that. I think people realize if they can make it Florida, they will save money.

The Buzz: Can you talk about that business model since some people want to buy and ship. How has that become a section of your business that has grown versus people just coming in and visually seeing? People do a lot of research.

MG: You would be surprised. I would probably say 8% or 10% of our business is done online, over the phone -- they never saw it. And we offer what's called "buy and fly." We fly them in, and we pay airfare or travel expenses to get to Florida. Or we ship it to them. Either way, it doesn't matter. But I think any more -- there's enough information online that they're making decisions right online rather than coming in.

The Buzz: Now going back to the class B thing real quick…The thing is that the manufacturers are able to pack so much more technology into a smaller space. Can you talk about that just from a dealer point of view, but also from an aficionado point of view?

MG: Well, you could talk about it even as a user point of view, because my wife and I, about two years ago, used a Roadtrek. We lived in it for a month. Prior to leaving I thought, "I'm not sure I can do this because it's too small." But I realized it was absolutely fantastic. I have the option to take anything I want off the lot. And as an owner, I would definitely take a Class B or a B-Plus, because it gave us the versatility to really travel wherever we wanted. We didn't have to plan our trip so much.

The Buzz: Where'd you go?

MG: Well, we shipped it to Montana. And then from Montana, we went all the way up to Washington, all the way down to California, back to Colorado. And then from Colorado, back home.

The Buzz: At campgrounds, but even going on the roads, Class Bs can be advantageous. Can you talk a little bit about that?

MG:  Well, I realized a lot of things. I realized out West we'd get them in the state parks, where the RVs couldn't. They can go through the entrance and park in the campground. I realized while I was out in San Francisco I could park at the city. I didn't have to tow a car. I realized I got 20-something miles a gallon. So there was a lot of pluses, but what I really realized was what  I did not think would have come true [which was] I had more space in the vehicle than I thought we even needed. So we had enough stuff--

The Buzz: Even taking clothes and all?

MG: Yeah, with all our clothes, and with all our food. I discovered that even when I opened some of the cabinets in there, there was still more empty space that we didn't even use. So it's kind of the perception of people that have big motorhomes [where they] think, "Oh, I can't put all this stuff in here." Well if you really put what you need, you can.

Buyers Looking Around The Gerzeny's RV World Display At The Florida RV Super Show. [Photo Credit: Tim Wassberg]

The Buzz: How does doing that, connecting to that aspect of it, give you more of appreciation for what you do? Or does it [most of the time] always come down to dollars and cents?

MG: Well, kind of what it did for me - and I've camped a lot with my children -- it gave me an appreciation of the business because I truly feel when we sell a motorhome to an individual, we just did them a favor. Because if they can afford to get a new motorhome, whether it's big or small, and they can afford to take the time to actually see what's life's all about and do it in the lifestyle of their own home, I don't know what could be better than that.

The Buzz: Do you think there's more of a learning curve? And do you find that you have to talk to people about the learning curve? Like, "Do you understand that this is what this does?" since the technology has evolved considerable.

MG: The technology has evolved, but they've made it simpler. I mean, you can stand outside and not have to roll your awning out…you just push a button. And I found even on a lot of your bigger motor homes it's all push-button. You want your jacks down?  You push a button. You want your awning out? You push a button. You want your generator started? You push a button. So they've really simplified it for people. But what I also learned even on my own trip, is that YouTube is wonderful (laughing). So if you get out there and say, "You know, I don't really even know how this works." There was a few things I didn't even know…you can YouTube it and they have videos all over the place. So it was a simple way to actually figure out some of the questions I had.

The Buzz: Could you talk about the evolution of the Florida RV Super Show in particular?

MG: I think the first time I was at the show it's probably been almost 30 years ago, personally. And I remember when we left 30 years ago I think we sold eight [motorhomes], and we thought we were heroes. And at the time there was probably 100 motor homes for sale [at the show].

The Buzz: And how many manufacturers?

MG: I would say at that time maybe a couple dozen… 20, 25 manufacturers. Now I don't even know how many are at the show… probably several thousand RVs for sale. Our goal for this show was 100 sales and I'm sure we'll hit it based on the way we're going. So it really just shows that -- man when you see people walk around the show, everybody here has the same interest. Whether they buy or don't buy isn't necessarily what it's all about. They all have an interest in the industry.

The Buzz: Do a lot of people do impulse buys or do they know what they want right when they come in?

MG: I think anymore a lot of people come into the show, and they've done their research. They got at least a pretty good idea, "I want a B. I want an A. I want a trailer." They may have narrowed it down to a few select models. But overall, I think people are pretty educated in our industry. I can see them coming in here probably and have it narrowed down to three or four.

The Buzz: You seem still engaged in the “ideal” of the industry?

MG: I love it.

The Buzz: Why is that, and how does that keep growing from your perception?

MG: Well, I made the comment to a salesperson the other day, "The day that I get bored or the day that I feel that I know everything, I'm getting out." And that'll never happen. I have no interest in retiring. I love the industry. I love the people. They're all here for the same reason. They love to camp. And I think with the industry growing and what I mentioned before, I truly feel if we can get them into a motor home and they can truly afford to do it…we just did them a favor. Because to be able to do that with your family or your pets or your spouse or whatever the case may be, I just think it's fantastic.


Tim Wassberg

A graduate of New York University's Tisch School Of The Arts with degrees in Film/TV Production & Film Criticism, Tim has written for magazines such as Moviemaker, Moving Pictures, Conde Nast Traveler UK and Casino Player. He enjoys traveling and distinct craft beers among other thing

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