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Jack & Julie Love talk train building for children.

INDUSTRY EDGE

TRADE SHOWS & CONFERENCES

MAKING THE TRAIN: JACK & JULIE LOVE [KOA EXPO]

Terrainables Creators Talk Goodwill, Fabrication, Profit & Community As They Showcase At Confab In Chattanooga

Julie & Jack Love of Terrainables LLC at the KOA Expo in Chattanooga, Tennessee. [Photo Credit: Tim Wassberg]

Finding a supplier that balances the aspect of good craftsmanship with the essence of a good heart is the cornerstone of all any good business. For Jack & Julie Love of Terrainables LLC= out of Holland, Michigan it is also about giving back while still making a profit. The Loves, using their background in a trailer company, now fabricate children’s trains that are now used at many campgrounds including KOAs. The Loves sat down with The Buzz at the KOA Expo in Chattanooga, Tennessee to discuss response, business practices and community.

The Buzz: With creating the concept of Terrainables…how did it come about?

Jack Love: A guy that I grew up with…he's handicapped, and he works with handicapped kids. He came to me about five years ago and wanted me to build the bottom section [of one of these trains] because we have a trailer company. So we built the bottom piece and we gave him 20…and then other guys finished it with regular plastic car wash barrels and tractor seats or whatever. Once a year, [this guy] has a big picnic to raise money for the kids, and we went. It was a first class operation: blow up jump houses, water slides, everything, and he's got two trains running 10 and 10, and all the kids are in line. So--

The Buzz: Something went off in your brain?

JL: I'm going, "Wow, huge demand." So we started to proceed…we had a rotor molded barrel, and we had it made especially for this [bottom half]. Like I said, we have a trailer company, so we just automatically used all the parts for the quality of it, hot-dip galvanizing; you name it, because I don't want them to wear out. We started going to [the] campgrounds and--

The Buzz: Did you find it was an easy sell or was it specifically KOA that came to you? How does that work?

JL: Well, I think our first idea was campgrounds and orchards. We haven't pushed with the orchards yet, but the more we do this, we're finding that we get calls from all the time from people wanting to rent them. [Right now] we're making another trailer to haul six. We’re also going to start taking these to the American Rental Association [so if] people want them for birthday parties, they can just go on in, grab 600 trailers, take them home, and use them.

The Buzz: How did the trailer business begin for you? Was it just a family thing?

JL: No. I worked for a trailer company. I started with them about 20 years ago. But they just did a lot of things wrong. They were going to close it down. We acquired it and kind of fell into the start-up of it. And that's why that business is named Genesis…something out of nothing…a new beginning.

Some Kids Ride On The Terrainables Train. [Courtesy: Terrainables LLC]
The Terrainables Train Display at the KOA Expo in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The Buzz: That sounds cool.

Julie Love: And we hire a lot of people right from prisons to give people a second chance. The people that we bring in, they come from Ministry 70x7 or some other religious ministry that's supposed to take the people from prison and try and find them jobs, because with their records that they have, they can't get a job. And then a portion of all the finances goes to building the Kingdom of God.

Jack Love: Had I not got changed, I would have been that guy in prison. I just have got so much to be thankful for. So that's why I deal with the guys. That's why I try to take somebody…they made mistakes. You know what I mean? And let's move forward. I'm all for that.

The Buzz: That's what R&D is for…

JL: As far as the quality of the thing, we make all our axles right in the shop. It’s the same axle that you'll see going down the road pulling a fish boat.

The Buzz: It has to be sturdy.

JL: Oh yeah. When people say, "What's the weight capacity?”… if you can get in and out of it, you can ride. You're not going to hurt them.

The Buzz: It’s sort of put together with hitches correct? Then you just daisy chain and makes it do everything it needs to do…

JL: It’s the spacing between the axle and the center of the ball. Once you get those center points exact, you can literally go around in circles and touch the guy in the back, or do long strings and come back and high-five everybody on the way through. You can swing wide through the woods. The last car will go where the first car turned. That's what they're designed to do.

The Buzz: And the tires are inflatable…

JL: They're just trailer tires.

The Buzz: So did you both have a love for the outdoors or is just this happen to be the sector that appeals for Terrainables?

JL: I love to hunt.

The Buzz: Well, you're up in hunting country in Michigan.

JL: I go to Canada to hunt. For the camping thing, when I started the trailer company, we had to sell our little motor home to buy steel to keep going. But we used to do all that stuff. A lot of times, we stayed real local because we'd go and we'd be able to camp and still go from there back to work.

The Trailer Tires & Small Cab of the Terrainables Product. [Courtesy: Terrainables LLC]
The Trailer Hitch Structure Of Terrainables. [Courtesy: Terrainables LLC]

The Buzz: You wanted to get away for the weekend and just escape?

JL: Yeah. Not very far because you know when you have a lot of kids, and not a lot of money…

The Buzz: And my last question, just because you're here at the KOA Expo. I mean, what do you find when people come up and ask you about the trains? What have you found out? I mean, have you been coming to this for a couple years?

JL: This is only our 2nd convention. We're blown away. I mean, that people that already bought them are running around. I don't have to tell anybody. I mean the people come up and they're like, "Yeah. We want to order this and order that." And we thought, "Oh…solid. They love them. They love the way they track."

The Buzz: Word of mouth.

JL: Word of mouth…because it's quality and it works right.

The Buzz: Those are two things you always want.

JL: When we came to the show last year in Daytona, we really didn't care if we sold any. We really came to see: what does the public think? And they were just blown away. I mean they just were like, “Oh my god. These are so great. They’re blah, blah, blah, blah.” We’re just like…I don’t know. It’s just, when you come up with an idea and see the response, it’s crazy. The next thing we are going to do is the rental show. And I think—

The Buzz: That is going to be the real test…

JL: The real market. It's not that I want to not do the campgrounds, but like I was telling [my wife]… I said, "If you sell them to a campground, you'll never sell them anymore because they're never going to wear out. (pause) But then I come to this, and these guys, they come in here and they bought them before, last year, and now they're buying 16 more. I'm like, "What?" "Oh yeah. We're putting them in this campground. We're going to do this," and I'm thinking, "OK”. So it’s hard to gauge.

The Buzz: All good things

JL: And KOA is like a big family. You get to know people and then when you come back the next time you see those people again. And you always talk to them. You always joke around with them. It’s just a good time.


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 things.

Terrainables LLC

Make Sure To Check Out:

Terrainables LLC, whose high quality barrel cars are rapidly growing in use across the country as people of all ages are taking these rides in camps, camp grounds, farms, and all kinds of special events. They ship around the country from their manufacturing location in Holland, Michigan.

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