Art Pike and his wife Faye joke that it’s great to see their baby grow, even if it’s technically in someone else’s hands.
The couple’s baby, of course, is the dealership they ran for more than three decades, a place many still think of as Westgate RV Centre.
They bought the business in 1979, and Art remembers raising three kids on its back, all while contributing to the community by sponsoring sports teams and building unbreakable relationships with his customers.
But a few years ago he and Faye almost lost it all.
The great recession hit the business hard, but a well-timed deal ended up vaulting the business to heights beyond anything they’d ever dreamed.
Art explains that when the economy “dropped in the tank” in 2008, problems with his manufacturers stuck him with $6 million of excess inventory.
“It cost us a great deal of money, because we had to take such losses, and we weren’t sure we could recover,” he recalls.
But he persisted, and as the economy began to turn around he was approached by an old colleague, Dale Howes of Traveland RV in Langley, who offered to buy him out.
He accepted, agreeing to turn Westgate into Traveland, and stay on as the dealership’s general manager.
“Opportunity knocked and we decided to shake hands and put it together,” Art says. “That turned out to be a great decision.”
Since that 2013 handshake, Traveland RV Kelowna has grown substantially.
Tyler Steel, the general sales manager at Traveland RV in Kelowna, explains that in a few short years Traveland went from about 12 staff members to almost 50.
In fact, things have been going so well they’re in the middle of a massive expansion. Along with renovating their building, they’ve also bought property next door where they will eventually put up a major new service centre.
Steel says a big part of Traveland’s success has been how it’s combined the best of both Westgate and Traveland.
Westgate was known primarily for selling high-end motorhomes, but as Traveland it now sells everything from small family trailers right up to $800,000 luxury RVs.
Steel explains that being part of a larger business allows them to leverage the brand and bring in way more inventory, but that despite that purchasing power Traveland retains its family-owned charm, thanks in large part to Art.
“Every customer that comes in here knows Art, and if Art’s doing something they’re asking about him,” he says. “Sometimes big businesses can lose their connection with their customers, but Art has always had a good reputation in the industry, and he’s allowed us to stay grounded.”
Art says that also comes through in the fact that Traveland has retained many of the staff who worked there when it was still Westgate. Although some have moved on, he says, “the nucleus is still here.”
“We like to think we’ve taken the best of both companies, where we’ve got the customer service of Westgate but the advantages of being a bigger company,” Art says.
Right now, Traveland is offering early bird prices on hundreds of its products. Purchase a motorhome, fifth wheel, toy hauler, or other product and get a $1,000 Costco gift card. More information is available online.
This article is written by or on behalf of the sponsoring client and does not necessarily reflect the views of Okanagan Edge.
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