› Started: 1994 in Dunlap, Tenn.
› Locations: Ringgold, Ga., Lebanon, Tenn., Knoxville and Bowling Green, Ky.
› Founders: Brad and Renee Soldwedel
› RV brands: Jayco, Highland, Starcraft, Winnebago, Holiday Rambler, Monaco and Valeigh
Nearly 24 years after Brad and Renee Soldwedel started selling campers out of an old gas station in the center of Dunlap, Tenn., the couple sold their Dunlap RV business last week to a growing Cincinnati-based RV dealership.
Dunlap RV, which had grown to five locations selling a variety of travel trailers and motor homes in Tennessee, Georgia and Kentucky, came under the ownership of Family RV this week. The new RV dealership owner, which is part of a private equity firm based in Connecticut, is keeping open all but the original Dunlap location.
"The acquisition is another example of our commitment to expand our reach and bring our strong customer service mindset to more RV-buying communities," Family RV President Wade Stepp said in an announcement of the purchase.
Financial terms of the sale were not announced.
Soldwedel, who began selling recreational vehicles in Dunlap in 1994 and has expanded the business and included his children over the past two decades, said the business will continue under the new owners as a Jayco Gold Circle of Excellence dealer at all four of the remaining Dunlap RV locations. The original Dunlap location has been closed, however.
"Family RV has enjoyed a stellar reputation among their manufacturers and retail customers for delivering best-in-class sales and services for the past 50 years," Soldwedel said in a statement. "From a business and cultural standpoint, it was a natural fit for us to join the Family RV team."
› Started: In 1968, Charles and Lolly Jung started Colerain RV in Cincinnati. In 2017, Colerain RV acquired Northside RV in Lexington, Ky., and formed the Family RV Group.
› Ownership: Private equity firm of Kidd & Company, LLC in Old Greenwich, Conn.
› Locations: Cincinnati, Dayton, and Columbus, Ohio, and Indianapolis, Ind., and Lexington, Ky.
› Inventory: Dealership sells a range of new and used motor homes, Fifth wheelers, travel trailers and toy haulers.
The sale of the RV dealership comes as sales of campers and RVs have grown by more than 15 percent in each of the past two years, rising to more than 500,000 units last year.
Jerry Watkins, senior sales and marketing executive for Family RV, said sales of recreational vehicles continue to grow as experience-craving millennials, joined by retiring baby boomers, take to the road with their own campers and motor homes. The itinerant lifestyle is appealing to both mobile workers able to take their jobs on the road and retirees eager to see America, Watkins said.
The purchase of Dunlap RV — the biggest yet for Family RV since its start in 1968 — expands the company's footprint to the south, although the Dunlap RV name will continue on the four new locations.
The company operates stores under the Colerain Family RV, Northside Family RV, and Dunlap Family RV brands.
Dunlap RV added the Jayco line a decade ago, which helped fuel its growth into other parts of Tennessee, Georgia and Kentucky.
"Family RV Group's acquisition of Dunlap RV adheres to our strategy of geographic expansion by acquiring quality RV dealerships with strong brand recognition, high customer loyalty and strong operations," said Ken Heuer, a principal in the equity firm of Kidd & Company, LLC, which acquired most of the company last year when it merged the Colerain and Northside Family RV businesses.
With the acquisition, Family RV now operates nine full-service dealerships throughout Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia.
"Part of our strategy is to continue to seek out opportunities that are good for us strategically and will expand our footprint as we move forward," Watkins said. "This is part of our ongoing efforts to expand and grow as we believe the market will in the future."
Contact Dave Flessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.