OSSIPEE — Big Moose RV Sales and Service just got bigger.
The 2-year-old business recently relocated from a smaller lot at the Route 16/Route 28 intersection in Ossipee to a 200-acre lot with a 35,000-square-foot showroom, office and repair facility a few miles south on Route 16.
Passersby can't miss the hand-painted 16-foot-wide by 8-foot-high sign at the entrance to the business, the site of a former boat sales and repair shop.
Owner Michael G. Stevens, who has worked in the recreation vehicle business for 30 years, runs the business with his son, Michael J. Stevens, the service manager, and senior repair manager Phil Randall. He moved the business after it had outgrown its former location, and when conditions and lease terms were favorable for the new space.
Located on a heavily traveled Route 16, also known as the White Mountain Highway, the road is a gateway to the White Mountains and eastern Lakes Region with an abundance of public and private campgrounds and RV parks. Stevens hopes to capitalize on the heavy traffic and an existing loyal customer base.
The senior Stevens entered the RV business decades ago when he joined Ray's Marina and RV Sales staff in Milton. He surpassed sales records after his second month on the job and has been in the business ever since.
"So the chase was on. I love RVs and I love people," he said.
Sales at the new location have been dampened a bit by the wet weather, he said. So far five RVs have been sold, and the business has only been open for a few weeks.
Big Moose RV will complement its inventory of new models with used models, RV rentals, a mobile 24/7 repair service and van, a massive interior repair shop, and a parts and service desk inside. Stevens also welcomes customers seeking an appraisal of their current RV or needing a second opinion about value or repair costs.
"We're here for appraisals in case anyone needs a second opinion, like going to a doctor," he said.
With more space than he currently needs for the RV side of business, Stevens intends to open part of the lot for a regular Big Moose Flea Market.
Home comfort on the road
Big Moose RV currently has an inventory of 20 new and used RVs and campers, ranging in price from $12,000 to $25,000. The new models are all manufactured in Indiana by Gulf Stream Coach Inc. and offer comfort and all the amenities of home.
"This is unbelievable," said Stevens as he demonstrated the features of a new 32-by-8-foot Innsbruck Gulf Stream model on the lot. The model is equipped with a full bathroom, queen bed in the master, a kitchen with gas stove, refrigerator, microwave, double sink and enough portable sleeping space to accommodate 10 people. Inside, the dining and seating area slides out for more space when the camper is parked. It even has central air conditioning. For outdoor camp cooking, there is an exterior kitchen built in to the camper with a stove sink and small refrigerator.
"RVing is for everybody," said Stevens, adding that most of his customers range from 25 to 60 years old. Trade association data indicates that buyers aged 35 to 54 are the largest segment of RV owners, according to a 2011 University of Michigan study commissioned by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association. The RVIA states that RV ownership has reached record levels, with more than 9 million American households owning an RV, a 16 percent increase since 2001 and a 64 percent gain since 1980.
According to surveys the prognosis for RV sales and travel is positive. RV manufacturers reported shipping 26,120 units, an increase of 6 percent from February 2012, posting the best February sales figure since 2008, and pushed total shipments for the year up more than 16 percent, according to the RVIA.
The association credits growth to several factors, including that RV owners spend more time enjoying the nation's 16,000 campgrounds and can save money taking trips closer to home.
"Everyone is so excited about this facility, to see it put to good use. The town's happy and we're excited," he said.
Big Moose RV is located at 495 Route 16 in Ossipee. For more information, call 539-3004 or visit www.bigmooservsales.com. The website has details on services, supplies and photos of RV inventory.