embark on new
Grand Design Recreational Vehicles President and Co-owner Don
Clark inside the company’s 170,000 square-foot manufacturing
facility Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, in Middlebury. The building, once a
space for manufactured homes, will allow Grand Design to expand its
manufacturing as demand for its recreational vehicles grows.
MIDDLEBURY — A group of local RV industry veterans is betting their reputations,
their time and their money on a new business model for the industry.
They left major positions in Thor Industries in the second half of 2011
and decided to start over. “We knew we wanted to create a special company,
something that’s going to matter to the industry,” Clark said.
They have a 67-acre site north of Middlebury with 450,000 square feet of
manufacturing space. Right now they have exactly one product with exactly
Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan
BIRTH OF AN RV COMPANY
• July 2011: Ron Fenech and Bill Fenech announce plans to leave
leadership positions in Thor Industries, Ron overseeing the RV
division and Bill as head of Thor Motor Coach. Bill Fenech left
at the end of the month, while Ron Fenech stayed through
• November 2011: Don Clark leaves as head of Thor’s Dutchmen
• May 2012: The trio forms a company, Rolling Stone, though
doesn’t begin operations.
• July 2012: A real-estate company is formed to look for a home
for the future RV producer, which is on its second possible name:
• August 2012: The trio buys a facility on C.R. 2 for $8 million.
• October 2012: After multiple name changes, Grand Design RV
officially starts operations north of Middlebury.
• November 2012: The trio plans to unveil the company to about
50 dealers in Louisville, Ky. Hundreds show up.
• January 2013: The company shows off its first two prototypes
to consumers in Tampa, Fla. Later in the month it shipped the
first unit to an RV dealer in Alabama.
• February 2013: Grand Design ramps up production to two units
a day, with plans to double that soon.
one floor plan. They have exactly one dealer in any given market.
At the most, they plan to have six product lines, one for each market segment
That’s a big change from most of the industry, which sometimes has a dealer
for one line just a few miles away from another dealer offering a line that may
have a different name, but it may be the exact same product made by the same
Frank DeGellas, owner of Mike Thompson RV, the biggest RV dealer in
California, said he’s glad to see Grand Design take that approach. “I really, really
believe in it. It will make the salesmen believe in the product, it’ll make the
dealers believe in the product, and the customer will believe in the product.
That’s important, because at the end of the day I have to make the customer
happy,” DeGellas said.