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September 4, 2001 by   - () Leave a Comment

Contemplating the purchase of an RV manufacturer in the midst of last year's declining market might give some people pause for thought.

"That is usually the best time to get into something as you are approaching the bottom of the market," said Steve Snyder, president of D.S. Corp. Inc., Topeka, Ind., manufacturer of All American, Paradise Pointe and Paradise Cove fifth-wheels and travel trailers (pictured). "The tight market is telling us what products that we need to focus on in the future. We are going to let the market tell us what we need to do."

Snyder and Vice President Duane Rheinheimer, both of whom have extensive backgrounds in the manufactured housing industry, in November purchased CrossRoads, founded in 1996 by long-time RV supplier Freeman "Fritz" Helmuth.

They quickly began moving the company's RVs more firmly into the midprice range by introducing the upper midline Paradise Pointe fifth-wheel series at last year's Louisville Show to join the CrossRoads high-end All American line of travel trailers and fifth-wheels.

CrossRoads' second new line Paradise Cove fifth-wheels and travel trailers was introduced at the start of the 2002 model year this summer. Snyder describes the Paradise Cove as "aggressively priced with a long list of options."

"Crossroads started out as a high-end line appealing to full-timers," Snyder said. "The travel-trailer line was a little out of whack for the markets. We wanted to get something a little more price-sensitive into the line. We are not trying to be the cheapest guy on the block. We are trying to build a quality product for a reasonable price."

Detail is critical. Ceilings are carpeted. Kitchen countertops are tight-fitted against the walls. Drawer guides work properly, and doors hang straight. "We want the unit to go out the door right," Snyder said.

Standard features include heated holding tanks, molded fiberglass front and rear caps, raised-panel solid-oak doors and Congoleum flooring in the kitchens and baths.

In July, CrossRoads had a network of 48 dealers, which Snyder said the company is intent on expanding. "The dealer network before we took over was not a strong one, but it had some good quality dealers. We've built on that."

Snyder's first job in the RV industry was for his father's company, Lazy S Manufacturing, Elkhart, Ind., a now-defunct manufacturer of truck campers. He later worked for Georgie Boy Manufacturing Inc. and Cobra Industries Inc. He entered the manufactured housing sector in 1987, joining northern Indiana's Prestige Homes Inc., and later worked for Victorian Homes. Before purchasing CrossRoads, he was general manager of Dutch Housing Inc.

Rheinheimer has worked for 30 years in the manufactured housing segment, including stints at Redman Homes Inc. and Dutch Housing, where he was vice president of operations before he left to purchase CrossRoads with Snyder.

Snyder said the manufactured housing industry is similar to the RV industry in that there are momentum swings. "The markets are typical across the RV industry or manufactured housing," he said.

"You start out in one direction, and consumer demand increases as they ask for more, more and more. Then the market turns around and you start all over again. It's the same cycle."

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