LSI Franchisees Celebrate Yogi's 40th Anniversary
Leisure Systems Inc.’s 40th anniversary celebration in November was unique, as expected.
From the special recognition given it by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) at the InSites Convention on Nov. 12 to the anniversary cruise to the Bahamas that followed InSites, it was obvious LSI franchisees are “better than the average campground.”
For the first time, LSI held its annual symposium as part of the InSites convention and made its annual system awards presentations onboard the cruise ship Monarch of the Seas on the way back from Nassau.
“Usually we have our own group in Cincinnati. It’s more a Yogi Bear event,” Dean Crawford, LSI executive vice president, told Woodall’s Campground Management. “In this event, it was tied in with ARVC as well. We were mixed in with other campground owners and operators. It was a good thing. They got to meet other successful owners and operators in the industry. There was a lot of good networking. We had close to 90% of our franchisees at ARVC and over half of our franchisees went on the cruise.”
LSI Honors Top Camp-Resort
On the cruise, LSI handed out its franchise awards on Sunday (Nov. 15) and named the Yogi Bear Jellystone Park in Sioux Falls, S.D., as its Camp-Resort of the Year for 2009. Rob Schutter Jr., LSI president and COO, presented the award to owners Donna and Bruce Aljets.
Other major award recipients were:
- Entrepreneur of the Year, North Java, N.Y.; Woodstock, New Brunswick; Missoula, Mont; and Waller, Texas. Honorable mention to Quarryville, Pa.
- Operator of the Year, Larry and Kim Jones, Canyon Lake, Texas; Frank and Stefi Davies, Kingston, Nova Scotia; and Jim and Jill Kavicky, Sturgeon Bay, Wis.
- Franchise System Inspection Leader, (The Carroll Award), Tabor City, N.C.
- Jim Webb Spirit Award, Brent Gasser, Wisconsin Dells, Wis., and Randy Isaacson, Caledonia, Wis.
- Maple Leaf Award, Peter and Janet Clark, Woodstock, New Brunswick.
- Facility of the Year, Natural Bridge, Va., and North Java, N.Y.
- Chairman Award, Roger Barry, Fremont, Ind.
Yogi Advisory Council Named
During the ARVC convention, LSI held a three-hour general session for its franchisees. During the session, LSI recognized Brent Gasser of Wisconsin Dells, Wis., as outgoing chairman of the Yogi Advisory Council.
A new, 10-member council was named and Gina Lenard of North Hudson, N.Y., was elected chairwoman.
The new members are: Ray Aljets, Sioux Falls, S.D., vice chairman; Beth Ryan, treasurer, Quarryville, Pa.; Me-Me LeBlanc, secretary, Robert, La.; A. Keith Russell, parliamentarian, Horn Lake, Miss.; and members Steven M. Cline, Fort Atkinson, Wis.; Stefani Davis, Kingston, Nova Scotia; Jayne Cohen, Center Harbor, N.H.; Mike Ciero, Millbrook, Ill.; and Alex Garcia, Marion, N.C.
New members of LSI’s CARE (Caring About Recreation and Entertainment) Committee are: Beth Wilson, Nashville, Tenn., Rob Davis, Wisconsin Dells, Wis., Patty Libby, Woodridge, N.Y., Holli Rapp, Amboy, Ill.; Rachael Stine, Natural Bridge, Va.; Carrie Cirrito, Hagerstown, Md., owner/adviser Me-Me LeBlance, Robert, La., and LSI representative Kelly Jones.
LSI also recognized franchisees for reaching certain anniversaries. Charter-member franchisee in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., was honored for its 40 years.
Others were: 30 years, Ashland, N.H., Aurora, Ohio, and Plymouth, Ind.; 15 years, Goodfield, Ill., Gardiner, N.Y., Mexico, N.Y., Woodbridge, N.Y., and Missoula, Mont; and 10 years, Madison, Fla., and Cooperstown, N.Y.
Hoosier Resort Wins Park Model
Dan and Beth Moll of the Yogi Bear Jellystone Park in Knightstown, Ind., won the park model cabin donated by park model builder Jack London. London donated the cabin in observance of the franchise’s 40th anniversary and in memory of his late son who used to work with him.
“We were very overwhelmed, almost to the point of shock,” Dan Moll told WCM. “For us, this is truly a Godsend.”
The Molls have four “bare bones” cabins but no full-service cabins at the 135-site resort they’ve owned since 1991. They hope to take delivery of the cabin in the spring and use the cabin in the spirit in which it was given by using it to reach out to people in need, Moll told WCM. The drawing was on the afternoon of Nov. 12.
At the ARVC gala that evening, Yogi Bear characters greeted banquet guests as they walked down a red carpet into the banquet room, and ARVC officials recognized the franchise for its 40th years of service to the RV park and campground industry. Schutter introduced Doug Haag, founder of the Yogi Bear Jellystone Park franchise.
Schutter gave a PowerPoint presentation on LSI, punctuated with a carton clip of the Yogi characters singing “Happy Birthday.” Following this, the banquet wait staff brought out birthday cakes for the diners.
In a follow-up interview with WCM, Schutter touched on many topics as LSI and its franchisees enter their 41st year.
As for the 2009 season, LSI and its franchisees “did exceptionally well, across the board, except for the Northeast,” said Schutter, where poor weather and a faltering economy were major factors. Systemwide, revenues were up 5% compared to 2008, site occupancy was up 6% and rentals were up 5%. “That all showed very strong growth compared to what the rest of the economy is showing us,” Schutter said.
On the flip side, store revenues declined by 3% and ancillary business fell by 8%.
Schutter noted that ancillary revenues fell because some parks, to encourage visits to their parks, dropped certain extra fees and/or lumped these fees into one entry fee.
Factor out the Northeast (where 13 of LSI’s 71 franchisees are located), which experienced in some cases a 9-11% decline and the “rest of the system did exceptionally well,” Schutter said.
LSI Waives $20,000 Initiation Fee
LSI announced prior to the ARVC convention that it had decided to waive its $20,000 initiation fee for new franchisees going forward. The fee was initially established to help LSI offset costs associated with adding new franchisees.
“We took a long, hard look at it and saw that it had become a hindrance to individuals looking to join,” he said. “What is important for us is to take away as many barriers as possible to join the system.”
LSI staff members were working with four or five applicants at year-end and was expecting “three strong individuals to come on immediately and hope to pick up a couple more as time goes forward,” Schutter said.
Yogi Franchisees’ Mood Good
“I was amazingly surprised at the attitude of the franchisees, even the ones in the Northeast who look at 2009 as a blip. They say the weather was more a detriment than the economy,” Schutter said.
“None of them are scaling back any of their projects or advertising (for 2010),” he said. “They may control their extraneous expenses but outside of that you don’t see them panicking. Next year is a new year.”
LSI and its franchisees look to get a good bounce in 2010 from the new Warner Brothers Yogi Bear movie due out by the end of the year. Movie promotions will drive additional campers to Jellystone Parks which could, Yogi himself would say, help create “better than an average year.”