Vendors: Happy Dogs Make for Happy Campers

November 13, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

As private parks become increasingly pet friendly, companies that supply the campgrounds, RV parks and resorts with products and services are broadening their range of pet related products.

Consider Jamestown Advanced Products.

The Jamestown, N.Y.-based company recently added a dog park product line.

“We provide everything you need to furnish a fully functioning dog park,” said Shari Eckman, Jamestown’s director of marketing.

That includes dog agility and training equipment, tire jumps, pet waste disposal equipment and related supplies. Jamestown also supplies dog owner resting benches, which can be seen along with other pet products at

“Our dog owner resting benches have a dog bone design incorporated into the back of the bench,” Eckman said.

Jamestown’s owners, Lee and Wendi Lodestro, have a particular affinity for dogs. They have two schnauzers.

Eckman said catering to people with dogs also makes good business sense. “Happy dogs make for happy campers,” she said.

Rabbit Hash, Ky.-based Intelligent Products Inc., which sells degradable pet waste collection products through its distributors and through its website at, is also seeing rising demand for its products, which it sells to campgrounds as well as cities and municipal parks, said Emily Rombach, the company’s marketing manager.

Founded in 1989, Intelligent Products sells degradable waste bags, dispensers, receptacles and signage. The company introduced a new compostable version of its pet waste collection tool in August, which it calls the “Bio-Mitt.” The Bio-Mitt is ASTM D6400 compliant.

“We’re looking for another good year,” Rombach said, adding, “I think people are becoming more environmentally conscious and more responsible about picking up after their pets.”

Orlando, Fla.-based DogiPot, which supplies oxo-biodegradable bags, is also anticipating another strong year, said Linda Rosado, DogiPot’s marketing and brand manager. She added that the company plans to attend the upcoming ARVC’s Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo in Las Vegas.

“We do the ARVC show every year and we always get great responses there,” she said.

DogiPot, which has been in business since 1994, launched a new Header Pak dispensing system for dog waste bags last year, which dispenses bags like tissues out of a tissue box. DogiPot’s product lineup includes pet waste stations, oxo-biodegradable bags, trash receptacles and signage. More information is available at

Jamestown Advanced Products Touts New Grill

July 27, 2012 by · Comments Off on Jamestown Advanced Products Touts New Grill 

Jamestown Advanced Products, well known for offering quality commercial campground equipment, announced the launch of its newest product, the smoker grill. It doubles as a smoker/cooker making slow-roasted smoked meat dishes with ease, a camper’s delight, according to a news release.

Marketing Manager of Jamestown Advanced Products Shari Eckman says, “The smoker grill is already drawing praise and attention from parks and campgrounds for its quality steel construction ensuring both durability and longevity. The beauty of this grill is its simplicity, offering both ease of operation and a convenient cleaning system.”

The smoker grill features adjustable vent locations for greater heat distribution and flame control, keeping food juicy while cooked to exact specifications. The grill attaches to a theft-proof base allowing the grill to rotate 360 degrees for best wind draft control. A side shelf is included with the purchase of the smoker grill providing a work area for holding plates, utensils and other necessities. An additional second shelf is available for purchase and can be attached to the opposite side.

Design, quality and performance, the smoker grill by Jamestown Advanced Products has it all. For more information visit or call (800) 452-0639.






New ADA Regs for Swimming Pools Keep Lift Makers Busy

June 27, 2012 by · Comments Off on New ADA Regs for Swimming Pools Keep Lift Makers Busy 

This has been a busy year for the Todd Harris Co. Inc.

The Edison, N.J.-based company supplies portable and permanent swimming pool lifts, which many campgrounds will be required to install by January 2013 to comply with the latest federal accessibility requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

But while the prospect of new federal regulations is creating new business opportunities for Todd Harris and other pool lift suppliers, uncertainties about the specific requirements of the new regulations are creating a lot of confusion in the industry.

Carl Bastedo, a regional sales representative for the company, said he routinely receives questions from park operators asking for guidance on the regulations. But even when a park makes a commitment to purchase pool lift equipment, there are several logistical questions that have to be worked out.

“Not all lifts will work with all pool profiles,” Bastedo said, adding that his company typically asks park operators to send photographs of their pools from different angles so that they can determine the best kind of lift to use for their pools.

Park operators also need to determine the weight capacities of the pool lifts they want to use and whether they want to exceed a 300-pound capability.

Park operators also need to take a broad perspective when considering a pool lift, Bastedo said, adding that people needing a pool lift may not only be wheelchair bound guests, but senior citizens with mobility issues or people who are grossly overweight.

“They may not have a hard time getting into the pool, but may need help getting out of it,” Harris said.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Justice has not spelled out exactly what characteristics constitute a person with disabilities nor is it very clear which parks can get by with a portable pool lift vs. a permanent lift.

The costs of pool lifts can be significant. Portable pool lifts range in price from about $5,400 to $6,600, depending on the model and weight capacity. Permanent pool lifts range from roughly $4,000 to $6,000 or $7,000 on the high end for the equipment alone.

These figures do not include the cost of installation, which is typically handled by outside contractors. “We don’t have the manpower to do installations for our customers, but we do advise them,” Bastedo said.

While looming pool lift requirements have dominated campground industry headlines in recent months, there are other types of equipment campground operators can purchase to make their parks more accessible to people with disabilities.

Gerber Manufacturing supplies wheelchair accessible picnic tables with lumber, aluminum or recycled plastic tops, said Chuck Gerber, CEO of the Madison, Wis.-based company.

Jamestown Advanced Products, for its part, provides universal access picnic tables as well as ADA compliant fire rings, which have a screen like design that provides better visibility for campers in wheelchairs, said Shari Eckman, a marketing specialist for the Jamestown, N.Y.-based company. “We’re seeing more demand (for ADA compliant products),” Eckman said.



Campsite Accessories: Sales Uptick Good for Park Industry

April 18, 2012 by · Comments Off on Campsite Accessories: Sales Uptick Good for Park Industry 

Campground operators are stepping up in their investments in picnic tables, barbecue grills, fire rings and even bicycle racks, according to vendors that specialize in selling these items to campgrounds.

“Last year was real slow. This year, people seem to be buying,” said Norman Boucher, co- owner of LCN Outdoors in Windsor, Conn. “We’re selling more grills and picnic tables.”

LCN is also seeing a stronger response to its product catalog. “We’ve gotten calls from Utah and South Dakota. We’re getting a good response. We’ve had lots of new customers asking questions,” Boucher said.

Frosty Kimbrough of Morristown, Tenn.-based Frosty’s Park Equipment, is also seeing stepped up demand. “I don’t know where they’re coming from, but we’re definitely tickled to death,” Kimbrough said. “Business is definitely up quite a bit from last year.”

Kimbrough said he is seeing increased demand across his product line, which includes picnic table frames, barbecue rings, fire rings and fireproof containers.

“It’s pretty busy here,” said Chuck Gerber of Gerber Manufacturing Ltd. in Madison, Wis., adding his first quarter sales are up compared to last year. “It seems like people have been buying more at the campground conventions,” he said.

Other companies that supply picnic tables, grills, fire rings and related supplies are also reporting increased demand, including Jamestown, N.Y.-based Jamestown Advanced Products and Chadwick Mfg. Ltd. in Chadwick, Ill.

In addition to signaling a continued strengthening of the campground business, the increased sales of campground furniture products is good news for American manufacturing, since several of the companies that sell these products also do their own manufacturing.

Jamestown Advanced Products, for example, is actually a metal manufacturing plant. Most of the company’s 80 employees are involved in manufacturing fire rings, grills, picnic tables, bike racks and even power outlets.

Ortonville, Mich.-based Campfire Grill LLC, Chadwick Mfg., Frosty’s Park Equipment, Madison, Wis.-based Gerber Manufacturing, and Cherokee, Iowa-based R. J. Thomas Mfg. Co. Inc. also manufacture their own products.

But while the designs of picnic tables, grills and fire rings stay pretty much the same from year to year, some companies are introducing new products.

Campfire Grill, for example, has introduced a new product called a Pot Dangler, which can be used to facilitate Dutch Oven cooking over an open fire, said company President Jeff Walker.

“We’re hoping to get campgrounds interested in carrying the Pot Dangler in their stores,” Walker said, adding that his company sees the campground business as an important market segment.

“We’re expanding our footprint in the campground business,” Walker said, adding that smaller cooking products like the Pot Dangler are perfect retail items for campground stores that have limited shelf space.

Jamestown Advanced Products, for its part, has also introduced a new smoker grill product with heavy-duty construction, while R.J. Thomas Mfg. Co. has introduced a new ADA-compliant charcoal grill that meets the federal guidelines for wheelchair accessibility and operability.

R.J. Thomas, which manufacturers its products using the Pilot Rock brand name, is also producing new bench designs as well as bear-proof trash receptacles and bike racks, said Bob Simonsen, the company’s marketing manager.

Gerber Manufacturing, for its part, has also introduced a new round fire ring.

But while wooden picnic tables are still the most popular choice for campgrounds, manufacturers say they are seeing steady growth in sales of picnic tables that are made using recycled plastic.

While picnic tables made with recycled plastic are more expensive than traditional wooden tables, they are longer lasting, require less maintenance and come in a variety of colors, according to the companies that sell these products.

“A lot depends on usage and location,” said Robb Jones, sales manager for Jamestown Advanced Products. “If you’re near salt water, the tables will see more effects than if you’re not near salt water.”

Simonsen of R.J. Thomas said his company now offers 10 different colors of picnic tables with recycled plastic, including tables with recycled plastic frames. “There’s not a lot of color choices with wood,” he said.

Gerber of Gerber Manufacturing also noted that plastic tables require far less maintenance and they hold up better against accidents, such as spilled wine.


Vendors Report Active Agendas at Seasonal Conventions

November 21, 2011 by · Comments Off on Vendors Report Active Agendas at Seasonal Conventions 

The leading suppliers to the outdoor hospitality industry wrapped up a busy 2011 season with major trade shows in the final quarter of the year.

Within a five-week span, vendors were crisscrossing the nation for outdoor hospitality-centered shows in Las Vegas (Kampgrounds of America), Covington, Ky. (Leisure Systems Inc.) and Savannah, Ga. (National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds) Other shows were in Louisville, Ky., and even on the Internet.

These companies – vendors of everything today’s RV park or campground needs to succeed – report good prospects as the year came to an end.

Lewiston, Maine-based Evergreen Insurance has a busy year-end schedule that is typical of other campground vendors.

“This fall/winter season Evergreen is attending over a dozen conventions stretching from Maine to Alaska and including state organizations, national ARVC, KOA and Yogi,” said Lucas Hartford, president. “While some vendors are choosing the route of virtual trade shows, and we recognize the importance of technology, we still feel it is extremely important to meet campgrounds and parks face to face. Insurance purchasing requires someone to trust their agent and this can only done by seeing people and not solely by e-mail, virtual trade shows or video conferencing.

“So this year Evergreen is making sure to see people face-to-face at conventions and then to introduce them to technological tools that we offer that can make their life easier. We have recently revised our website to make it much more client friendly including a new section of client-only articles and information. We have also released a new video produced exclusively for the camping industry that is available to clients on DVD or online which is titled “Emergencies: Are You Prepared?”

Athens Park Homes has seen business increase 17% in “a very flat market,” noted Dick Grymonprez, vice president of sales and marketing for the Athens, Texas-based park model manufacturer.

“Our Rental Cottage series is our most popular line of cabins because they come standard with a 6-foot front porch and they have very rental friendly floorplans and features. In this economy, people seem more open to renting at a campground or resort than they do purchasing somewhere,” he said.

Athens Park Homes just participated in the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) Fall Conference at the Vineyards Campground in Grapevine. They purchased seven cabins from Athens Park Homes in 2010 and they have helped the campground increase revenue by 30% in 2011. At the conference Athens Park Homes was named the “indorsed provider” for the TACO members.

Ron Romens

Ron Romens, president and owner of Commercial Recreation Specialists (CRS), was excited to introduce the company’s new “H2 Whoa Zone” concept at the trade shows. The “Zone” is a business model whereby a campground owner can convert any waterfront setting into an attraction.

“We have recruited landscape architects and aquatic biologists to give an owner a master plan what that area would look like, then help them with their business model to help them operate that as well,” explained Romens. “It’s a model that works very well in the campground industry. We have done it informally the last few years but will formalize it a little more and put some design parameters around it.”

As for new products, CRS also unveiled the “Zoom Flume.” This inflatable slide is just 9 inches deep and is designed to be set on a hillside and exit into a lake or pond. The flumes come in 30-foot-long sections. “You could link four of these 30-foot sections and have a 120-foot hillside water slide,” Romens noted.

Now is a good time to introduce some economical alternatives such as the “Zoom Flume,” Romens said. “The reason I think the timing is good,” he said, “is all this is very active recreation. It gets kids moving, gets families recreating together. It’s very sustainable. It’s bringing people back to nature. Water parks have been very big for a long time but there is a lot of overhead. It is much less expensive to start up and build a facility like this, even to dig your own lake, and costs less to operate.”

“We set one up in Oklahoma and the owner sold 20,000 day passes in six weeks. You don’t have to charge a lot of money either to create this attraction,” Romens said.

CRS also is showing its Wibit line of inflatable water toys, a new standup paddleboard, mini golf, playground structures and shade structures.

Eric Stumberg, TengoInternet

Eric Stumberg, co-founder of TengoInternet, the leading Wi-Fi service provider for the outdoor hospitality industry, says Wi-Fi data usage is up 100% and mobile devices such as iPhones, Droids, iPads and iPods have become the No. 1 devices connecting to the networks.

As a result, he says, “We are showing products and services to increase Wi-Fi network capacity to meet rising guest expectations and services/economics to pay for the higher service level.”

Stumberg expects 2012 to be a strong year.

Jamestown Advanced Products is showcasing its new line of dog park products.

“We see dog park receptacles and agility park equipment as being huge for us in 2012,” said Robb Jones, sales manager for the Jamestown, N.Y.-based firm.

In addition, he added, “We will display our Fire View Ring, which we rolled out earlier in 2011 to much success. Our brand new Smoker Grill will be showcased as well. We also have a new addition to our stable of bike racks, which is called the Cassadaga rack.”

Peter Kearns of Niagara Falls, Ontario-based Mission Management Information Systems said his company is showcasing an upgrade to its booking system that will allow the camper consumer to better select the site for which they prefer over the Internet. The company is also releasing Campground Manager Software that enhances functionality and improves the accounting and marketing utility of the product, he said.

“The big push will be on the testing and exhibiting of our new iPhone application. We are excited by this,” Kearns said. “The iPhone app will allow campgrounds with to receive reservations booked through a camper’s iPhone and iPad. Later, Android and BlackBerry capability will be added.”

He added, “The next year we are expecting our online booking business to grow in the double figure range and the Campground Manager Software property management side to grow in the single digit numbers. We are seeing more and more parks on the corporate end focus exclusively on the seasonal camper, which should increase business for our transient customers.

Chris Kornely, the self-styled “diva of dump stations” at The Tower Co., reported “an excellent trade show” at the recent KOA Convention where “orders were brisk.”

Manitowoc, Wis.-based Tower is showing its water tower and accessories for campground dump stations and DOGIPOT pet waste products, along with Pick Up Stix for garbage cleanup.

“As we say at The Tower Co., ‘We are good for crap of all kinds!’ At The Tower Co. we want to make the experience of dump station purchase and maintenance as easy as possible and have a little fun too. We are proud to have customers tell us they have had their towers serving their dump station needs for over 45 years.”

LCN Outdoors, Windsor, Conn., promoted RV parts at its shows.

“It’s a good deal for operators if they accept selling parts to people,” said Norman Boucher, president. These include drawer guides, hinges and the like, things that break on RVs and often need replacing.

He also is promoting an energy-saving device from Peak Energy that recycles electricity in your home or small business. “We had it at the NCA convention and sold a bunch of them,” he noted.

Wade Elliott

Wade Elliott of Utility Supply Group showed the company’s Heritage line of pedestals and surface mount boxes, the Xlerator Hand Dryer, electric meters, add a meter kits and water meters used to reduce resource usage, wire and distribution panels, electrical layouts, electrical vehicle chargers, replacement and repair parts and Pagoda light kits.

He observed, “2010 was a very good year for them, so (being) even with last year, it is not so bad, considering. I would say that most parks are cautious and uncertain about 2012. I believe that the outdoor hospitality industry will still outperform other vacation and recreation options and look forward to a good year in 2012.”

Tyler Duffy, president of Campground Automation Systems Inc., Mt. Juliet, Tenn., is promoting his company’s new Sunrise product.

“Sunrise is an advanced reservations management service that combines all types of reservation management needs into a single real-time service,” he told WCM. “Sunrise provides an end-to-end system that includes user-friendly online reservations, a powerful campground owner’s management system, convenient self-service express check-in kiosks, and utility control and metering. The elegantly simple user interface is easy to learn and use. Each component is designed to provide a fully integrated, efficient, user-friendly experience.”

He added, “Sunrise provides real-time, online reservations that are fully integrated with the campground owners’ management system for efficiency and convenience. Double data-entry is a thing of the past. The system is web-based so not only can customers access reservation information anytime, but the campground owner can manage their business from the park office, home or anywhere else they can access an Internet browser. No more waiting to retrieve important information from the single desktop located in the campground office, or paying multiple licensing fees to purchase copies of the software for separate computers.”

Pete Parafin of Fluid Manufacturing Inc., Lodi, Calif., says he expects sales of the company’s coin-operated shower systems to be “brisk” in 2012.

“Our shower control systems can save the parks big time money in water, sewage fees and utilities to heat the water,” he said. “Not only that, but to provide an excellent opportunity to add a little income to recover costs as well.”

The system enhances customer control of their showers, while creating an income stream to help pay for the cost of maintaining facilities, Parafin noted. In addition, most campers surveyed have been completely supportive of the program.

Enviro Design Products, Dunnellon, Fla., is promoting several waste management products for 2012, including its Grip-N-Lock, a watertight locking nylon sewer cap, and its brand new “Footloose,” a foot-operated, self-closing, odor-proof sewer cap “that’s going to add a new spin on sewer caps,” said company spokesman William Watts.

All three sewer cap models now come in three standard colors, but custom colors are available.

“This year we are discussing with our clients the need to provide increased bandwidth to their guests,” said Jim Ganley of CheckBox Systems, Gray, Maine. “As more travelers carry more devices that are Wi-Fi- and data-enabled, the amount of bandwidth that a property had available even a few years ago is likely insufficient today.

“We have the new HSv4 gateway controller that allows properties to use multiple Internet connections to increase bandwidth – for example, a DSL and cable modems together feeding the same system, or using multiple DSL modems to feed a system.

“We are also updating software to help properties mitigate issues with radio noise and to deal with P2P (peer-to-peer) file-sharing issues.”

He concluded, “2012 is looking really busy, as we see growth continuing in the outdoor hospitality sector, as well as lots of growth in other areas, such as water parks, amusement parks and public venues.”

Murray Kramer of Kramer Kreations, Pensacola, Fla., inventor of the Murbles game, reports growing popularity of his invention. The game, which resembles bocce, is now in 24 states. He doubled his 2010 sales in 2011 and says, “I think in 2012 we’ll turn the corner big time.”

The Murbles game is gaining traction in KOA stores (he was at the KOA Convention in Las Vegas to drum up new business) and he is making major inroads in Good Sam Samborees and rallies across the Southeast.

“A product that was unexpectedly popular for us in 2011 was our bear-proof trash and recycling receptacles,” said Bob Simonsen, spokesman for R.J. Thomas Mfg. Co. Inc./Pilot Rock, Cherokee, Iowa. “We’ve expanded the product line and had all models independently tested to be bear proof. We expect this popularity to continue in 2012.

“Plus, campfire rings are always popular. And there is a growing trend for site amenities to be in color. Whether the customer needs picnic tables or benches or trash receptacles, there is a demand for these products to be offered in a variety of colors.

He continued, “The last two years have been good for us, and we see that continuing in 2012. In 2009 when the recession first hit, many people were concerned how it would affect the camping industry. I know we were concerned. But as WCM has since reported, people still went camping, but maybe they didn’t travel so far to do it. We saw the same thing in our business. Product requirements from campgrounds have been steady to increasing.”

“I would say our primary concern for 2012 is with the state park systems. Many states have been closing state parks because of budget problems. I attended the annual National Association of State Park Directors conference held in Custer, S.D., in September. Park sustainability (keeping parks open) was a big topic of discussion. When state budgets are cut the park directors are stuck in a position of making some tough decisions. Hopefully the worst of state park closures is behind us.”

TACO Raises Record $35K for Government Affairs

May 3, 2011 by · Comments Off on TACO Raises Record $35K for Government Affairs 

The Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) raised a record $35,000 during its annual auction and trade show, which took place Monday (May 2) at Guadalupe River RV Resort and Inn of the Hill Conference Center in Kerrville, Texas.

“We beat last year’s auction figures by about $5,000,” Brian Schaeffer, TACO’s executive director and CEO, stated in a news release. He added that auction proceeds will be used to fund the association’s government affairs program.

“This additional revenue gives us a greater capability to protect our members’ business interests, not only during the legislative session, but between sessions,” he said.

The auction took place Monday night at Guadalupe River RV Resort following a daylong trade show at Inn of the Hill Conference Center that included 40 vendors.

Schaeffer said several vendors reported very strong sales activity at the show, including Campground Automation, Wilcor, Coba Systems, Jamestown Advanced Products, Philadelphia Insurance and TengoInternet. “The strong trade show activity is important,” Schaeffer said, “because it shows that campgrounds and RV parks are continuing to invest in upgrades and expansions.”

Frank Drew of TengoInternet called the show “the best regional trade show in the country.”

Today’s activities include a keynote address by Lori Severson, executive director of the Wisconsin Association of Campground Owners (WACO), and as well as a presentation by Paul Bambei, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).

TACO also held its first vendor match award drawing, which rewards and vendors that do business with one another. Hill Country RV Resort in New Braunfels received $500 and an $1,800 marketing credit with TACO for doing business with Texas Advertising, which received a free booth at TACO’s 2012 Spring Convention and Trade Show.

Schaeffer said TACO developed the award after seeing the success that WACO had with a similar program in Wisconsin.

Editorial Spotlight: Park Furniture & Accessories

April 22, 2011 by · Comments Off on Editorial Spotlight: Park Furniture & Accessories 

Editor’s Note: Read this and other stories in the April issue of Woodall’s Campground Management, now going out to 14,000 RV parks and campgrounds across North America.

The "V Bench" from Fireside Furniture

In many ways, the furniture and accessories that spruce up a campground and individual campsites can help make a camping experience complete.

So, insiders suggest that park operators not be too shortsighted in selecting this important equipment.

The latest trends in picnic tables, benches and other campground equipment, say the manufacturers of these key campground components, can be wood, recycled plastic, steel, traditional or “classic” and even artistic.

R.J. Thomas Manufacturing Co.’s products provide a few examples, from steel-framed tables with colorful recycled plastic tops to a diverse array of bike rack designs, according to Marketing Manager Bob Simonsen.

“The most popular bicycle racks are still the traditional designs,” Simonsen said, “the ones that sit on the ground and provide a hoop for the bike tire. These are the least expensive, very durable and people still recognize them for what they are.”

Simonsen sees a “definite trend,” however, toward more variety of colors for tables, which lately tend to feature more colorful recycled plastic lumber and thermoplastic-coated steel components. “Both materials have the advantage of being very durable outside,” he added.

Gerber Manufacturing of Madison, Wis., offers tables with wood tops and benches as well as recycled materials. President Chuck Gerber noted that the recycled-content products are growing in popularity despite their higher cost.

“The weather doesn’t bother it,” Gerber said of the durable, maintenance-free plastic lumber made from recycled milk jugs. “Food won’t soak into it; it’s easy to clean and it always looks nice.”

Other manufacturers focus on classic, tried-and-true designs for their campground products, including Leo Helsen, owner and president of Fireside Furniture LLC, Ravenna, Mich. Helsen’s company fashions ponderosa pine into precut, predrilled kits that are shipped throughout much of the U.S. Its product line includes campfire benches as well as picnic tables.

Allen Smith, president of Chadwick Mfg. Ltd., Chadwick, Ill., likes to stick with products that have worked well in the past, including an “old favorite” picnic table frame that the company has offered for nearly 40 years.

The Pioneer Grill from The Perfect Campfire Grill

Newer products for campground owners and campers include a 63-inch-wide fire pit that features both a grill and a pot hanger, from Frosty’s Park Equipment, Morristown, Tenn. Jamestown Advanced Products of Jamestown, N.Y., recently introduced its new Fire View Ring, which Sales Manager Robb Jones says was designed to meet U.S. Forest Service standards for accessibility, allowing individuals with disabilities to cook more easily while enjoying a few of the fire.

Campground owners and guests may be seeing more visitors arriving with their own portable grills, as business continues to grow for The Perfect Campfire Grill, Ortonville, Mich. President Jeffrey Walker started manufacturing portable grills in 2005 and offers three different models for campers who want to take their grill along on their travels.

Table and Grill Makers Are Confident that the 2009 Summer Season Will be as Strong as Any in Recent Years

May 27, 2009 by · Comments Off on Table and Grill Makers Are Confident that the 2009 Summer Season Will be as Strong as Any in Recent Years 

Chuck Gerber founded Madison, Wis.-based Gerber Manufacturing 40 years ago, and has built the company into one of the campground sector’s leading suppliers of picnic tables and grills. 

But even though RV sales have plummeted as a result of the economic downturn, Gerber remains confident that 2009 will be a good year for his firm and the rest of the RV park and campground sector. 

“I think the camping industry is strong,” Gerber told Woodall’s Campground Management. “People have got their money invested in their campers. It’s one of the least expensive ways of traveling. I’ve got a lot of confidence. Our business has been good. We’re off a little bit, but not enough to get excited about.” 

Other manufacturers of picnic tables, grills and related products, such as fire rings and benches, have a similar outlook, including Frosty Kimbrough of Morristown, Tenn.-based Frosty’s Park Equipment, whose newest products include an octagon-shaped fire ring, and Allen Smith, co-owner of Chadwick Mfg. Ltd. in Chadwick, Ill., who has been manufacturing grills and metal frames for picnic tables for 53 years. 

Unlike some manufacturers who supply complete picnic tables, Chadwick builds only the frame, enabling parks to select and install their own tabletops. The company manufactures its own grills, too. “Our most popular model, the 160, we’ve been making since the 1960s,” Allen said. “It’s a stationary grill. It sits in concrete.” 

But while some manufacturers are keeping busy selling the same kinds of tables and grills that have been popular for many years, others are finding increased demand for picnic tables built with recycled materials. “Our recycled plastic table sales are way up because of the green movement,” said Brian Legler, president and co-owner of Gerber Manufacturing. “People feel good about buying recycled materials, even though it’s three times the price of lumber.” 

Although they’re somewhat sensitive to heat and ashes, another selling point for tables made from recycled plastic is their durability. “It will last forever,” Legler said, “so long as nobody sets a grill on top of it.” 

Some companies have engineered new cooking and food preparation products, including R.J. Thomas Mfg. Co. Inc. in Cherokee, Iowa, whose newest product is a grill station that combines a work table and a grill support post in one structure. 

“This eliminates the need to install a separate grill on a post and a utility table on a post,” said Bob Simonsen, the company’s marketing director. “We have combined the two functions into one. The grill station table works with nine different Pilot Rock grills, so you have lots of choices.” 

Jamestown, N.Y.-based Jamestown Advanced Products, for its part, is seeing strong demand for its newest product: 48-inch square picnic tables with thermoplastic coatings. These tables are particularly popular with some of the more upscale resorts, which use them near their swimming pools and eating areas. 

“When we started out in this business, we really catered to campgrounds, and our product was rustic in nature,” said Lee Lodestro, vice president of Jamestown Advanced Products. Now, he said, Jamestown sees demand not only for traditional picnic tables made with Southern yellow pine, but also for more modern looking tables, which are made of environmentally friendly materials. 

“There seems to be two different customer bases,” Lodestro said, with one wanting traditional wooden tabletop products and the other opting for more modern looking tables with bright colors. He said corporate owned parks tend to gravitate more to the modern designs with bright colors. “That’s where the 48-inch square table has been a big hit,” he said. 

Jamestown uses powder coatings on its synthetic table, which, according to Lodestro, are more environmentally friendly than tables painted with VOCs. 

Other companies, such as Rochester, N.Y.-based Kwik Covers, have found a niche selling picnic table covers, which parks can either sell to campers in their camp stores or give to them when they check in. Kwik Covers are made out of vinyl and have elastic edges so that they fit around the edge of the table like a bed sheet. 

“Most campgrounds purchase them to sell in their camp stores,” said Bernie Puglisi, the company’s co-owner. 

Manufacturers, meanwhile, are finding strong demand for other ancillary products needed for outdoor cooking and campfire enjoyment. Jamestown, for example, has introduced a double-walled fire ring as well as a barbecue grill designed for people with disabilities, plus a new hot charcoal bin. 

At press time, the private park industry’s leading manufacturers of picnic tables and grills said they were keeping busy filling orders as parks prepare for the upcoming camping season. 

“The spring demand got off to a later start (for us) this year than 2008,” said Simonson of R.J. Thomas. “That’s understandable, given the political and financial uncertainties over the winter. But now it has picked up considerably, which has created the situation of later orders and the need for faster deliveries. Fortunately, we invested in some new equipment and plant layout during the winter. These improvements are helping us meet the rush.” 

Some New Products for 2009 Include: 

Jamestown’s New 48-Inch Portable Picnic Table 

Jamestown Advanced has added a number of new products designed for both ends of outdoor dining, from bear-proof containers, fully adjustable grills/fire rings and taller ADA-compliant fire rings to a portable 48-inch square picnic table featuring an environmentally friendly thermoplastic coating on the table top and benches. Developed in Europe by Plascoat, the covering is applied to the pre-perforated formed sheetsteel in a process similar to powdercoating: using an electrostatic spray gun, then baking to bond the material to the steel substrate. The finished surface is resistant to stress cracking, adverse weather, detergents and typical airborne pollutants. The table and benches are constructed of continuously welded 12-gauge steel, reinforced with channels and supported by one-piece welded-construction frames and cross braces. Available in yellow, red, blue and forest green, with other colors upon request. Contact: Jamestown Advanced Products Corp., 2855 Girst Road, Jamestown, NY 14701, (800) 452-0639, 

RJ Thomas Mfg. Co.’s Model GS Grill Station 

The RJ Thomas Mfg. Co. has debuted a number of campground products of late, including two new campfire rings with swiveling cooking grates and trash receptacles and covers intended to defeat foraging varmints and bears. Of particular note is its Model GS Grill Station, which combines a maximum 20 x 48-inch work area with a 3 ½-inch steel grill support tube that accommodates any of nine of the company’s portable grills and allows for 360-degree grill rotation. The end frames of the work station are assembled using heavy-duty 1.66-inch steel pipe, buttressed by 1 5/16-inch diagonal braces and are capped with ¼-inch thick steel base plates for anchoring the station to hard surfaces. The grill support can be mounted either in the middle of the table – allowing for four top planks – or at either end of the unit to increase work space. All metal parts are hot-dip galvanized for weather resistance, with the table crafted of treated Southern Yellow Pine. Options include metal powercoating and recycled plastic table planks. Contact: RJ Thomas Mfg. Co. Inc., P.O. Box 946, Cherokee, IA 51012-0946; (800) 762-5002, 

Gerber Mfg. Ltd.’s Recycled Plastic Picnic Table 

The RV industry has been promoting itself lately for its “green” footprint on the premise that it offers a more environmentally friendly vacation option vs. traditional venues, and the green movement is taking hold within the campground supplier industry as well. Gerber Mfg., which specializes in commercial-grade steel frame picnic tables, park benches and bike racks, recently introduced a new line of picnic tables featuring table and seating areas made from post-consumer plastic jugs. The plastic planks come in lengths of 4 to 12 feet, with a 4-foot-square table also available. “The plastic doesn’t rot, doesn’t weather and doesn’t sliver,” noted company founder Greg Gerber, adding that scratches don’t show because the color added to the high-density polyethylene is mixed throughout. “Coupled with a hot-dip galvanized frame,” he said, “it makes the unit maintenance-free.” Contact: Gerber Manufacturing Ltd., 2917 Latham Dr., Madison, WI 53713; (800) 393-9923, 

Frosty’s Octagon Fire Ring with Grill & Pot Hanger 

Campfires are an intrinsic part of the camping experience – but most fire rings are designed for small get-togethers. The Octagon Fire Ring manufactured by Frosty’s Park Equipment, on the other hand, boasts a diameter of 63 inches and a circumference that, at about 16 feet, is capable of hosting extended families or large groups for an evening singalong. For anyone wanting to add to the outdoor experience, the ring, constructed of 3/16-inch x 8-inch-high steel plate finished in heat-resistant black paint, can be ordered with a cooking grate and pot hanger, both of which can be swiveled 360 degrees. The cooking grate is crafted from ¼-inch round steel bar supported by a 5/8-inch-thick steel arm and provides 322 square inches of cooking area; the rod for the pot hanger also is designed from 5/8-inch steel stock. Contact: Frosty’s Park Equipment, 2061 Sulphur Springs Rd., Morristown, TN 37813, (800) 376-7897,