Camping World is quickly revving up a drive to take over the RV market in the Tampa Bay region.
The Chicago-based camping store and RV dealership chain is buying the Long View RV dealership property on Interstate 4, just a few miles down the road from archrival Lazydays RV SuperCenter, and executives boast that they'll soon take employees and RV brand lines from Lazydays, too.
"We're consolidating the market," said Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of Camping World. "This is just one of three deals we're announcing in a week."
The next move will be taking over a not-yet-disclosed RV dealer site in Clearwater, he said, where Camping World plans to bring in new RV and trailer brand names. After that, Camping World will take over an RV dealership in Holiday, just north of Tarpon Springs.
The company did not disclose the names or financial terms of any of those deals.
Perhaps the most extensive transformation will be at Long View RV in Seffner.
Camping World plans to overhaul much of the 17-acre site, add 40 service bays and build its largest retail store site — a 14,000-square-foot facility that will sell accessories, parts and equipment for outdoor life. The property sits almost exactly across I-4 from the Bates RV site that specializes in shiny aluminum Airstream trailers.
The Long View dealership employs about 30 people and Lemonis said they will likely expand to 70 to 80. The product lineup will range from $10,000 trailers to $500,000 motor homes.
The deal only came together two weeks ago when Lemonis walked into the dealership and asked to see owner Frank Roberts, who started the dealership there in 2006.
"I planned on retiring here," Roberts said. "I never thought anything would happen like this … My next move is to try and figure out how to sell all these units in the 10 days I have left."
Otherwise, Roberts said, he has to ship them to his other location in New England.
This move puts into play the fate of the current Camping World retail store that's located inside the Lazydays RV campus down the road. That site has operated there for years, even as the Lazydays RV dealership changed hands, because Lazydays founder Don Wallace still owns the land underneath and technically is the landlord to both the RV dealership and the Camping World store.
That relationship between Lazydays and Camping World recently turned sour, and the two remain in a legal tussle over that store.
Though Lemonis declined to offer details about the retail site in Lazydays, he did say "It wouldn't make sense to have two facilities that close."