RV war shaping up in Ashland

General RV Center moved into the Northlake Industrial Park in Ashland. (J. Elias O'Neal)

General RV Center moved into the Northlake Industrial Park in Ashland. (J. Elias O’Neal)

A new-to-market company has rolled into town with a $20 million plan to capture a chunk of the Mid-Atlantic RV market – and it’s lured some former salespeople of a nearby competitor to gain its foothold.

Michigan-based General RV Center is planting its first Virginia RV dealership in Hanover County’s Northlake Industrial Park at 12195 Harley Club Drive in Ashland.

General RV opened the center Monday led by general manager Ed McNamara, who has 40 years of RV sales experience – the last eight at McGeorge Rolling Hills RV, which has a massive lot less than a mile north.

McGeorge was acquired earlier this year by Camping World Holdings – a publicly traded retail conglomerate that now owns Camping World RV dealerships and outdoor gear retailer Gander Mountain.

McNamara said McGeorge’s deal with Camping World left him with a few options: stay with the new owners, retire or leave to start something new.

“I had a relationship with the family of General RV,” McNamara said. “I decided it was time to leave, and help General RV launch their new facility here.”

He wasn’t alone.

From left: sales manager Bo Hurst, salesman Bryan Holiday and general manager Ed McNamara.

From left: sales manager Bo Hurst, salesman Bryan Holiday and general manager Ed McNamara.

More than 30 former McGeorge salespeople and staff followed him to the new Ashland venture, drawn in part by a second-phase expansion in the works to the tune of $20 million.

General RV is in the process of purchasing nearly 70 acres adjacent to its Harley Club Road location, which would be extended to allow for a 70,000-square-foot facility with 40 service bays. Another 20 acres will be dedicated to RV displays, including mounted RVs stretching from Ashcake Road to the Richmond Harley Davidson facility facing Interstate 95.

“The visibility alone is important,” McNamara said of the property overlooking I-95. “It’s an advantage to have that kind of frontage.”

General RV hopes to open the facility by early 2019, when it would look to expand its local workforce to 150 people.

Started in the 1960s, General RV Center is a family-owned company selling popular RV brands including Tiffin, Coachmen Motor Homes, Fleetwood and Holiday Rambler.

The company operates 12 sales and service facilities in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Utah and Florida. It has plans to beef up its presence in the Mid-Atlantic – with Virginia as its hub.

“It’s at the heart of the East Coast,” McNamara said. “From this location, we’re going to capture people leaving and heading down to Florida, as well as people in the area looking to purchase RVs.”

A general contractor has yet to be selected to complete the proposed expansion.   

The roadway extension also will open roughly 50 acres of vacant property, which General RV hopes to sell, pending county approvals.

In the meantime, it is outfitting the 35,000-square-foot Harley Club Road facility to accommodate a service center with 26 bays, along with office space for sales staff, McNamara said. The company also plans to pave most of the 6 acres to house about 140 RV units.

“This gets us started,” McNamara said. “The bigger piece is still in the works.”

Richmond-based Emerald Construction is the current project’s general contractor and Ashland-based McKinney & Co. completed the engineering work.

General RV’s sales territory is expected to serve a 250-mile radius from its Ashland location, which takes it well beyond the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore metros, and south into the Hampton Roads area.

Once the new facility is constructed in 2019, McNamara expects to produce roughly $100 million in annual sales.

Rendering of the 35,000-square-foot Harley Club Road facility. (General RV)

Rendering of the 35,000-square-foot Harley Club Road facility. (General RV)

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