Nevadans know how beautiful the state is. A drive in any direction brings mountain and waterfront views, lake fishing and camping, and other natural breathtaking treasures to be discovered.
Johnnie Walker, Sr., a proud Nevadan, noticed that the inexpensive, yet fulfilling, RV lifestyle was growing in popularity among Southern Nevada residents. They were ready to experience the beauty of the Southwest, and Johnnie Walker knew that he had an opportunity to provide an outlet for travelers and vacationers. Walker was already a small business owner with his family run grocery store, Stewart’s Market. In 1963, Walker sold Stewart’s Market to focus all of his attention on the growing and untapped RV market in Nevada.
Johnnie Walker RV started out selling mobile homes, and expanded to travel trailers a few years later. The business began modestly, taking one or two orders at a time. As demand grew for travel trailers, the company changed its business model from mobile homes to recreational vehicles in 1968. The company has been family owned since its founding, and has passed from Johnnie Walker, Sr. to Johnnie Walker, Jr., who ran the business until the early 2000’s, when Johnnie Walker Jr.’s son, West Walker, assumed leadership of the company. Today, the company is made up of about 80 employees, with numerous Walker family members in various positions, including West Walker (president), Darcy Walker-Fitch (vice president), Shelly Walker-Johnson (office manager) and Michael Walker (marketing director).
Over the past 50 years, Johnnie Walker RV has grown to be one of the largest RV dealerships in Nevada. The focus of the company is, and always has been, delivering high quality vehicles at family-friendly prices. Although usually steady, the company has seen its share of hard times.
During the recession Johnnie Walker RV saw a drastic decrease in RV sales and was forced to cut a number of their staff. Considering RVs are luxury items, financing them became more difficult, and with the drop in expendable income, the company found people were holding on to their RVs for a longer period of time. Older RVs meant more RV breakdowns and repairs needed. Accordingly, the company took this time to expand the RV service and parts departments.
“When times slowed down, we changed gears, ramping up our capacity in the service department by adding staff and constructing 10 service bays,” explained Darcy Walker-Fitch. “We experienced a boost in service traffic, which resulted in increased sales; it only makes sense that people would browse while getting their RV fixed.”
After downsizing to stay profitable in the recessed economy, Johnnie Walker RV has been able to return to the employment numbers the company had before hard times hit the country. Many of the employees that Johnnie Walker RV has on staff have been with the company for more than 15 years, several over 20. “This is something that we believe makes us special, and helps us to remain successful,” says Johnnie Walker, Jr. “Our employees have been with the company for not just years, but decades. Our employees are truly a part of the family; they are passionate about the company and everything we do, just like the Walker family. We’ve created an inviting, family friendly culture at Johnnie Walker RV, and customers often feel it in the air when they visit our stores.”
In addition to the employment growth, Johnnie Walker RV has made a large investment in company infrastructure for 2013-14. “We strive to always offer our clients the best product and service possible. When we had requests coming in for full body paint work, we realized that a paint booth was definitely something that we needed to have at Johnnie Walker RV,” said West Walker. This philosophy of constant growth and improvement led Johnnie Walker RV to open a paint booth, able to service all vehicles, from small trailers to the largest Class A motorhomes available. The company is also in the process of breaking ground on a new building at one of its three locations on Boulder Highway, replacing the original structure that Johnnie Walker RV has been calling home since 1963.
“It has been a fun fifty years,” Johnnie said. “The paint booth and the new building are just a few of the steps we have taken to ensure that the business is prepared to sustain for the next 50.” Johnnie Walker RV also aims to stay fresh and relevant in its marketing tactics. The team works to actively engage customers on Facebook and other social media, and they also run an information packed website. They have been participants in two reality television shows, Tanked on Discovery’s Animal Planet and Barter Kings on A&E. “We need to make sure that we are touching customers and potential customers in all areas of their life. We live in a very digital society, and Johnnie Walker RV isn’t going to be behind the times,” says Michael Walker. “Keeping up with the trends, and increasing our visibility will only help to ensure that we are around for another 50 years.”