Fun N Sun owner grateful for years, headed to retirement

Dennis Grossenbacher poses for a photo behind the service counter at Fun N Sun RV on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021 in Ludington, Mich. Grossenbacher semi-retired after 50 years of being in the RV business in Ludington and Coopersville. (David Bossick/Ludington Daily News via AP)

AMBER TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Dennis Grossenbacher built the family business he wanted, seeing ups and downs along the way, but he feels good knowing that as he goes into semi-retirement, he knows the staff and customers of Fun N Sun RV will be in good hands.

Grossenbacher’s last day was Dec. 17 as the leader of the firm and something he’s been involved in for more than 50 years.

“Since I was between 12 and 13-years-old, I started working with my brother,” he said from his office in Amber Township with many boxes still there and employees getting everything in shape for after the dealership’s sale. “He was just starting a dealership in Coopersville. He had his regular job. He was a carpenter, and they had a building business. They kind of started this on the side. His wife would work during the day. I would work, wash trailers and everything and just evolved from there.”

Grossenbacher didn’t stay his full career in the RV business. He left for three years in his early 20s for a larger dealership, but decided to come back in 1981.

“That’s when we incorporated as Fun N Sun,” he told the Ludington Daily News.

Not every year was a great year for business. The original Fun N Sun was dissolved at one point, and Grossenbacher started FNS RV with a doing-business-as permit titled Fun N Sun.

“We’ve been on a rollercoaster ride. From the 16% interest rates, and we made it through all of those times to things. It’s been good years and bad years and times where we didn’t think we’d make through the next payroll,” Grossenbacher said.

One of the trouble spots was when banks were refusing to finance the purchase of trailers in 2008 when the recession hit. That forced Grossenbacher to sell his products, and he also had to let all of his salespeople go.

“With that little bit of a floorplan in Ludington, we made an arrangement with West Shore Bank to secure us enough to get a bigger floorplan. One thing led to another with the factory assisting us with a floorplan, we were able to grow again and that’s when we bought the store out of the other one and continued to grow,” Grossenbacher said.

But the company did survive, and right into the COVID-19 pandemic. Like some other industries, the RV business boomed during the pandemic.

“At the time COVID hit, we were at almost $9 million in floor plans of trailers, about close to 450 units. We were like, this will take us down. We’re not going to make it,” he said. “But as soon as people started getting out and found out we can camp, we can be outdoors, it was such a blessing to have that inventory. Last year was our best year ever, and this year, we’re way ahead of last year.”

Another dealer in the state inquired about whether Grossenbacher was considering retirement and whether he would sell his business. He and his wife went to Florida and thought it over, looking at the value of the business. He reached to an old friend in Indiana, and that led to a dealer based in Idaho made the right connection, named Bish’s. Representatives with the company came out, and they received a tour.

“We do a different way of setting up our units. They’re more of a turn-key for the customer and they’re ready at these seasonal parks around here,” Grossenbacher said. “That’s been our bread and butter.”

Fun N Sun is a family business where Grossenbacher’s niece and nephew work in the Coopersville store. There’s a grandson that works in the company, and Dennis and Pat’s daughter works in the Amber Township store. Being in business is a bit of a family tradition as the Grossenbacher’s son owns Coopersville Brewing Co. in Coopersville.

“It’s been a family business with a lot of families,” he said. “We have a lot of people who are inter-related over the years that worked for us.”

Grossenbacher said he kept his family, employees and customers in mind when he began the search to sell his business. The sale to Bish’s made the most sense.

“They’re definitely a family business. They truly care about their customers. And they have so many more resources that I ever dreamed of having and doing a better job of taking care of the service. I feel extremely blessed that I found them. Everything that they’re doing is positive, positive, positive. I don’t know a single employee that wasn’t offered a pay raise to stay. Better 401K. Better health insurance with more benefits, lower deductible.”

Bish’s is a national RV dealer that stretches from coast to coast, and they’ve got plans for Fun N Sun that calls for changes to the buildings on the property’s footprint. Looking over the plans and discussing what Bish’s is doing for the employees of Fun N Sun brought tears to the eyes of Grossenbacher.

“They’re putting in these improvements, and I can’t complain,” he said. “It’s a lot more professional way of doing it. I’m so excited for the employees. I told them I almost wish I could come work for them.”

He also is grateful for the longtime customers he’s sold to and serviced.

“There is a couple… we delivered their camper over at P.M. Oaks, which is over by Big Star Lake,” he said. “She brought me a list of all the trailers she bought from me and my brother of the years, 17 units that they purchased.

“There’s another person locally who built a home here… At one time he had two trailers, one for pulling and one for leaving at Poncho’s Pond. But he retired and they ended up building a house up here, and he bought a trailer from us and my daughter believes it is his 20th,” Grossenbacher said.

“If you take care of the people, they come back. We’re starting to see three generations.”

He does plan to stay in the Ludington area, with the property for Fun N Sun leased to Bish’s. And he and his wife own property just off of Pere Marquette Highway for trailer storage.

“I do indoor/outdoor storage. Winter storage are all filled. If anything, we could use more of that indoor storage for big things, big toys,” Grossenbacher said. “Then in the summer time, people live in Midland or Lansing and they’re camping in Poncho’s Pond or the state park. They’re coming back in three weeks to a campground here and they don’t want to pull their trailer all the way home.”

He said he also transports trailers for people, such as those who camp seasonally at Buttersville Park.

“I’ll be doing things, but the other thing we really want to do is I’ve delivered trailers all over the country, but we’ve never really stopped. We want to do the national parks and those things our customers have been telling us over these years.”

Grossenbacher was appreciative of the community.

“I can’t say enough about how the community has helped to us grow. The new people have bigger visions than mine,” he said.

With the changes that are planned, he said he’ll take a lot of pride in what’s to come from Bish’s.

“It means a lot to me. It really does,” he said. “It’s been my whole life. It’s going to be so cool to drive by and see the improvements and say, ‘Hey, I started that.’”

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