With more than 60 years of experience in the outdoor hospitality industry, Pilot Rock, a division of Cherokee, Iowa-based R.J. Thomas Manufacturing Company Inc., is a name many campground owners probably recognize.
The company manufacturers a variety of products, including benches, fire rings, grills and much more.
R.J. Thomas Manufacturing was founded by R.J. and Doris Thomas in 1959 after R.J., who served in the U.S. Naval Construction Battalion as a Machinist’s Mate, First Class, followed his dream of opening a business, according to Steve Thomas, R.J. Thomas’ son, who currently runs the business.
The company’s first product was the “Pulver Rooter,” a device that R.J. invented to help farmers cultivate and plow corn and cotton fields.
Today, the hot products flying off the shelf include tables, benches, grills, fire rings and trash containers, according to Bob Simonsen, marketing manager at the company.
“This past year has been a crazy busy one for us,” he noted to WOODALLSCM.com (WCM). “Last year, when things shut down across the country, our traditional commercial and government agency customers kind of shut down, but our consumer and retail online sales just exploded, so that kept us busy last year. That’s still holding true into this year, where we have more consumer and retail customers contacting us, along with the commercial and government agency customers who are now back in the market.”
The company is currently trying to address consumer demand by offering products through various internet portals and through more retail locations, such as Walmart and Target.
Simonsen noted that the company has had to deal with rising material costs, especially when it comes to wood and steel.
“Prices on materials have just been going up,” he explained. “The hardest part for us is trying to keep up and manage the supply chain issues we have had. We have had material shortages on things that would normally take us weeks to get, but now it is taking us months. We have never seen a year like this before.”
Backlogs are still in pretty decent shape, according to Simonsen, with fire rings and grills taking about three weeks to ship and tables, depending somewhat on materials, around four to six weeks.
“We haven’t gotten too much pushback from customers, they are aware of the situation,” Simonsen said.
He told WCM that he agrees with the sentiment that the industry isn’t going to be slowing down anytime soon.
“We have never seen anything like this before,” Simonsen explained. “Sometimes you wonder what is driving all of this interest, but it doesn’t seem to be slowing down too much at all yet.”