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Coming on the heels of another strong summer camping season, many vendors who provide products and services to campgrounds are likewise enjoying strong business.

That’s certainly true for the companies providing essential sanitation products to RV parks and campgrounds, at least for the key players who talked to Woodall’s Campground Management.

“It’s been a very good year,” said Christine Kornely, owner of the Tower Co. in Manitowoc, Wis. “I think campgrounds have done really well this year, and so the Tower Co. has done well this year.”

To hear Korneley and others tell it, there are a few different factors driving the growth in business: After several years of solid camping seasons, campgrounds are looking to upgrade existing equipment; RV park operators are upgrading their parks, in some cases adding sewer hookups to sites or installing additional dump stations; RV resorts and campgrounds are adding sites, again leading to more hookups, dump stations and/or honey wagons; and new parks are being built.

And in addition to those factors, another trend has been a benefit to Phelps Honey Wagon Inc., the venerable Dillsburg, Pa., company that has long been a mainstay supplier to campgrounds across the country. That trend is parks changing hands, said Ron Shannon, who owns and operates the business with his wife, Jaylene.

“Even though it is a honey wagon, you still want the apparatus to look professional.

A lot of times, whether it’s corporate or an individual, a new owner moves in and thinks, ‘That’s what I have to replace.’ After all, even though it’s not something that’s pleasant, you don’t want your guests to see a rusty honey wagon.”

And it’s not surprising that park owners are paying more attention to providing sewer hookups for guests. The 2016 North American Camping Report, commissioned by Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), showed that just as many campers find full-hookup sites important as do people who find a campground store important, and full-hookup sites are important to more people than swimming pools.

Below is what you’ll find going on with some of the leaders in the sanitation products portion of the RV park and campground sector.

Enviro Design Products

Ormond Beach, Fla.

866-514-3684

www.EnviroDesignProducts.com

edp2Enviro Design Products has had a rocky year, but it’s also been a good year in purely business terms, according to Freddie Laker.

Laker stepped in to take over the business when his brother and the company owner, William “Biff” Watts, had a major motorcycle wreck in January. “He was in a coma for 40 days. I was able to step in and take over along with my businesses,” Laker explained.

Enviro Design has been around since the early 1990s, selling Footloose foot-operated sewer caps and the Gator hose restrictor, as well as well caps and manhole covers. The company’s notable for its bright orange, white or yellow sewer caps.

William Watts

William Watts

And while Laker had to quickly get up to speed — “If you’d have asked me two years ago if I’d be selling sewer products, I never would’ve dreamed it” — he did, and the team at Enviro Design Products managed to grow the company this year.

“We have a great reputation for well plugs and sewer caps. We’re number one in online searches,” Laker pointed out. “We’ve taken a major strategy shift and almost doubled the size of the business this year.”

The company did that by beefing up its online commerce efforts and improving support for the distributors that carry the company’s products.

While the campground sector’s rising tide certainly helped the company grow, Laker said the online push was a key component. “We’re there front and center now — though I think the general growth of the industry probably helped us, not only being good at selling directly but also making sure we give our distributors all the tools in the world to sell our products.”

The company’s big seller remains the Footloose, Laker said, though he noted that something new is coming next year.

“We’ll be releasing some products in the near future that are a complete package, a complete solution,” expanding into RV sewer hose offerings along with the caps. The expanded product line should be unveiled in the second quarter of 2017, Laker said.

Meanwhile, Watts continues to recuperate from his crash. “I hope he’s able to come back and run it one day,” Laker said of his brother.

Phelps Honey Wagon Inc.

Dillsburg, Pa.

800-463-3707

www.phelpshoneywagon.com

phelps-honey-wagon-logoShannon said his company has kept busy, just like his customers. “It’s been a good year. You can tell campgrounds are busy. It’s been a positive year for the camping industry, and so it’s been a positive year for us.

“The expansions, guys are talking to us all the time, ‘I’m looking to expand my park.’ If they’re 100% sewer, sometimes when they expand they won’t put sewer hookups in to all sites at first, or won’t for a while,” he explained. “Sometimes it’s just cost, and sometimes it’s not feasible from the ground texture. I have one guy in Colorado who says his ground’s all granite, so he’s not messing with that.

shannon-20-edit“In other places, if you’re too close to a pond, stream or river — and that’s where people want to camp — a lot of places have more restrictions. That’s why people end up servicing those with a honey wagon.”

So what is a honey wagon? Simply put, it’s a portable tank to help handle campground waste. The company was founded in 1970 by the owners of a 400-plus site campground, and the Shannons bought the business 11 years ago.

“Everything’s pretty much stayed the same,” Ron said. “We have seen a couple of people mounting tanks and pumps onto trucks — and we can do that for them — but our trailers are the most popular.”

Not only can they provide necessary waste disposal for RV sites, they can also help in an emergency when rental cabins have full or plugged sewage tanks.

“Bathroom cleanliness is a quick fix when customers complain but sewer problems are a different animal. Having a honey wagon around for fast solutions to sewer problems can save you more money than it costs you to purchase one,” according to the company.

A significant amount of the company’s business is service and replacement parts, since some owners get 20 to 30 years out of their units.

“A lot of it depends on maintenance,” he said. “If you take care of it and do your regular maintenance, some guys get longer than that.”

Ultimately, he said, “The best thing they can do to extend the life of their piece of equipment is run fresh water through the pump and clean everything up when they’re done pumping for the day. If it’s cleaned up and an ample amount of water’s run through it, you’re extending the life of your equipment hugely.”

The Tower Co.

Manitowoc, Wis.

800-945-1532

www.TowerCompany.com

tower-logo-redrawnNovember is one of Kornely’s favorite times of the year because she gets to see many of her customers during the fall campground shows.

This year she’s headed to the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds Outdoor Hospitality Conference and Expo and to the Kampgrounds of America Inc. Convention and Expo. “I’m anxious to see my customers. I always like the fall shows, talking to people about how their year has gone,” she told WCM.

“This is such a great industry. It’s a small industry and you get to know people. The industry is a very special industry. You get to know people and family owned businesses and learn what’s happening.”

Of course, she’d heard from a lot of her customer who have had good years, just like her company.

christine-kornely-tower-coThe company’s signature product, the Romort Water Tower, has been around since 1961, and many of the products from the first few decades are still out there, said Kornely, who bought the company in 1998.

“We have products that have been out there 30, 40 years. I always like to hear from people who’ve had the product for a very long time and get a new one. People send me the old serial plate and I can go back in the records and see right when they bought it.”

This year, she said, “We’ve had lots of replacement business, lots of new ones.”

The company also sells sewer caps, sewer hatch covers, dump site instructional signs, potable water signs and even jumbo tweezers for litter pick-up.

“We’re seeing a lot of expanding parks. Some people have not put in an industry-accepted dump station, there are places that have the hose on the ground. It’s surprising, but they’re upgrading. Some are expanding, some are replacing, and there’s new parks going in,” she said.

In addition to selling water towers, “dump stations are popular. If you’re a big park you need more than one,” she pointed out. “Everyone gets around to paying attention to their dump station at some point, and this has been a good year for that.”

And while the products have a long lifespan, Kornely said her biggest focus is customer service. “It’s hard to improve on a product that’s so well designed, but we really believe in customer service. I’m excited to take care of my customers. One of my favorite parts is when someone calls when they’re putting together their tower and we can help them through that.”