Hall of Fame President Darryl Searer

Darryl Searer was vacationing down in Florida when he got a call back in January 2012 that the RV/MH Hall of Fame was in danger of closing.

As reported by the South Bend Tribune, the RV industry was barely two years removed from the darkest days of the recession when sales figures fell off the ledge and the unemployment rate in Elkhart County — the epicenter of the industry — briefly touched 20%.

The Hall of Fame, which unfortunately opened just prior to the recession, had about $5.5 million in debt — mostly from construction loans — and it was finding it nearly impossible to keep up with its bills.

Searer, who previously served as treasurer and a board member, briefly thought about simply collecting the plaque that honors his accomplishments as founder of Elkhart-based Ultra-Fab Products, which provides a variety of aftermarket products for the RVing community.

“They were very close to turning the keys over to creditors, and just moving the collection over to an empty grocery store,” said Searer.

But after spending considerable time talking to friends in the industry and mulling it over, Searer decided to do something about it.

Luckily, Ultra-Fab was in the capable hands of his brother, and Searer didn’t want to see the highly visible 85,000-square-foot complex on the south side of the Indiana Toll Road, just east of County Road 17, get closed down.

“It would have been a monstrous black eye for the RV industry, Elkhart and Elkhart County,” said BJ Thompson, a member of the RV/MH board and president of the marketing and public relations firm BJ Thompson Associates.

After all, the RV and manufactured housing industries were still recovering from the devastation of the recession and the community was still licking its wounds after being used as a poster child for the Great Recession.

On March 18, 2012, Searer decided to come out of retirement, agreeing to take over as president and chief operating officer of the facility, which honors pioneers of the RV and manufactured housing industries and displays some 60 historic RVs dating from 1913.

And he decided to do it for free.

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