Lemke started with mobile homes prior to taking on the RVs. By 1980, he grew RV sales by taking on a line of motorhomes from Fleetwood, called Santana. Business was growing. Lemke had 2 RV dealerships and 6 mobile home dealerships. In 1989, Fred discontinued mobile home sales, but was selling RVs in Sacramento, San Jose and Lodi. He spent hours every day commuting between the locations, and putting in full days between the commutes. He said after a while, it was taking a toll on him. “In 1992, I downsized to just the Sacramento store where I could just concentrate on the local market,” Fred said. “I ended up doing better with just one location than I was doing with three!”
Happy Daze RVs slogan is “We Take Anything on Trade”. Lemke said back in the early days of the business, it all started with a livestock trade. “I had a rancher purchasing an RV, but he was having trouble coming up with the down payment,” he said. Fred said that everything has a value, and a lot of things have personal value to him. “I asked the rancher what he had available to trade for down payment in the form of livestock.” Fred said he ended up accepting an 800 pound steer and two pigs from the customer, and Fred ‘ponied’ up the down payment for the customer. “That was our first company pig roast,” he quipped. To this day, Happy Daze RVs will still take anything on trade. “All of our ornate outdoor western furniture as taken on trade too,” added Lemke.
Today, RV marketing is very aggressive. Many dealerships have large corporate ad budgets for television, radio and print. Lemke has a different and much simpler approach. “Forty to forty five percent of our business is repeat customers and referrals,” said Fred. “I would rather spend those advertising dollars going the extra mile for my customers, than giving them to the advertising agencies,” he added. The approach works. Happy Daze really is a happy place. You can talk to customers coming and going from sales and service, and for the most part, everyone has a smile on their face. It’s a very friendly atmosphere. Fred said customers are part of the Happy Daze RVs family. “We have fourth generation customers!” People don’t just come to work at Happy Daze RVs, they’re having fun and enjoy their work. Lemke said that he has employees now that have been around for 27 years. “I have retired a few as well,” said Lemke. He added that his current general manager, Ronnie Raddigan, started out cleaning out horse trailers and kept the RV lot clean. “I remember the first thing I told Ronnie was to grab a shovel and clean out all of the ‘garbage’ in a horse trailer I had,” explained Lemke. It’s not just the work environment. Fred explained that every employee has the tools and training to get the job done right, the first time. Sales staff members attend training weekly, and several service personnel are schooled and are RVDA and RVIA certified mechanics. These are the best and most important certifications in the RV industry.
About two years ago, Happy Daze RV expanded with a new location in Livermore, California. Fred explained that a good portion of his RV customers live in the San Francisco Bay area. “I thought it was time to provide a location for our customers in that area to get their service work done, so that they didn’t have to drive all the way to Sacramento,”
Fred said he holds the local community in high regards. Happy Daze RVs constantly supports the local community through a variety of charitable contributions. “You have to give back to your community,” he said. He provides use of RVs for a number of local event and fundraisers, donates RV rentals for fund raising events, and contributes to the local Cancer Societies, local schools and the Shriners.
Unlike a lot of RV dealership owners, Fred Lemke lives the RV life. “We vacation in RVs regularly,” he said. “I want to know what I am selling, and I want to know it well.” This is partially how Lemke determines which brands to offer his customers. “I don’t want problems for my customers,” he said. “I want to sell products from manufacturers that take care of their customers, so we are all on the same page,” he added. “An unhappy customer is bad for everyone; sales, service and the industry!” Lemke said Happy Daze will immediately drop a product line if any problems are encountered with the product and the manufacturer does not take care of the product and the customer.
Happy Daze RV offers RV rentals for local customers. Lemke’
So what makes Happy Daze RVs so different from other RV dealerships?