After a fire ravaged Columbia, Mo.-based Loveall RVs in January and destroyed its main office and service facilities, a new building is nearly finished to get the company back on the road.
“Our contractor says Oct. 1, and we’re hoping optimistically for Sept.15,” David Duffy, owner and president told the Columbia Business Times.
The store will celebrate its grand reopening with a barbecue and a sale. “It will be a really fun event, and of course the building is new and fresh,” Duffy said. “It’s exciting to move into something like that.”
On Jan. 18, at about 1:40 a.m., the Boone County Protection District responded to the fire at Loveall RVs. The back half of the commercial building, which housed the eight maintenance bays, was completely burned, and the roof caved in. Although the back end was destroyed, the front end only received heat and smoke damage, and Duffy said he was able to keep about 85% to 90% of his business records.
Electrical engineers determined that the fire, which resulted in nearly $2 million in damage, was caused by a circuit breaker box that had a malfunction, Duffy said. The fire started “in a new unit that was being prepped for a customer who purchased it, and it was hooked to our power source,” he said. Of the nearly 300 RVs on the lot, only six were lost inside of the garage area, and two adjacent to the building were destroyed.
“We were very lucky,” Duffy said. “This fire was a grand test of will and determination. All the good things about people came out in this fire, and for that I am very grateful.”
According to the Columbia Business Times, it took about a month after the fire to get the company reorganized, but Loveall RVs was fully shut down for only 10 days. Duffy said business hurt for a while, but once they had phone and Internet service and a rental building to temporarily house offices, they were up and ready to go. “We couldn’t afford to [stay closed for long],” he said. “I think we needed to prove to people that we were going to be here.”
Loveall RVs is an iconic company in Missouri, having opened its doors in St. Louis in 1971. David Loveall formed Loveall RVs and eventually consolidated the company in Columbia. It has been at its current location on I-70 Drive off of exit 133 since 1995.
With nearly 300 units on the Loveall R’s lot, Duffy said the company prides itself in offering a full line of new and used RVs. They have everything from motorhomes to travel trailers.
“We probably have the largest pre-owned line in the state of Missouri,” Duffy said, “so we take a lot of pride in the fact that we offer a great selection.”
The 24 Loveall RV’s employees in its parts, sales, service and detail departments “are good people and have really been wonderful during difficult times like this when we haven’t been in offices,” Duffy said. The parts department has faced some of the greatest challenges, as it is functioning with about a 10th of its normal inventory because storage is limited.
“We’re very excited to get into the new building because we’re going to totally redo our parts department,” Duffy said. “We were so cramped before; we just didn’t have the space. We’ve dedicated more space now.”
Although the new facility will have the exact footprint as the building destroyed by the fire, the company has reallocated the space inside, and it is “going to be a great chance for us to start fresh and offer a great service,” Duffy said.
Duffy said Loveall RVs — and the industry as a whole — has seen a huge change economically in the past few years. It’s about half the size it was in 2005. “Anytime you have a discretionary item and the economy goes down, the discretionary item is the first to be cut,” he said.
With sales increasing during the past year, Duffy said customers have begun to adjust to higher gas prices. He added that people who want to go camping will find different ways to compensate for the expense and still enjoy a great experience. “The state of Missouri has some gorgeous state parks with great campgrounds, so you can go at an affordable price to some nice places,” he said.