Family-centered business has more to offer customers than just RV supplies
By Janie Boschma
With their first year as the proprietors of RVing Outpost under their belts, Julie and Greg Miklaszewicz plan to use the past year's experience to propel them forward into a successful future.
Located beside the Dollar General Store in the East Town Mall, Abbotsford, RVing Outpost is a haven for camping and outdoor enthusiasts. It carries a wide variety of products, ranging form gourmet food items to cast-iron cookware, RV awnings, pet supplies, maps and literature, fire rings and fishing supplies.
"It's been pretty wild." Julie said, in reference to the Miklaszewicz's first experiences in retail business. "It's a lot more work running a store than either one of us anticipated. The only thing we knew about is RVing, so we've learned a lot about people and working with the public."
In the past year they have been able to reach many goals, including television, billboard and newspaper advertising; developing a website and an online customer base; expanding the store's product line; and becoming active members of the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce.
RVing Outpost ships all over the United States and Canada, with a current customer history of 46 states, including Alaska and Hawaii, and four provinces. Their products are available online through eBay, Amazon and their website, rvingoutpost.com.
"We're so specialized that it's difficult for the community to support a store like ours, so the online market is huge for us." Julie said.
Growing up in a family who loved to travel, Julie was able to visit 48 states by her 18th birthday. In later years, she continued traveling extensively with Greg and their three children. Their years of experience with RVing and their vast expanse of camping knowledge allow the Miklaszewiczs to offer helpful information and advice to inquiring customers. Even while on vacation the Miklaszewiczs always remain available to their customers and are open to answering questions on their cell phone while they are out of town.
"We're not some faceless corporation, we're a family-run store," Julie said, also noting that family members often take over the store when the duo packs up the RV and hits the road with their kids.
The Miklaszewicz have several new goals for RVing Outpost in the upcoming years. Their number one challenge will be continuing to convince the public that their store carries more than just RVing supplies.
"We'll have people walk by and say oh, that's just the RV place' and keep walking," Greg said.
To help solve that problem, they have tried to spread the word about their broad line of products and prove their slogan, "we have something for everyone," is true. Another part of their goal is to combat the limitations of an RV's definition.
"Everyone has a different opinion of what an RV is," Julie said. "An RV is a recreational vehicle, whether it's a motorhome, a pop-up or travel trailer. We also want to focus on camping, instead of just RVing. Even if they are tent camping or are in the backyard, we have many products you can use and enjoy."
Besides advertising, the Miklaszewiczs have aimed to increase customer satisfaction and awareness by introducing products that are not otherwise readily available in the area. For example, their gourmet food is brought from various locations such as Indiana and Newfoundland. They also carry medium quality fishing supplies and bait that cannot be found locally and are not sold by RVing Outpost online.
"Our fishing gear is equally priced with Fleet Farm, so people don't have to travel to Marshfield or Wausau," Greg said.
They also make special orders through their distributor if customers are not able to find what they are looking for. Many customers have also been able to order custom sized replacement awnings or awning fabric.
"Just about anything they could need is in this [catalogue]," Julie said. "When we order on Tuesday, it usually comes in on Wednesday."
In the future they would also like the freedom of lowering store prices.
"The more we sell, the better prices we get from our distributors and then we can lower our prices, too," Julie said.
As members of the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce, the Miklaszewiczs realize the importance of boosting the local economy and are hoping to be able to make a positive impact.
"We need to work on getting Abbotsford's name out there and let people in Wausau, Marshfield and Eau Claire know what Abbotsford has to offer," Julie said. "If we can get people to stop form the highway, it will help other Abbotsford businesses. [They need to know] what's here for them. That's what we need to work on. A lot of that marketing can be done on the internet."
According to Julie, the RV industry has taken off, especially in recent years after 9/11, when more people became leery of flying. Even with the rise of gas prices, an extra $100-$150 spent on fuel is manageable, but does require budgeting the vacation a bit differently.
"An RV is a perfect way to spend time with the family," she said. "Now with more babyboomers retiring, they have more spendable income to purchase RVs and they will need the supplies to go with them. "