MARION (WSIL) — Southern Illinois is known for its outdoor recreation. Camping, hunting, and fishing make it a destination for thousands of visitors each year many bringing their home-on-wheels with them.
Wednesday, Gander RV opened its doors, adding to the growing list of local RV services and sales.
And the RV business still has room for more growth.
"When we first got into the business, we thought we might sell 100 or so RVs a year. We’ll sell over 500 this year," said Black Diamond RV Co-Owner Shad Zimbro.
Zimbro says the RV business is much bigger than they expected when they began just two year ago, and now they’re expanding their services and say Gander RV is a natural addition to the growing market.
"I understand Gander coming in here," Zimbro said. "They have a great location – Marion, southern Illinois is a great place right here on the interstate – there’s such great places to go camping around here."
Gander Outdoors manager Billy Roseberry said there are multiple choices for campers.
"Shawnee National Forest, Giant City, Crab Orchard; Rend Lake is just down the road and so, looking at the number of campgrounds you’ve got around here, the outdoor enthusiast in the community, it really is a no-brainer to have a facility like this here."
Roseberry says Gander RV has a full-service center and will keep around 200 RVs on their lot once fully opened.
"The RV industry has exploded over the last several years," said Roseberry, adding that the research suggests Gander and Black Diamond will compliment, rather than compete with each other. "There’s more than enough market share in the community for both of us to operate."
Marion Mayor Mike Absher was at Gander’s opening today and says the city welcomes the new business. He says Marion has had a reputation for being the car-capital of Southern Illinois for many years.
"It’s evident today Marion is also the RV Capital of Southern Illinois," Absher said. "And those are very exciting things to happen for our city and we’re very happy about that."
"I’d love for it to be the RV capital of Illinois," Zimbro said. "There’s some great dealers that’s been around here for a long time. And with us and Camping World coming in, hopefully it just helps those other dealers out, and we can just all work together and just make southern Illinois the best camping area in Illinois."
Gander R-V says its working towards building a nationwide-service network so customers can reach them on any of their camping destinations.