Historical Park Model Builder Captures Young Fans

A rise in a new camping demographics leads to higher-end finishes and a wide range of price points from Kropf Industries.

Industry studies have shown over and over that a younger demographic has entered the RV market in recent years — and that’s also true for park models.

“I think historically, park models have been sold to an older demographic — couples that have reached retirement, have been camping most of their lives, and desire a home away from home,” says Liz Wogoman, designer at Kropf Industries, Inc. “[They] have established the place they love and know how they like to experience it. We are continuing to see that; the majority of our customers are still retirees, but we’re seeing an increase in younger couples. Many have been drawn in by the appeal of glamping. Glamping is a relatively new concept and a very trendy term that encompasses a huge portion of the camping and outdoor hospitality market. Ultimately, the popularity of the term has helped to educate a new audience on an upscale camping experience they didn’t know was possible. We have provided that for years and are anxious to show customers what camping in a Kropf can feel like.”

Wogoman says Kropf’s Canvas or Lakeside models are a great fit for a younger demographic to enter the park model market at an attainable price. General Manager Trevor Kropf — the founder’s great-grandson — agrees.

Trevor Kropf

“If you’ve seen all the research that has been done in the past couple years, the overall age for the RV industry is down into the mid-30s. We’ve seen young families gravitate toward the Canvas and the Lakeside Series because they are a little bit more price-friendly for families that have younger kids.”

The Canvas series is an 11-foot by 36-foot park model with three floorplans. The series features laminate countertops, a 54-inch fiberglass shower, stone/tile backsplash, 18-cubic-foot refrigerator, sleeper sofa, full metal underbelly, and residential siding and shingles. “I know a lot of dealers and customers like the price point, but they also like the openness they feel as soon as they walk into it. They get to decide how to customize and fill that space after their purchase.”

“The bones of our build have not changed,” Wogoman adds. “We have merely simplified and streamlined to make our Canvas Series more attainable. The Canvas name was chosen in homage to the humble durability of a material Solomon Kropf used in his first trailer.

“Our product development team wanted to meet the demands of the cost-conscious segment of our market and that led us back to our young, frugal founder. Our great-grandfather saw the first days of RV manufacturing in Elkhart County. SoI wanted a vessel for family adventures and memories but needed to do so on a tighter budget. Seventy-eight years ago, he started a DIY project in his backyard that launched a business four generations strong. Now we get to see customers utilize their own DIY skills as they personalize our entry-level model as their ‘Blank Canvas.’  We think Sol would be proud of that connection.”

The Lakeside series is also 11 feet by 36 feet with seven floorplan options. Standard features include the same items as the Canvas, but more upgraded options are available in the Lakeside series.

The Return of the Eldorado

In 1952, Kropf Industries’ founder Solomon Kropf built the first Eldorado as a wedding gift to his son Robert and his bride, Dorothy. In 2022, the company reintroduced the Eldorado as its top-of-the-line, luxury model. The size varies from 11.5 feet by 35 feet to 12 feet by 35 feet across the six available floorplans. The Eldorado offers upscale residential finishes for the exterior and interior.

“I think the Eldorado has been such a success because a portion of our market is looking for high-quality, customizable options in a turn-key unit. During our 2023 open house, we introduced Diamond Kote siding and the reception has been amazing. Customers notice the Eldorado’s exterior differences immediately. They know this product will stand the test of time and are pleased to see the same quality finishes extend throughout the interior,” Wogoman says.

“I think the Eldorado is often for the graduated buyer; they have gone through the process of ‘roughing it’ and are now interested in all the comforts of home that a park model can provide. We’ve gotten a good response in the United States and in Canada,” Kropf says. “For the past two Toronto shows, one of our dealers has taken two Eldorados each and they both sold during the show. I think the Canadian market likes the luxurious feel of the Eldorado.”

Standard features in the Eldorado include solid surface countertops, 60-inch walk-in tile shower, premium siding package, standing seam metal roof, residential front door, soft-close cabinets, full height stone/tile backsplash, 48-inch fireplace, apron sink with accessories, 22-cubic-foot refrigerator, washer/dryer hookup option, leather upholstery, under-mount sinks, wood blinds, shiplap feature walls, Viewrail loft railing, 65-inch TV with surround sound, a king-size bed and smart thermostat.

While the Canvas and Eldorado provide options at either end of the spectrum, Kropf says the Island series is their “bread and butter.”

“Island series orders still comprise about 60% of our business. It’s a little bit price-friendlier than the Eldorado but still allows for a lot of the customizations.” The Island starts at 11.5 feet by 35 feet up to 12 feet by 35 feet and comes in 14 floorplan options. With dozens of upgrades available, standard features include an upgraded insulation, laminate countertops, 54-inch fiberglass shower, optional shake siding, staggered cabinetry with toe-kick, stone/tile backsplash, 18-cubic-foot refrigerator, wood blinds, and a queen-size bed.

Still Sold for Camping

Despite the recent rise in popularity of tiny houses, Kropf says their park models are still sold as a secondary dwelling for camping adventures. They are not intended as a permanent residence.

“We are governed by RVIA [RV Industry Association] and build to ANSI [American National Standards Institute] code, which assures consumers that appropriate qualifications are met in the construction of every Kropf unit. To carry the RVIA seal, park models must be marketed for recreation rather than a permanent residence. Owners in warmer states have been able to use their vacation spot for a lengthened season, but more and more owners wish to have access to their park model year-round. Sourcing new materials allows us to exceed code, improve insulation offerings and provide year-round usability. Now customers in northern states and even Canada can extend the bookends of their camping season.”

Kropf has always offered plenty of customization options, the general manager says. In fact, he recently came across an advertisement from 1980 that touted the company’s willingness to work with the customer to create exactly what that person wants.

“All these years later, lots has changed in the market, but what we strive for has remained the same: quality, versatility and providing what the customer wants,” Kropf says. “I think that’s why we’ve been around so long.”

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