LAS VEGAS – Earl Stoltzfus may not cast a huge physical shadow, but his grace, humility and business acumen over 45 years in the RV industry make a big imprint on those in the business.
For more images, see our photo gallery below.
Stoltzfus’ legacy was honored during Wednesday’s RV Dealers Association Annual Meeting when he was awarded the James B. Summers Award, given to honor individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the Association and its members.
Stoltzfus said he was genuinely surprised with the honor and was effusive in his thanks to the Association and praise to others during the ceremony. He was even more so during an exclusive interview later in the evening.
“I’m very please to be surrounded by a lot of very good people,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate with the RVDA and different 20 Groups I’ve been a part of. They really educated me.”
“I am so pleased the board chose to honor Earl this year,” RVDA President Phil Ingrassia said. “Earl supports the RVDA through thick and thin and provides the staff with great feedback and new ideas throughout the year.”
His father started the first family dealership in 1967 on his farm in Honey Brook, Pa. Earl wasn’t heavily involved at first, but he developed an interest in the business and opened another location about 45 miles away near West Chester, Pa., on a rented property.
By 1978, Stoltzfus was able to buy 14 acres to relocate his business, and things were on their way.
Stoltzfus served as an RVDA board member and currently is on board of delegates. He is a past chairman of board for the Pennsylvania RV and Camping Association. His dealership won the RV Quality Dealer of the Year Award in 1991.
If that was the end of the story, Stoltzfus probably would just be known as another successful RV dealership owner, but in the early 2000s, he decided to institute an Employee Stock Ownership Program, which would give ownership of the company to the employees.
“They become shareholders and owners of the company,” he said. “My goal was to develop an ownership culture and make it so that when they retire they can cash in. It had tax benefits for the company and for me. It worked out to be great,” he said.
Though the ESOP program was instituted by Stoltzfus, that doesn’t mean he just stepped aside and let Stoltzfus RV & Marine fend for itself.
“I’m still very involved in the company,” he said. “I made my step-son president the first part of this year. I’m slowly putting it into the hands of the next generation.”
View the full photo gallery from Day 2 at the RVDA show, here.