The longtime owner of Bakersfield's best-known and highest-profile RV dealership has died.
Mike Stier, who for decades owned Stier’s RV, readily identifiable by its massive American flag, died Friday at his Bakersfield home. He was 71 and had suffered from cancer and the effects of treatment since 2005, according to the Bakersfield Californian.
Stier’s vast, 50,000-square-foot recreational vehicle showroom, opened in January 2000, dwarfs some basketball arenas. The facility, on 10 acres near the Bakersfield Auto Mall, was sold in 2004 to Camping World, whose general manager ordered the 40-foot by 70-foot flag lowered to half-staff in Stier’s honor.
In the early 2000s, Stier’s RV was one of the top five RV dealers in sales volume in the state.
Stier grew up in the Monterey County farm town of Salinas. As a high school student he ran two miles a day through a lettuce field to get to his 35-cents-an-hour job picking lettuce and broccoli. He boasted he could fill up a box of lettuce faster than anyone in his work crew. Later he sold sewing machines and televisions on a street corner.
Upon graduation in 1966, Stier served in the U.S. Marine Corps for three years, a deployment that included a year in Vietnam. Discharged from the Marines in 1969, he attended Hartnell College in Salinas but, finding his classmates in those difficult days less than friendly to veterans, left without graduating. As a result of that experience, he often professed admiration for "C" students and skepticism about the value of college. Nevertheless, he sent his three daughters to university educations.
At age 24, Stier was hired by a camper-shell company and in 1973 was offered the chance to branch out on his own in one of two territories: Bakersfield or Las Vegas. He studied the markets, chose Bakersfield and was forever happy with his decision — although he would later enjoy frequent trips to Vegas. He set up shop in an old gas station at Terrace Way and Union selling camper shells, cab-over campers and similar products. In setting up his business, according to his wife Cathi Stier, he told the bank he already had the property secured and told the property people he already had bank financing lined up.
Stier is survived by wife Cathi, daughters Kaylee and Stevie, and granddaughter Addison. Services are tentatively set for Tuesday, Jan. 21, at the Bakersfield National Cemetery on East Bear Mountain Boulevard, near Highway 58.