The silver bullet known as an Airstream trailer has roamed the nations highways since the 1930s. Its as iconic as a Coke bottle. The start of summer brings with it thoughts of exploring and camping. For some people, that means hitching up the Airstream and heading out on the highway.
But consider this: An Idahoan makes on average $33,000 a year, which makes it difficult to buy an Airstream. Yet a dealership has opened in Nampa a sign that southern Idahos economy could be on the upswing.
Judy and Duyane Canada are living the Airstream dream. Duyane Canada has owned those unforgettable trailers for more than 30 years. He first bought one to live in because he got tired of paying rent.
He still remembers that trailer. The interior design of it was beautiful, he says. And the exterior of course was beautiful. Theyre functional. They last forever. And so I thought, Well, here we have quality at a wonderful price, so I just indulged and Ive never looked back.
Duyane had that trailer for 26 years and sold it for more than he paid. Then he bought another one. After his wife retired, the Meridian couple spent three years crisscrossing the country in the trailer. Judy Canada says she learned early on that Airstream owners cant be shy.
People come over and they will say, Oh, my grandpa had one of those. Oh, my mom and dad traveled in one of those, she says.
Airstream Adventures Northwest owner Ted Davis understands the allure. His Nampa lot displays about a dozen shiny new models ranging in price from $38,000 to $138,000.
Were competing for luxury lifestyle dollars, Davis says. Were competing for the individual that wants to go out and buy the airplane, the boat, the second or third house.
One might question a decision to open that kind of dealership when the economy is still inching along. Sales of trailers nationwide took a dip in 2009 but have steadily rebounded.
Boise State Universitys John Church tracks and forecasts the local economy. He says the dealership has a chance.
Not too surprising to see an upscale firm of any type look at this market and say, Its got some legs. Its going to get better. And it was good in the past. It should be good in the future, Church says.
He says there are good indications the economy might be headed up. Commercial activity is on the rise in Downtown Boise. Theres a skyscraper going up in the heart of the city. Simplots JUMP project is under way, and a Whole Foods is taking shape.
Ted Davis says the market is perfect for his trailers. I firmly believe that theres not a better market for this product, because of the phenomenal outdoors that we have, Davis says. I mean, you can spend your life exploring the Northwest and never see it all.
So far his strategy has worked. Davis started his Oregon store in 2010. He opened the Seattle branch last year. Both locations are leading sellers for the brand, according to Airstreams president and CEO Bob Wheeler.
Theyve really been the poster child for how a focused dealership can really succeed and succeed very quickly, Wheeler says.
He says Davis is among a handful of dealers who focus on selling one brand. Wheeler wants to use that model to expand into markets where Airstream has little presence, such as Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Miami and Phoenix.
Davis says half of his customers want a luxury lifestyle. The others are like Judy and Duyane Canada, who want to explore.
For Judy, Airstream represents a community of like-minded travelers. She says a trip to Oregon last year with fellow Airstreamers made her feel like a kid again.
We were hiding behind these huge redwood trees and jumping out and scaring each other, Judy says. And one that had fallen, you know, thats just huge around, youre trying to look like youre holding it up.
The Canadas went back on the road several weeks ago, headed to Montana and then Alberta, Canada.
Meanwhile, Ted Davis officially opened his Nampa Airstream dealership last month, confident that the southern Idaho economy will continue to pick up.