- Jul13th ’16
Driftwood RV Center: Family Owned Tradition
with a focus on Today's Market
Local, hands-on family ownership is a tradition at Driftwood RV Center: one that sets it apart in today's world of corporate dealerships and buyouts. RV buyers want to know who they are dealing with; and trust that those people will be there for them today, tomorrow and into the future. An area fixture since 1977, Driftwood RV Center recently took on the task of finding a way to build on its reputation for industry leading customer service while retaining the commitment to quality that comes with family ownership.
Driftwood RV Center and Camping Resort was started over 29 years ago by Malcolm and Jean Robertson as a small family campground of approximately 150 sites. With customer satisfaction as a top priority, the camping resort has grown to 700 sites on over 250 acres of serene Cape May County woodlands. Their two sons, Malcolm and Edson, have spearheaded the growth of this company which today has expanded to include a second Resort campground, two full service RV dealerships, and Sand Barrens Golf Club, a 27 hole, world class golf course
Maintaining that tradition while responding to the changing needs of today's customers is a challenge for any business, but one that Driftwood RV Center has risen to meet. Recently the dealership's two locations have been renovated to offer the most up-to-date customer experience available, both in sales and service. New state-of-the art service bays have been added to accommodate today's RVs. New sales and business offices, computer systems, and parts and accessories stores were all designed with an eye to customer service.
A brand new sales and service center was built at the company's Cape May County, NJ headquarters, featuring the region's only indoor, heated RV showroom.
Working in partnership with area campgrounds is a key aspect in meeting customers' expectations. "Customers are looking for a turn-key answer to their needs. It's no longer enough to just sell them an RV, they want a one-stop place to get the Park Model they want and also the site they need to place it; and they want to be in a premier camping resort," Edson Robertson said. "That's the reason we are reaching out to campgrounds in the area: to show how we can team up to meet the needs of our common customers better and more efficiently than in the past.
A major change has been the emergence of the "Destination Camping" segment of the business. The traditional RVer was looking to get away, travel and see the country. That is still a huge part of the business, but over the past two decades, the dealership has moved heavily into serving a different clientele as well, one that is looking more for a second, vacation home. This growing customer base, combined with Driftwood RV Center's fortunate proximity to both the seashore and the mountain vacation areas, has led to a huge market for Park Models and Park Trailers. The Robertson brothers were some of the early visionaries who recognized, and built upon this emerging segment.
Another unique offering that helped give rise to Driftwood's emergence as the leader in Destination Camping is its in-house room and deck division, which is recognized throughout South Jersey for its quality. Featuring designs by Better Living, Driftwood's carpenters and contractors ensure that customers' room and deck additions to their Park Models is a seamless fit. "Having our own Room and Deck division has been a key asset to our customers. They know they can count on us to do the job correctly, and on-time and the cost of the room and deck can be conveniently financed right along with the purchase of the RV. Plus it fits into our goal of providing a one-stop location for the complete process," Robertson said.
Driftwood RV Center has also embarked on a number of comprehensive marketing and communications projects, including revamping the website, and installing a state-of-the-art computer system designed to seamlessly meet the needs of the customers, whether they visit the Dealership's Cape May or Atlantic County locations.
In addition, a customer newsletter Get the Drift was established to keep current and future customers informed on what is happing both at Driftwood RV Center and in the RV industry. The newsletter's name mirrors the new marketing campaign: Get the Drift! which emphasizes that RVing is not just about hitches and wheels, it is about quality time with friends and family. "We want people to understand that RVing is a lifestyle. It's about Friends and Family, it?s not just about the RV itself. "Jul13th ’16
DENNIS TOWNSHIP, N.J. - Back from the pool, the ladies buzzed around the kitchen, preparing a late lunch - nothing special, they said, just some chicken cutlets, London broil, tomato salad, and fried dough.
The kids were at the game room playing Dance Dance Revolution, or maybe getting slushies at the general store.
The men sat under tall trees by the fire pit overlooking the old-time pavilion and ball fields, drinking their first beers of the day. Just as it always does, the chop-busting started early.
There was Frankie Buono. The big guy hates to sweat and hasn't been to the pool in 10 years.
And then came Richie Nawalany. Don't get him started on Philadelphia politics.
They call John Latanzo "Blah-Blah" because he's always chatting up new friends.
Where was Ronnie "Depot" Tini? Where else but at Home Depot.
Maybe later somebody would break out the karaoke machine.
For the gang from 10th and Oregon, it was another Saturday afternoon at the Driftwood Camping Resort.
For 23 summers, this tight-knit group of South Philadelphians has brought its neighborhood fun to the rustic roadside camping ground on Route 9 in Cape May County, just miles from the beaches at Sea Isle City and Avalon and 20 minutes from the Wildwood boardwalk.
The Driftwood, with its comfortable, ranch-style mobile homes, is an escape from concrete backyards that, unlike island rentals, doesn't break the bank.
"It's a hidden treasure," said Latanzo, 42, a union electrician who grew up at Ninth and Oregon and now lives near the Italian Market. He has come down with his wife, Tara, and sons, Johnny, 11, and Alex, 10, for more than a decade.
"You can't beat it," he said before heading off to shoot some hoops with the kids.
The Driftwood is one of many summer campgrounds that line routes to the Shore. On its wooden roadside sign is the image of man snoozing in a cabana shirt.
There are about 700 mobile homes and trailers, most of them spacious and updated with additions and decks and aluminum siding. Nearly all are sited, year-round, in rented lots.
There are a lake and tennis courts. And the recreation pavilion offers talent shows and Quizzo nights.
On this afternoon, there was a dog contest at which the Latanzos' chocolate-Lab-and-pit-bull mix, Cole, won "biggest dog."
"What's that mean, 'biggest' dog?" needled Buono, 43, as Cole jumped on him. "That's like winning for darkest dog. Come on."
Homes at the park, which is open March through November, cost roughly $30,000 to $90,000. Owners pay an annual site fee that tops out around $4,500, said Driftwood staff member Nancy McCandless.
Smaller trailers and cabins can be rented daily.
"For a working man, it's perfect," said Joe Folino, 36, a groundsman at Widener University. On his lap was his 16-month-old daughter, Anna Lucia, the newest member of the contingent.
Latanzo's parents, Frank and Sue, found the Driftwood in 1987. Word spread, and now about 10 families from the neighborhood make the trek.
"It's a little slice of South Philly," said Buono's wife, Joy, 40. They own a place just a few lanes over from the Latanzos. Her husband, who owns a trucking company, calls it his "cave" - that's how dark and cold he keeps it.
"We're like one big family here," said Nawalany, 64, who works for the Delaware River Port Authority. He was dumping some Rolling Rocks into the cooler in front of the Latanzos' trailer.
"Pick up your pants," his wife, Heddy, told him.
"We've been married 39 years," she said, smiling. "I may kill him before 40."
The gang usually all makes it down by Friday night, meeting by the Latanzos' fire pit for some "Driftwood therapy," said Karen Carter, 35, a nursing supervisor at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.
Everything is discussed, Latanzo said. The good and the bad of the workweek. Family problems.
"There are no secrets between us," said Tara Latanzo, 39, who works in a dental office. "If one couple is fighting, everyone knows it."
Last summer, when Sue Latanzo died of breast cancer, the gang rallied around her family.
"We miss her daily," Joy Buono said.
Saturday it's either the pool or a trip to the beach. At the Driftwood, the kids are never too far out of sight.
"It's like growing up in South Philly during the summer," Tara Latanzo said. "If my mother went to the corner store, there were always 10 other parents out on their steps. It's the same here."
In the evening, a "no drama" rule goes into effect. "Saturday night is all about fun," Tara Latanzo said.
In summers past, the ladies planned theme parties.
"We had the three-legged races," Joy Buono said, "and the Olympics party, where everyone had to bring a dish from a certain country, and crazy-hat night."
This year, the men were put in charge of entertainment.
"You know what they came up with?" Tara Latanzo said. "Beer pong."
Food is important.
"We have an anchovy gravy night," Carter said, "a crab-and-macaroni night, and a mussels night."
And just like on any South Philly front step, good-natured insults are elevated to an art form.
"You have to see Frankie when he sweats," said John Latanzo with a peal of laughter. "He gets these big sweat circles on his shirt that look like Mickey Mouse."
Buono gives as good as he gets. Last summer, the ladies made T-shirts with everybody's favorite saying.
Buono's saying - which he delivers after a particularly deadly zinger - read: "There, I said it. Now it's going to hurt."
Tony, 48, and Joann Polumbo, 47, of Collingswood, who are just a few lots down from the Latanzos, have become regulars at the pit. Tony Polumbo remembers the first time he saw John Latanzo walking around in black socks and sports sandals.
"They must be from South Philly," he told his wife.
"Now he's one of us," John Latanzo said.
Sometimes, the group likes to visit the Tini family's trailer, which sits on a large corner spot. Ronnie Tini owns a cabinet shop at 24th and Snyder and has renovated his place with a large deck and a white gravel backyard.
The women took an afternoon tour of his new kitchen, which has a seashell theme.
"Oooh, you know how I like seashells," said Dana Gentile, 38, a friend of the group's who was visiting for the day.
A few summers ago, Gentile had a bad experience at another campground. The managers didn't like her and her husband's South Philly friends coming down for parties and staying the weekend, she said.
"I told them to forget it," she said of the other campground. "Now I'm thinking of buying here."Jul13th ’16
Marketing Director John Worthington shows a luxury park model
New concept in RV shopping launched with Driftwood RV Center?s Travel Trailer SuperCenters.
The days of having to drive from dealer to dealer just to see one or two suitable trailers is over and a new era of RV shopping has been born with the creation of Driftwood RV Center?s Travel Trailer SuperCenters.
The SuperCenters will allow customers at either of Driftwood?s two locations to compare and select from America?s top selling brands, side-by-side.
The idea behind the Travel Trailer SuperCenter concept sprang from a growing call from customers for a single place where they could see a wide variety of brands, displayed side by side.
?Customers are tired of driving from place to place to see what amounted to just a few floorplans and models that fit their needs. We decided to offer them a place where they could browse easily and actually compare trailers side-by-side,? Driftwood President Edson Robertson noted.
?We have always focused on our Park Model and Motor Home business, and RVers know us as the place to go for these types. But over the past 6-8 months, recognizing that many RVers were looking for affordability, ease of towing and flexibility, we have developed the concept of the Travel Trailer SuperCenter,? Robertson added.
To kick off the SuperCenter concept, Driftwood is introducing a new line of ultra-light weight, fully equipped family travel trailers, the r-pod by Forest River. Available in a variety of sizes and layouts to fit any family, the r-pod?s distinctive styling and combination of features, affordability and quality construction is unlike anything on the market.
The r-pod, available for as little as $95 per month, is a major step up from popup trailers, packing all of the features that today?s campers demand,-- including the full private bathroom, while keeping the low weight and ease of towing, said Driftwood Sales Director Bob Androckitis. ?At 2,200 pounds, you can practically tow them with a golf cart,? he joked.
The first step was the creation of the region?s only indoor heated showroom, at Driftwood?s Cape May County location, which allows customers to shop despite the weather. Hayden noted that, at the intersection of Rts. 9 and 83, it is only minutes away from anywhere in the South Jersey area. The other SuperCenter is at Driftwood?s Atlantic City location, on the Black Horse Pike in Egg Harbor Twp. right off the expressway.
To make the concept as customer-friendly as possible, every trailer is clearly marked with the weight, size and specifications. The two SuperCenters also feature a huge in-stock inventory allowing buyers to avoid the weeks or months delay common in the business.
?There is no question that many dealers have drastically cut their in-stock inventory in an effort to survive the economic downturn, stocking as few new RVs as possible.? Androckitis said. Driftwood has taken the opposite approach, choosing to expand while most others shrink.
?We know people want to enjoy the affordability and family value that comes with the RV lifestyle?and that they will be looking for selection and value as the conditions improve this year.
With the creation of the Driftwood SuperCenter concept, customers know they can find the RV they want at the price they want?and have it when they want. We expect to draw customers from New York through Maryland and across Pennsylvania and Delaware
While the Travel Trailer SuperCenter has already created excitement among the region?s RV buyers, Driftwood Marketing Director John Worthington noted that there are exciting projects in the works for Park Model or Motor Home buyers too.
We own two campgrounds and we have developed an extensive network of partner campgrounds, putting us in the unique position of having sites to place your new Park Model, as well as a selection of brand-new Park Models and trailers already set-up on-site and ready to move in. And that?s not all. Worthington provided a tantalizing glimpse of plans about to be unveiled for the Jersey Shore?s newest all Park Model Community being built from the ground up. Look for more on this in the coming weeks.
Motor home buyers will also be pleased with the addition of Southwind motor homes to Driftwood?s lineup that already features Bounder, Fiesta, and the top-of-the-line Expedition Class A motor homes, along with the fun and thrifty Icon diesel and the family-oriented Tioga lines of Class C motor homes.
And for those looking to try the RV Lifestyle, Driftwood rents both motor homes and travel trailers?with the added twist that if you decide to buy, a portion of the rental fee will apply toward your sale? Try BEFORE you buy!
Sales Director Bob Androckitis explains the features of a Rockwood expandable trailer