Poulsbo RV flagship store to close

The long-established Poulsbo RV will be shutting its doors on Sept. 30. - Brad Camp/Staff photo
The long-established Poulsbo RV will be shutting its doors on Sept. 30.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff photo

Sept. 30 marks

the end of famed Little Norway RV dealer branch.

POULSBO — A Viking City institution will be rolling out of town at the end of the month after more than 20 years. Poulsbo RV, a business that’s helped put Little Norway on the map and spawned six other branches, is closing its Poulsbo doors Sept. 30. A changing market and decreased buyer traffic have led to the decision, said Poulsbo RV corporate marketing manager Tony Labriola.

“It’s been a really tough decision for us. We started there,” he said.

Poulsbo RV was founded in 1986 with just a few cars and a travel trailer to its name. Its lots now sideline the east and west portion of Viking Way near Poulsbo’s city limits, and its television commercials have made the city’s name well-known.

Poulsbo RV operates six other stores in Washington, in Everett, Auburn, Kent, Vancouver, Mt. Vernon and Chehalis. It also offers online shopping at its “eighth store,” Labriola said none of the other branches are closing.

He said the Poulsbo branch has been the RV dealer’s flagship store, and the move to make the closure has been considered for at least a year. As RVs — a discretionary item for buyers in a troubling economy — brought in less profit, the branch tried adding cars to its inventory.

“It’s just one of the things we have to do right now,” Labriola said. “It was a really hard thing to let go of for us but we just had to make that decision and go with the market.”

The service center will also close.

Poulsbo’s Auto Row may not be completely devoid of recreational vehicles, however. Silverdale-based dealer Clear Creek RV Center opened shop on Viking Way in July, across from and adjacent to Poulsbo RV. The company’s second branch is only meant to be a seasonal site, said owner Paul Gurtler, and he hasn’t yet decided if they’ll sell out of Poulsbo again next year. Gurtler said success has been spotty throughout the industry; times are especially tough on motorized RV dealers. Clear Creek RV specializes in towables; Poulsbo RV sells both.

“We’re actually doing very well. We’re even with last year and last year was up substantially for us,” Gurtler said, adding they’ve brought in new brands to continue increasing their share of the market. “We just have to keep doing what we do and keep giving good customer service.”

He said RV trips continue to be the most affordable vacations, especially in an area such as Kitsap. RV users aren’t putting their vehicles away, they’re simply shortening their trips.

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