If you’ve ever driven on Interstate-75 near Saginaw and Bay City, MI, you know part of the International RV World story.
Do you remember the tail lights illuminating an RV sales lot at night? That’s International RV World. The running lights are only small pieces of the story, though. The bigger part of the story is family.
The story starts in 1937 when company founder “Big” Jim Harvey was born in a 1937 Schultz trailer. Trailers were a big part of Jim’s life. Jim grew up living in RVs and spent his childhood working at his father’s trailer and mobile home businesses. In 1957, Jim went out on his own and became very successful in the RV industry.
Jim married his wife, Bobbie, in 1974 and the couple opened several RV lots throughout the country, growing the business to what is now known as International RV World.
From the beginning, the Harveys believed in building the business on family values and good customer service. They believed in families serving families and that good customer service would lead to repeat customers and referrals. In addition, mentoring employees and offering a better life was a way of giving back for the Harveys.
That value is illustrated throughout the company, but it’s probably most apparent in the story of how the Harveys sold two locations to employees. Early in their business, Jim and Bobbie hired a young couple who quickly became a part of the family. Through the years, Jim and Bobbie mentored the couple. The couple learned to manage the International RV World location in Elkhart, Indiana and in 2011, the Harveys made good on a long-time promise to sell the location to the couple. In 2015, the Harveys sold their Gaylord, Michigan store to another set of long-time employees after years of mentoring.
The Harveys continued to mentor many more young people, including their own children. One of the children owned an RV business. The three Harvey children are important parts of the day-to-day operations of International RV World today. Their children remember fondly the hundreds of camping trips the family took every summer. From those trips, the kids learned the importance of family. They learned the way to keep customers and employees happy was to treat them like family.
Today, Jim’s family continues the International RV World story. His wife, Bobbie Harvey is the company president. People from all over the country ask her about the gorilla statue that Jim positioned near I-75. If they drive through the area after dark, Bobbie said they often remember Jim’s tradition of switching on the tail lights of the RVs near the road, illuminating the lot and the gorilla along with it.