Seaside ride: RV business celebrates 50 years with custom-made trailer


Johnnie Walker RV, a local family-owned recreation vehicle business, recently attracted national attention on Animal Planet’s cable television show “Tanked.” On the show, Las Vegas-based Acrylic Tank Manufacturing constructed a fish tank inside a trailer to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary.

“We thought it would be something special for our 50th anniversary and something that would remain here for the next 50 years,” said Darcy Walker-Fitch, vice president of Johnnie Walker RV.

The tank features an array of fish from the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean and Gulf Coast, including blue chromis, spadefish and foureye butterflyfish. The trailer is on display in the showroom at 4784 Boulder Highway.

Michael Walker, marketing director with Johnnie Walker RV, said a casting company representing “Tanked” called him and asked if the RV company would be interested in being featured on the show.

“At first I had no idea what the show was about,” Walker said. “I’ve never watched it.”

After receiving additional information and talking to the family about it, Walker submitted a 10-page response application with family photos and a Photoshopped tank in front of an RV. He got a call the next day.

“Apparently, the ones that get picked are like a needle in a haystack,” Walker said. “They need to have the right backstory. That application got us in the loop.”

Pacific Coachworks, based in Riverside, Calif., customized a 3,500-pound Econ trailer out of steel to hold the 350-gallon aquarium. The trailer was furnished to be viewable from the inside and outside. In addition, televisions were placed inside the trailer for visitors to watch family-friendly movies, such as “RV” and “Finding Nemo.”

Wayde King, CEO and founder of Acrylic Tank Manufacturing, and Brett Raymer, chief operating officer, designed the custom-made aquarium.

“Customers absolutely love it,” Walker-Fitch said. “We’ve have people walk in with their cameras because they’ve seen the show and want to photograph the aquarium.”

The construction process started in January and took roughly a month to finish, just in time for the 50th anniversary celebration.

John “Johnnie” Walker, Walker’s grandfather, started the family business in 1963 with his son, John Walker. Originally, Johnnie owned a grocery store called Stewart’s Market and soon left that to start a business selling mobile homes. Three years later, the owners decided to try selling trailers, and the rest is history.

The business originally started with one location and has since expanded to three stores along Boulder Highway.

“During the past 50 years we have seen ups and downs for the business,” Walker-Fitch said. “But we’ve managed to stay on track through thick and thin.”

Walker-Fitch said the most important attribute for their success has been her family’s close relationship. The business has stayed in the family for four generations.

“That’s our motto right there,” Walker-Fitch said as she pointed to a sign. “Families that play together, stay together. We believe in that. Our family is tight, but being in this RV business has kept us closer and has helped us with our success.”

Customers are not the only ones who enjoy the visual appeal of the brightly colored aquarium.

“I love the tank because I can just sit here and watch and just daydream with it,” said Johnnie Walker RV receptionist Judy Naine.

Naine added that a couple of the fish already have names. The dog-faced puffer fish is Mr. Bow Wow, and another fish is Dori.

When the tank was first set in place, it housed roughly 50 fish. Now there are about 25.

Plastic sticks with marshmallows and hotdogs were originally added to fit the camping theme, and there was a lantern with illuminating paint. However, Walker said their cleaning service found that chemicals in the plastic may have killed half the fish.

“It’s been a learning curve,” Walker said. “We’ve had to figure out the right location for the tank and figure out the proper balance.”

After the “Jurassic Campground” episode that featured Johnnie Walker’s RV aired, Walker estimated that 30 customers came in to the store on the following Monday just to see the tank. Two came in specifically looking at the Econ trailer furnished by Pacific Coachworks.

That same day two models were sold.

“They had seen it on TV, and that was the reason that they came to look at it,” Walker said. “It definitely increased our customer base.”

Walker added that the whole family was pleased with the results.

“It turned out way better than I expected,” Walker said. “The whole family agrees, too. My dad loved it. Everywhere he goes, he asks people, ‘Do you watch “Tanked?” You have to watch our episode.’ I do the same thing, and so does Grandpa. We’re really happy with it.”

Contact reporter Sandy Lopez at slopez@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4686.

 

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