CENTER RUTLAND — Dan Kearney took a chance on selling Little Guy Teardrop camping trailers in 2005, and it paid off: Those sales doubled last year.
But like many successes, it didn’t come without some struggle first.
Dan Kearney’s Used Cars is now the oldest dealer of Little Guy camping trailers in the country, and the only one in Vermont.
Kearney, who runs the business with his son, Joe, in Center Rutland, said it took some years of perseverance before sales went up for these small, efficient trailers.
“We took on 21, and the first year we sold three,” he recalled.
Then the recession hit in 2008.
“The RV economy absolutely sank out of sight in 2009,” Kearney said, adding that “it’s the toys that sink first” when the economy tanks.
Even as other companies gave up the Little Guy Teardrop camping trailers they’d taken on, due to lack of sales, Kearney believed in the product and stuck with it. Eventually, those sales started increasing, and now they’re so popular Kearney can’t keep them on the lot.
“Two years ago, we sold 30,” he said. “Last year, we sold 60.”
The Teardrops range from about $9,900 to $22,000, with most buyers landing in the middle of that range, Kearney said. They each have a main sleeping area with a range of amenities — some have a small kitchen area inside, and others have it in the rear.
“The weight is the key,” Kearney said, when asked why they’ve become so popular. To pull these camping trailers, you don’t need a big truck, he noted. Some smaller cars will do the job, such as a Honda Civic or a Subaru.
Kearney said this convenience matches up well with the recent trend toward smaller, more efficient vehicles. Also, to buy a Teardrop camping trailer, one doesn’t have to go through the trouble of buying an entirely new vehicle to pull it.
“Whatever you drive on Monday, you could have towed it with on Sunday,” Kearney said.
The Kearneys said these camping trailers are ideal for outdoors-oriented travelers.
“We have people who are serious campers. Those are the people who buy these,” Joe Kearney said.
The Teardrops also have the option of attaching a tent to the trailer, so you can step out of the trailer and into the tent.
These camping trailers come in several versions: the T@G, the T@B and the Silver Shadow. The latter is the smallest one. The first two — pronounced “tag” and “tab” — account for about 65 percent of the Teardrop sales at Kearney’s.
Dan Kearney has been in business since 1977, and started selling used cars in the mid-1980s.
He said the Teardrop camping trailers are built by the Amish in Sugar Creek, near Akron, OH. When Kearney first visited the Little Guy factory in Sugar Creek, they’d just moved into a 65,000-square-foot building, he recalled.
“They’re adding another 65,000 square feet as we speak,” he said Monday.
Kearney said most inquiries about the Teardrop trailers come through his company’s website. Many times, they have a buyer before they even hit the lot.