The meaning of the phrase “Necessity is the mother of invention” is simple. Difficult situations often inspire ingenious solutions. In the case of Momot Trailer Sales, add the words “inspired, creative, innovative and original” and you are on the right track to describe this one-of-a-kind facility.
A Simple Plan
John Momot’s business had humble beginnings. After college in 1982, he started the dealership with his uncle, Bernard, at Blue Haven Campground in Ellenburg Depot, west of Plattsburgh. They began with the simplest of business plans — buy a few campers and sell them, then buy a few more and sell those. “We sold campers almost exclusively in the campground,” John explained.
In 1987 the partners opened a second location on a small lot on Route 3 in the town of Plattsburgh. Bernard passed away in 1991 and, after a few challenging years, John shifted the focus of the dealership, hoping to develop a stronger local presence through a more diverse product offering.
A decade later, Momot purchased property on Tom Miller Road to replace the Route 3 sales lot and relocated the headquarters from the campground. In 2005, a new building and service center was constructed.
If You Build It…
Fast forward to 2017. “Our Service Department was out of room, so we started looking for a building we could rent temporally to work on campers,” explained Momot. Since location and visibility are every- thing, the thought of obtaining Interstate and Route 374 exposure was very much on his mind. When he learned property on Trade Road was for sale, his thinking changed. The idea of renting was abandoned and planning for a major project began.
Momot had accumulated a lifetime’s worth of ideas from visits to places like Disney World and tucking them away in a file with the hope of using them some day. That day had come!
An 11,000 square foot building on the property, a former John Deere equipment sales and service center, had seen better days. Local con- tractors were selected to do the demolition, site work, insulation, painting and renovations to the core structure. Then Momot brought in local carpenter, Tony Nephew, and the two worked together, developing the interior design elements and finishes. “Every one of our 35-person team had a hand in the project, doing everything from research and purchasing to actual construction,” Momot said. “Even our campground team was involved. The trees they cut down were milled to provide much of the lumber for the construction.”
REINVENTING THE WHEEL
While the dealership dynamics of the new Trade Road showroom may be standard, the environment is nothing short of spectacular. Momot’s goal was to set his company apart from the many online and box store experiences customers receive. “People buying campers deserve a better environment and experience in which to make their purchase,” he observed.
The interior layout was reworked to accommodate a babbling brook and trees reaching toward the thirty-foot ceilings. Like Dorothy landing in Oz, opening the front door to the showroom is like dis- covering a hidden magical place.
Sales offices are all in a row in what can only be described as an enormous lean-to. Under a distressed, corrugated tin roof, they are open to greet visitors, offering an Adirondack style interpretation of the modern-day cubicle. “Campers are social people,” Momot emphasized. “It’s a lifestyle, and we want them to feel like they are talking to another camper, not a salesperson.” The sales manager’s office is located in a mini rustic house right inside the showroom’s front door.
The restrooms are designed to imitate outhouses on the exterior, with siding that appears to be hung haphazardly, but the interiors are gleaming and new, complete with corrugated washboard doors on the stalls. The lunch room has a log cabin façade and the “tool barn” has barn wood siding and a winch left over from the original building, hanging from its “hay loft.” On the way out, you will find a richly textured forest mural which spans the entire wall of the building and lets you know you may be leaving the comfort of nature for now, but you can experience it any time you want to make a return visit.
But the piece de resistance of the new facility is the path leading to the elevated offices. Gorgeous railings in the Adirondack style created by Specialty Wood Products of Bloomingdale, New York wind their way around a campground diorama. The babbling of the brook, with real running water, is the first sound you hear upon entering the facility, and if a potential customer had any anxiety about getting a forceful sales pitch, they can feel it melt away. Live trees were cut down and outfitted with imitation leaves that will last a lifetime indoors. Rocks were taken from the campground river and a pup tent and Coleman stove complete the picture of a bucolic day in nature.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE CAMPER
When Momot first started in the industry, campers were relatively humble vehicles. “I have watched campers morph from a simplistic vehicle design to a highly complex and automated home on wheels,” he said. “We have campers that have surround sound audio systems, fireplaces, residential size refrigerators and technology that allows you to control almost everything in them.”
Millennials make up a bigger part of the camper pie than ever before, with sexy but spare compact options like the Intech Luna and Liberty Outdoor Little Guy Max. The mid-line vehicles are the business’ bread and butter, perfect for families. The fifth wheels, like the Keystone Laredo, have built in control panels that do everything from light the fireplace to retract the expandable walls to the road-worthy eight-foot width.
CHANGING WITH THE TIMES
Not only have the vehicles themselves changed, so has the industry. “When I started, most dealerships and campgrounds were family-owned and operated. Over time the industry has transition to a professional corporate business model,” Momot offered.
While the RV industry is up right now, Momot can envision a drift toward slightly smaller vehicles. As a member of Priority RV Network, a national cooperative of some of the industry’s largest dealers, Momot has the advantage of meeting annually with some of the biggest dealers in the business to share ideas and troubleshoot issues. Customers also benefit from the cooperative. “The RV owners may have bought their camper in California but if they find themselves in our area and are in need of service, we take care of them as if they are our own,” said Momont.
STANDING OUT IN THE CROWD
Momot understands that in an industry where people don’t actually need what you are selling, you have to offer them more. “We evaluate what the customer wants, what they can tow and we consult them on what best fits,” he explained. The company’s motto is, “We don’t tell you when you’re satisfied, you tell us when you are satisfied.”
Asked what he is most proud of, Momot responded, “The new jobs that were created and the teamwork that produced the special atmosphere of this new facility. It is extremely rewarding to see the expression on our guests’ faces when they step through the front door.”
Momot loves seeing children laughing and playing near the indoor brook while their parents browse.
In closing John Momot gave a shout out to his wife Sharon. “I could not have done this without her support. Anything our companies have achieved has been with Sharon’s counsel, encouragement and support.”