- By Abby Stetina
- Nov 1, 2023
Byerly RV in Eureka has made recreational vehicle camping an attractive option in a competitive market for 75 years.
“In the RV business, we’re competing against not just RV dealers but every other way that someone can spend their recreational time and dollars,” said communications specialist Dave Hubatka. “Some people would prefer to buy a condo at the lake. Some people would prefer to have a cabin in the woods. Either way, you’re spending $10,000 a year doing all this.
“Time is the most valuable thing. Money doesn’t matter if you can’t get time back. It’s how you choose to spend that precious time and dollars that you work very hard to earn.”
President and owner Warren Patton said the goal of Byerly is the same as it has been since the company started in 1948 – to be the St. Louis region’s leading resource for RV services.
“Our mission is to make our customers the experts on the campground,” Patton said.
Byerly began as Byerly Trailer & Manufacturing Co., a travel-trailer manufacturing company started by Walter Byerly in his Kirkwood home. The company later moved into a building in Des Peres across Manchester Road from a service station owned by Patton’s grandfather, John Patton.
In 1967, John Patton sold the station, which rented folding campers, and bought the manufacturing business from Byerly. It’s been in the Patton family ever since.
Byerly moved to its current location, 295 E. Fifth St., in 1999.
Before making Eureka its home, Byerly was in west St. Louis County near Manchester and Weidmann roads from 1975 to 1999.
Byerly rents and sells RVs made by Tiffin Motorhomes, Winnebago, Alliance, Keystone and Coachman, according to its website, byerlyrv.com.
Byerly also sells new and used camper vans, “teardrop” trailers, fifth wheels and motorhomes.
The company may be best known for its catchy jingle line, “For the rest of your life,” which can be heard in nearly all Byerly commercials. The rest of the jingle goes, “Discover your family, show them you care. For the rest of your life, you gotta be there.”
Patton said Byerly moved to Eureka with 24 workers, and it employs about 90.
“We’ve been lucky to grow in Eureka because there’s space out here,” Patton said. “When we needed the room to expand, it was very easy to work with Eureka to go over our vision for how we’re going to grow the business.
“We’re hoping to continue to be a good corporate citizen within this area,” he said.
Hubatka said he believes Byerly will continue to be successful.
“We didn’t stay in business for 75 years by overcharging people or by providing bad service,” he said. “We’re deeply rooted in tradition, but at the same time Warren has absolutely inspired us to move forward in ways we never thought we would.”
Byerly has expanded its storage and mechanic services during its diamond anniversary.
Patton said a 16-bay service facility and 88,000-square-foot storage building, east of the dealership, opened in September.
Behind the storage building is an additional outdoor RV self-storage area.
“As we grow and add the storage facility, our goal is to provide more resources for our customers to be able to create a better experience for them,” Patton said.
Patton said many owners do not maintain their RVs the way they should or don’t know the manufacturer’s recommendations. He said continual maintenance may eliminate more expensive repairs.
“Our goal is to facilitate a lot more of that work that we can’t even fit in right now to be able to help them,” Patton said.
Hubatka said buying an RV is a major investment for many, and Byerly strives to ensure customers invest properly.
“For some of these folks that come in here, this event of buying a motorhome, they have worked their entire life for this,” he said. “They have waited and saved. They planned. This comes right underneath marriage and the birth of a child.
“When you walk out of here, you should be able to send your friends and family here and know they’re going to be taken care of.”
What once was seen as a pastime enjoyed by retired folks, Hubatka said more young people are buying RVs.
“We are seeing a change in demographics when you look at the age groups and people that are buying,” he said. “The reality is there are a lot of folks under 30, under 40, especially, who are buying.”
According to an RV Industry Association study, RV ownership has increased more than 62 percent in the last 20 years. The study found significant growth in ownership among the 18-to-34-year-old age group, which now makes up 22 percent of the RV market.
Noticing the trend of younger owners, Hubatka said Byerly changed its outreach strategy. The COVID-19 pandemic provided a catalyst for change, he said.
“Traditionally, (RVs) have always been thought of as a product for older, more mature people,” Hubatka said. “This transition, that COVID almost forced, really put us in the position to be seen by buyers that are new buyers. Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have allowed us to reach folks in ways that they were already consuming information.”
Hubatka said the pandemic brought a different type of customer – one who didn’t want to interact with many people in fear of spreading the disease. He said social media was a great way to reach those potential buyers.
In their effort to make RV owners the “experts of the campground,” Hubatka and Patton began a monthly educational program called Byerly RV University. The seminars are streamed for free on the company’s YouTube channel, youtube.com/@BYERLYRV, or can be attended in person at Byerly headquarters in Eureka. Classes cover topics such as how to weatherize an RV and preparing for long-term storage.
Hubatka said he invites Byerly’s in-house experts and people from around the U.S. to the company’s studio in the maintenance shop’s loft. He said the studio allows Byerly to film, edit and share all types of content.
Hubatka said Byerly’s efforts to reach younger potential buyers will be how the company will last another 75 years.
“Just because you’ve done something a certain way for 75 years and it’s been successful, that doesn’t mean that you can continue to always just do it that way,” he said.