A familiar sign — one that helps people giving directions — has come down.
It’s the sign that used to be on State Road 60 by Rifle Range Road that read “Dusty’s Camper World.” It came down last week after being in that spot since 2001. The new sign that reads “Camping World” also marks the end of the name of the business that has been outside Bartow for 47 years.
“It’s the end of an era,” said Nancy Minervini, who has worked at what is now Camping World of Bartow for eight years.
Nothing has changed in the business and it is still at the 40-acre site at 7400 SR 60. The employees are still the same and it is still run by the grandchildren of the couple who started it in 1966, Dusty and Shirley Crum.
“We are in the same convenient location and will offer the same great service that our customers deserve,” said General Manager Jeff Crum. “But now that we are officially part of the Camping World family, expect to see even better buying power and selection as we offer our customers a one-stop shopping location for RV sales, accessories and service needs in time for the camping season.”
Founded in 1966, Camping World is America’s top source for RVs, camping accessories, RV maintenance and repair, he said, and Good Sam is the world’s largest RV owners’ organization, offering helpful technical tips, vacation planning, extended warranty, magazine subscriptions, roadside assistance and more to serve the outdoor enthusiast. Partnered together, Camping World and Good Sam offer more to those who love the RV lifestyle by offering one-stop shopping and resources for everything RV and outdoor.
A grand opening is going on
until May 5. Free lunch will be served Fridays and Saturdays during the event from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. The dealership’s operating hours will be 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.
Dusty and Shirley started the business when they lived in Tampa in the 1960s. A family that liked to go camping, Dusty wanted to find a more convenient way to camp and searched for a fold-down camper. He couldn’t find a pop-up anywhere. He contacted a company he saw in Field and Stream magazine named Starcraft, telling them he wanted two of them. Starcraft said they would sell him three, and set him up as dealer. He sold one of the campers in three days. He bought three more and sales went just as fast. Already running a car upholstery shop in Tampa, he wasn’t looking to start another line of work, but that’s how it turned out.
A little later, he found land in Bartow and not only did the town become his home, the employees he hired became his extended family.
“They made you feel like family,” said Carol Rahm, who has been the comptroller for 20 years, she said, adding that when her husband died, the Crums invited her over for Easter and they have had her over for Christmas and Easter every year.
“They came to my wedding,” said Rusty Hall, a master certified technician. “(Dusty) would ask me how my kids were and he’d ask by their names.” An employee there for 22 years, his children don’t know about him working anywhere else.
Dusty died shortly after the company moved to its new location from the previous location on SR 60 closer to Bartow. It practically doubled in size in acreage, and despite being victim to two bad windstorms, it has been a success in the area. The three hurricanes that found their way through Bartow in 2004 damaged some trailers, then about two years ago a windstorm came through Bartow that flipped 11 recreational vehicles and left a mess for the crew to clean up.
“Previous employees came back here and helped us clean up,” Rahm remembered.
The new home was a big deal to Dusty and Shirley and a big deal to Hall, who remembered how tough it was to get the RV out to show customers. He remembers having to move six vehicles to get the one out a customer wanted to see, though they never thought it was a big deal. The way they treat customers was something the family has always thought was the most important.
“We have people’s children come in here and buy,” Hall said. He can recall one customer who has bought 30 RVs from Dusty’s.
“We were told to care about the people and not the money,” Hall added. “Take care of the little things and other things will come. Take care of the customer.”
And, though the old sign is down, Rahm feels like nothing has changed. In fact, she had little interest in seeing the new sign as it went into place Thursday.
“We still have the people and we’ll make it work. The name can change, but the attitude will be here,” she said.
Hall reflected: “It’s bittersweet, and I understand the business and everything, but this is the end of an era.”