Specialty Fabrics Review March 2020 - 25

PERSPECTIVE

by Jill C. Lafferty

RESTORATION

SPECIALIST

BOB GRAMBSCH LEADS CANVAS REPLACEMENTS
IN REJUVENATING THE TRAILER CAMPING MARKET
WITH NEW, HIGH-QUALITY TENT TOPS.

W

e bring over 65 years of
knowledge and experience
to a growing and changing
industry," says Bob Grambsch, president
of Canvas Replacements/Camper &
Recreation Inc., a Loyal, Wis.-based
manufacturer of replacement canvas tent
tops for pop-up campers. "My dad had been
building camping trailers since 1957. I was
about eight years old when he started, so
I grew up in the business, hanging around
the shop. Dad's company, E-Z Kamper Inc.,
was never one of the 'big ones,' but he was
always promoting and was active and wellknown in the industry."
E-Z Kamper closed its doors in 1971,
leaving Grambsch's father, Clyde, with a
large debt and some bad feelings. Clyde
tried starting another camper company, and
after graduating from college, Grambsch
moved home to help. While working for the
new, struggling company, Grambsch heard
about an opportunity that would change the
course of their business, although if Clyde
had had his way, that future would have
gone up in smoke-literally.
A competitor, Trade Winds Campers
of Manawa, Wis., had been acquired by
Outboard Marine Corp. (OMC) a few
years earlier. When OMC decided to stop
manufacturing the camping trailer line,
the company put a huge lot of surplus parts
up for sale. Clyde jumped at the purchase
without the blessing of his partners

("Dad was kind of a wheeler-dealer,"
Grambsch says), so father and son set up
a separate company for the purchase.
"We had to haul it about 80 miles from
Manawa to Loyal and rent a warehouse
to dump it into," Grambsch says. "One
whole semi load was unused canvas tents
for camping trailers that had been built
10 years before."
Clyde wasn't interested in the tent
tops and wanted to leave them behind-
he even suggested burning them right
there. But the seller insisted they be
removed, so the pair transported the
canvases to their warehouse.
About a month later, they received a
letter forwarded from the OMC office.
"Somebody was looking for a new tent
for their 1963 Trade Winds camping
trailer," he says. "That happened a couple
more times, and my dad began to get the
sense that God was knocking him on his
head and pointing at the canvases. And
it did gradually become the center of our
new little company."
SKILL ACQUISITION
Early on, Canvas Replacements struck
a deal with Anchor Industries Inc.,
Evansville, Ind., for new canvas tent
tops and purchased additional tent top
surpluses from other fabricators. But as
the company grew, Grambsch realized
that sewing needed to become part of the

PHOTOS BY TRAVIS DEWITZ

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Specialty Fabrics Review March 2020

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Specialty Fabrics Review March 2020 - Cover2
Specialty Fabrics Review March 2020 - 1
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