Specialty Fabrics Review March 2020 - 26

Back in '91 or '92 I would
wonder how long this
would last-when would
we run out of campers
to cut and recanvas?
It hasn't happened yet.
BOB GRAMBSCH

company's repertoire, so he bought a used
sewing machine and taught himself to sew.
"With tents we had bought from other
companies that were just sitting on the shelf
gathering dust, I would take them apart, cut
down here, add in there, and sew them back
together until they matched a camper tent
we had a sale for," he says. "That is how we
operated through most of the '80s."
The company started hiring sewers,
too. Today, Canvas Replacements employs
18-21 people, depending on staffing needs,
with ten of those employees working in
the sewing department.
"We still buy a few tents, particularly
Jayco-Starcraft," Grambsch says. "For
virtually everything else, we make them
right here. We get old tents in and pattern
them out. My sewing shop manager has
been with me for 18 years now, and she
knows how to measure an old mousechewed, mildewed rag, direct measuring
and cutting new material, and sew it
together into a perfect match for the
customer's camper."
As pop-up trailer manufacturers
have come and gone, the Grambschs'

original purchase became a template for
growth: buying surpluses from distressed
companies and becoming a distributor of
hard-to-find, out-of-date and "orphan"
parts. Pop-up tent trailers include lift
mechanisms that vary from simple to
complex, and over the years manufacturers
devised a variety of lift systems-Rube
Goldberg-level designs in some cases,
Grambsch says. "We have acquired most
of the obsolete lift systems, the original or
duplicate parts, and the knowledge to help
people repair or replace their original lift
system," he says.
One growth period came just before
the FTCA RV/Coleman pop-up camper
trailer brand folded in 2010. Grambsch
was offered "about $1 million (FTCA's cost
estimate) in surplus Coleman parts and
tent tops," but he wasn't a particularly
eager buyer, so he bid $80,000 and expected
to never hear from them. To his surprise,
the offer was accepted-and the seller even
agreed to deliver the parts.
"They made six trips with a 40-foot
semi from Somerset, Pa., to Loyal, Wis.,"
Grambsch says. "So again, our warehouses
were bursting at the seams, this time
with Coleman parts to sell and distribute,
including a lot of tents. Now we are the
major distributor of all parts for Coleman
camping trailers, especially the canvases.
That was a big deal."
INDUSTRY CONNECTIONS
Clyde's reputation in the recreational
vehicle industry helped Canvas
Replacements to grow-he was active
in the RV Industry Association and
was inducted into the RV/MH Hall of
Fame in 2001. Because pop-up camper
enthusiasts often turn to their local tent
and awning business for replacement tops
or repairs, the company's reputation spread
through the Industrial Fabrics Association
International (IFAI) as well, first by word
of mouth and later through advertisements
in Review and exhibiting at IFAI Expo.

26 REVIEW MARCH 2020

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Specialty Fabrics Review March 2020

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Specialty Fabrics Review March 2020 - Cover1
Specialty Fabrics Review March 2020 - Cover2
Specialty Fabrics Review March 2020 - 1
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