After successfully investing in a large number of mobile home and other multi-family properties for more than a decade, a few years ago Sean Vidrine noticed the industry was changing, and not for the better. “Mobile homes were falling out of favor with cities, finding properties at a decent capitalization rate was getting harder, and the upside was becoming much more limited,” the Lake Charles, Louisiana investor said.
Then, he was presented with an opportunity to buy a family campground and RV resort in Mississippi. “I knew nothing about campgrounds until then, but the idea intrigued me. After doing a lot of research, I quickly saw how much more upside there is.” Three years later, Sean is completely out of the multi-family business. He and his business partners at Four Points RV Resorts own four camp-resorts, including three Jellystone Park franchises.
“This is a great time to be in the space because the business is very fragmented and made up of mostly independent operators,” he said. “We like that many campgrounds have room for expansion, and if you make the capital improvements and have a good marketing plan, your business will grow.”
Four Points Resorts has acquired two existing Jellystone Park locations and is in the process of converting an independent campground into a Jellystone Park. “We are a destination, and our job is to make sure that families create lifelong memories. Jellystone Park has the system and support to help us achieve that goal,” he said.
At the Jellystone Park in Pittsfield, Illinois, the beach was tripled in size, the Wibit water obstacle course was doubled in size, daily activities were increased, a new general store was built and new glamping tents added. A new children’s water play zone is planned, as is more lodging and additional RV sites.
The company expects to acquire other Jellystone Park locations and may convert other campgrounds to the brand. “Working with LSI has been a very good experience,” Sean said. “Any time we have needed support, from research to retail and marketing advice, they have been a very good partner.”
Entering the business has its challenges, he said. “Banks can be leery of loaning money because they don’t know the space, and fixed costs are high. The advice I would give: develop a plan that will give you the growth you want, and spend the capital needed to operate it profitably.”