Gypsum-based van manufacturer rolls over to Western Garfield County
A camper van manufacturing company is opening a new location near Rifle.
Gypsum-based manufacturer Dave & Matt Vans purchased a 39,000-square-foot facility located along U.S. Highway 6 near the Antlers area just east of Rifle.
Co-owner Matt Felser, 35, said on Tuesday once production begins this summer, the plan is to make 1,600 vans over the next three years. They plan to create up to 8-10 new production jobs to help meet demand, with pay ranging anywhere from $25-$35, depending on experience.
“It’ll depend,” Felser said. “Our goal is to be as efficient as possible, obviously. But we do expect to hire pretty extensively in the Roaring Fork Valley.”
Felser, a former Vail Mountain School teacher with a penchant for skiing and mountain biking, said in 2017 he began exploring options to purchase a camper — a purchase that typically carries a price tag of $100,000-$200,000.
Felser could absorb the financial hit or he could build a camper van himself, he said.
“Working on a teacher’s budget, that was really the only option,” Felser said. “I had a great community here in the mountains, and collectively over four months, we built what is now the first Dave & Matt van in the parking lot of Vail Mountain School.”
Fellow Dave & Matt Vans co-owner Dave Ramsay, who Felser met while attending Williams College in Massachusetts, would eventually link up with Felser.
Felser said Ramsay, who coincidentally was already living in a recreational vehicle, grew intrigued by Felser’s desire to transform a used Dodge Ram ProMaster he purchased for $17,500 into reliable mobile living quarters.
“I had a lot of great resources around me,” Felser said. “I combined that with about 1,000 hours of YouTube watching.”
The mechanical improvisation fueled Felser and Ramsay to not only sell his first vehicle but eventually open their first facility — a two-car garage storage unit in Gypsum with no heat.
A rather short-lived headquarters, Felser and Ramsay finally found themselves manufacturing Dave & Matt Vans out of a 3,500-square-foot facility.
Since then, the company has grown significantly, according to a recent news release. In 2021 alone the manufacturer tripled its year-over-year revenue, doubled its rental van fleet and delivered 180 new vans.
“With these acquisitions, the company is poised for continued growth through 2022, forecasting that it will produce 1,600 vans over the next three years, and broke more than 150 reservations this year alone through its expanded rental fleet — with the potential to increase that by nearly 500% by the end of 2024,” the release states.
With three main designs, the starting price point is $65,000. Built on a Dodge Ram ProMaster chassis, Dave & Matt Vans include bare necessities while add-on options are available.
So why is demand and productivity up in the van industry?
A lot of it has to do with COVID-19 and people leaving cities behind for the open road.
“Not only do we have a popular vehicle due to its price point, due to its quality for that price point, but we also saw that paradigm shift in the way people were able to live and work,” Felser said. “International travel went away for a while, and all of a sudden, the camper van in the RV industry became a great alternative to take your family on a trip.”
Felser said people no longer needed to be in New York City, Boston or San Diego. They could work from anywhere in the country.
In addition to work from the convenience of a vehicle, Felser is simply passionate for the outdoor adventures his van takes him to.
“The first summer I lived in a van full time I put 13,000 miles on it in three months,” Felser said. “I went both to the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. I went to a work conference, got to see family and got to bring my bike and my golf clubs with me on the whole trip.”
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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