The Escape Team :- Reace and Tammy Harmatuik
In 1993 Reace and I, being a young, “energetic” couple, decided to get married, attend university, and purchase our first home as well as a business. We purchased Road Runner Delivery, which kept Reace busy, but not busy enough. In his spare time, Reace built a couple of campers in our backyard. After the second camper, Reace started purchasing older fiberglass trailers and repairing them. People kept stopping and asking if the trailers were for rent. So, in between deliveries, Reace started an RV rental company – Economy Travel Trailer Rentals. At the same time, I began working for the Chilliwack School District, and we decided to start our family.
In 2002 we rented a chicken barn that had been previously leased to a local camper manufacturing company. We hired our first staff member and were officially in the fiberglass trailer industry. We hired a fiberglass shop to sculpt our first Escape trailer, contracted out the frame, and Reace completed the interior himself. Although we were very proud of that first trailer, it wasn’t perfect. But, people were interested in our little lightweight trailer, and their encouragement kept us motivated. Economy Travel Trailer Rentals was doing fine, but our RV rental customers were asking for extra features in the fiberglass rental trailers. This got Reace thinking, and it also allowed him to put his degree in business to good use. After researching fiberglass trailers both locally and in the U.S., Reace asked himself, “How hard can it be?”, and we decided to get into the fiberglass trailer manufacturing business. Selling Road Runner Delivery and Economy Travel Trailer Rentals gave us some of the necessary funds to start our next business – Escape Trailer Industries Ltd.
Although I was still working full time and Reace was driving truck at night, obtaining money was difficult. We could only build one trailer at a time, and we didn’t have a demonstration trailer to use for marketing purposes. We were almost at the point of not being able to continue when a customer walked in, liked what he saw, and paid in full for that trailer. Just as important, he gave us permission to use it as a demo since he wouldn’t pick it up until the next spring.
As soon as it was viable, we moved from that old chicken barn to a new location on Ashwell Road. At this time, we also brought the fiberglass and welding shops on site so that we had more control in the quality of the Escape product. As business continued to increase, we started experimenting with methods of how to sell the Escape Trailer.
In 2006 we tried selling through a dealer network, but struggled with the lack of interaction with our customers. It did not allow us to follow our business model. So we closed down for six months, worked on the design and introduction of our Escape 5.0 Fifthwheel, and returned to direct sales.
As Escape Trailer Industries continues to grow, the pains of growing have become learning opportunities. Both Reace and I continuously reflect on the business and how to make it successful. Our main focus is, and has always been, the needs of our customers. They have helped us make the Escape trailer a better product. We are continuously listening to customer feedback for ways to improve the different models of Escape trailers.
We operate through direct sales and most are referrals from satisfied customers. To ensure each trailer reflects the customer’s personal taste, we try to incorporate their suggestions when possible. We believe there’s nothing worse than buying a trailer and having to make changes after you get it home. We would prefer to make those adjustments as we are building it.
In 2012 Escape Trailer Industries purchased the property we are currently located on at Industrial Way. Initially we had tenants. However, as we continued to grow and slowly expand we knew we would require the use of the property to it’s entirety.
Expansion plans are underway! Early 2015 Reace and I decided 2016 it was all or nothing. We put plans in place to build a 3rd building (Building C) on the property and begin renovations on Building A and B. Exciting times, but scary ones as well.
A year later and things are well under way. Our showroom and sales offices should be in Building A by mid February 2017 allowing our production area to completely consume Building B and the fiberglass shop has now been relocated into Building C. As a year of change and the production facility being spread out over three facilities, it has been determined we are no longer able to safely offer facility tours. However, moving on to bigger and better things, we hope to have a ‘How It’s Made’ video available as soon as possible.
Both Reace and I have always enjoyed showing our customers their trailer while it is in production and customers will continue to receive pictures of their trailers once they have reached the production stage. However, nothing compares with seeing the look on their faces when the trailer is finished for them when they pick it up.