Countless families have seen the Hitch House on Highway 11, north of Barrie, as they head up to the cottage or vacation spot.
And for 50 years, the family-owned business has been helping many of them get to where they want to go.
The Hitch House is celebrating five decades in the RV and motorhome business in Simcoe County.
David McKee started the company in the corner of the current property in 1969 after resigning from the military.
Since then, the business has expanded into a well-known supplier of travelling homes and other related services.
Hitch House president and co-owner Tom Stoate told BarrieToday that his meeting with the company's founder not only provided him with a job he loves, but also made him a happy husband.
“I met Dave in the late '80s and was fortunate enough to marry his daughter,” said Stoate. “In the early 2000s, my wife and I came on board after working elsewhere, which made the company a real family business.”
The 35,000-square-foot showroom is not the original structure and was built after a fire devastated and destroyed the old one on Nov. 27, 2012. What started as faulty wiring in a motorhome inside the showroom turned into a blaze that forced the Hitch House to start over and rebuild.
They did that within one year.
It was that event that reminded Stoate of their place in the community.
“It was a very trying time and one that saw everyone around us pull together, and help us not only rebuild, but provide us with the positivity to do so,” Stoate said.
“One of the firefighters was someone I knew as the kids' hockey coach and even one little girl and her mom brought in baked goods for everyone here," he added. "It made us realize we were not only doing things properly, but that the community was behind us.”
Looking at the property at 1490 Highway 11 in Oro-Medonte Township, the Hitch House doesn’t look all that large, but the total building space of 50,000 sq. ft. contains more than just a place to buy a motorhome.
Hitch House also has a fully stocked parts store, a full service centre with 15 bays, a body shop which includes three bays, and a motorhome rental organization that operates out of the facility.
“We often get people in here who are in awe of the building and all that’s in here, because from the highway it doesn’t look this big," Stoate said.
The Hitch House is also involved in charity and community work, including providing wheels for the Hofer family and their mental-health awareness cause.
“We provide the motorhome for Zach Makes Tracks and that kid just does a phenomenal job, so we’re proud to be a small part of that,” Stoate said. “His mom, Shelley, does such a great job promoting the events Zach does, and it's great to see someone at that age caring so much about others.”
In the high season, between March Break and November, there are around 47 employees at the Hitch House.
Being a family-run business is a 24/7 affair for reasons more than just an alarm going off in the middle of the night and someone from the family coming in to check it out. For over 30 years, it has been a family in more ways than one, adding one woman recently retired after 31 years at the business.“When you’re with a company for that long, you share professional and personal triumphs and tragedies with each other," he said. "It never feels like just the McKee and Stoate family-run business. It really is a matter of everyone being family and representing us wherever they go, and that makes us very proud.”