Canobolas Caravan and Marine Centre
“It started off as just a little caravan park” –
LOOK AT IT NOW!
“I started off being the boat washer,” says Lee Mackenzie, the third-generation director of Canobolas Caravan and Marine Centre.
“I’d come in and wash boats on the weekends as a kid. Then I started helping out Dad in the shop, learning the retail side selling boat accessories, caravan accessories and then I progressed up to selling boat and outboard motors — I've been here for 28 years myself!”
Spread across nearly 8 hectares and employing over 20 staff, Canobolas Caravan and Marine Centre is a surprisingly large and diverse operation. It was Lee’s grandparents who started the business opening a caravan park some 60 years ago.
“It started off as just a little caravan park,” said Lee. “My grandparents…they were caravaners themselves, they use to travel around in a caravan and that is how they got interested in it.”
From there, they moved into to selling caravans themselves, brands like Millard and Viscount before moving in Jayco which today remains Australia's most popular brand.
“We’ve been selling and servicing Jayco caravans for 30-odd years now, we've been very lucky to have them,” said Lee.
“Then we moved into boats — our original mechanic had an interest in boats and in the late 70s, probably, we started selling Evinrude outboards, Swift craft, Caribbean fibreglass boats and then Quintrex, which is an aluminium boat brand, and we've been selling Quintrex since the early 80s.”
The caravan park remains a key part of the business Lee oversees today, with 56 powered sites, 20 onsite cabins and a mix of short-term and long-term accommodation.
“We cater of a wide variety of people; obviously the overnight traveller, as well as people coming for FOOD Week and for sporting events,” he said. “Plus, we get a lot of sub-contractors staying in the park as well; Orange is always expanding, so we get plenty of subbies staying here.”
Canobolas Caravan and Marine Centre recently expanded their already substantial yard on the Bathurst Road, purchasing what had been an old service station site.
“It had sat empty and derelict for over ten years and it was a major eyesore for everyone,” said Lee.
“We thought about it for a long time, because it was a major expensive commitment, but our business is always expanding, it separates the caravans from the boats a bit better and it really tidies up the street presence.”
Caravan sales have never been stronger, said Lee, and it is not just retirees looking to escape the cold Orange winters.
“Over the last ten years caravan sales have really, really grown and it is not the stereotype grey nomads, it is all families now,” he said.
“It is the younger generations who are opting to go for a caravan whether it be a camper, or they are buying a bunk caravan with two or three bunks… it is very, very popular; everyone just loves the lifestyle!”
Surprisingly, boat sales have also been good, said Lee, despite the ongoing drought conditions across much of Eastern Australia.
“We've got a lot of customers from all across the state. With the internet now, we get a lot of people who will travel to buy boats and caravans from us,” he said.
“We have a good reputation, I believe, and we always try our best for all of our customers, so word of mouth is always very good for us. We’ve had customers from further afield who have bought a new boat and they tell their friends and they’ve come and bought a boat or a caravan off us, so a lot of repeat business from all over NSW.”
On top of selling new boats and caravans, Canobolas Caravans and Marine stock an impressive amount of caravan and boating accessories, along with fishing supplies and water-skiing equipment.
“It is literally a one-stop shop where we can cater for all your boating and caravan needs; we've got sales, we've got service, we carry accessories, parts — we've got everything!” said Lee.
“We probably carry 50 boats and we easily carry 30 to 40 caravans in stock all the time so there's a fair bit of money tied up, but having a decent range of product is where we have been very successful. People know they can come to our shop see a wide range of caravans, boats and accessories at any time of the year.”