LIBBY, Mont. — Four years ago, Adam Montgomery, Bruce Weatherby and Joan Oakland worked together at a grocery store in Troy. Montgomery was in produce, Weatherby was the grocer and Oakland was in the deli.
Little did they know, they were about to dive headfirst into the custom-build recreational trailer industry.
“This all happened by mistake,” Montgomery said, standing in the middle of Sherpa Trailers’ shop in Libby.
Three years after opening up shop, the three partners at Sherpa Trailers and two full-time employees are busy selling trailers across the Pacific Northwest and as far east as Illinois. Weatherby said demand for custom-built teardrop trailers has been so high recently that the company barely has time to build new showcase units.
Weatherby said the three friends have always bonded over motorsports, so when the opportunity presented itself to buy an old auto-body shop in Libby, they jumped at it and left behind their grocery store jobs. In 2014, they started doing bodywork near downtown Libby, but when business wasn’t taking off, they decided to build a teardrop trailer. Weatherby said the decision to make trailers came after the friends studied the market and realized they could build something better. They did, and their product sold fast.
By the end of the first year, they were only building teardrops, and Sherpa Trailers was born. Oakland said the name is a nod to the Tibetan mountaineers who safely guide climbers up the Himalayas. She said that’s what their trailers do: safely get people to their destination and home.
Sherpa Trailers offers four different trailers. The Offroad, also known as “Bigfoot,” is a 5-by-8-foot off-road trailer with 31-inch tires and full suspension that is great for rugged terrain. The Yeti and the Yak are more traditional trailers with smaller wheels but the same toughness as their off-road brethren. And the SherPod is a small 4-by-8-foot hardtop cabin that can slip into the back of a pickup truck.
Each trailer’s chassis and structure are made in Libby and are fully insulated. Unlike other trailers, Sherpa’s are made with thick walls and sturdy 2-by-4 boards.
“It’s built like a house,” Oakland said.
Weatherby said while they could increase margins by using cheaper materials, they’re not interested in putting out a subpar product.
“We don’t cut corners — we want to put a good quality product out there that we are proud to put our name on,” he said.
The trailers start at $3,800, considerably less than others on the market. Weatherby said the lower price point is because it’s simply cheaper to do business in Libby. Weatherby said if the company were in Spokane or even the Flathead Valley, it would cost a lot more to operate. They also make a point of purchasing most of their materials locally.
“Libby is our home and we don’t ever want to leave,” he said.
It takes two to three weeks to build one trailer, and there are usually three of four being constructed at any given moment in their garage not far from U.S. Highway 2 in Libby. Montgomery, who specializes in welding the chassis, said he has made at least three trailers for himself — specially outfitted with speakers and even a television — but he’s never able to keep them for long. Once people see them, they want to buy them. Weatherby said that whenever he’s traveling with his trailer, he budgets 30 minutes for each gas stop just to deal with all the people who stop to ask about his trailer.
The three partners at Sherpa Trailers said they hope their company continues to grow and plan on hiring a few more employees in the coming years.
Not too shabby for an “accidental” business, Weatherby said.
Information from: Flathead Beacon, http://www.flatheadbeacon.com