Long Road to Success for Montana's Small Business Person of the Year

2017 SBA Small Business Person of the Year for Montana

It was 1967, the so-called “summer of love,” when Frank and Vi Bretz turned their love of camping into a small business in Missoula.  Their idea was to create a new opportunity for local families and visitors to Montana to have great summer outings at affordable prices.

That first year business was conducted from a leased service station and focused on renting small travel trailers.  Fifty years later, Bretz RV and Marine is the largest RV and boat dealer in the six-state region surrounding Montana, and company CEO Mark Bretz is the 2017 U.S. Small Business Administration Montana District Office small business person of the year. 

Mark Bretz took over the family-owned business in 1982.  He told RV Business Magazine in 1995 that as much as he enjoyed RV'ing, “I never thought I would be RV'ing for my livelihood. I was going to be a banker.” 

He said his parents bought their first RV when he was six.  “I grew up in the business," he said. 

When Mark entered college, his plans for a career in banking took a backseat when he found that his parents needed some help with the family business.  Mark told RV Business Magazine, "I finally came to the point where I decided we were either going to make a success of our business or get out of the RV business altogether."

Since making that commitment 35 years ago Mark has successfully expanded the Missoula-based business into a premier dealership with additional locations in Billings and Boise, employing just over 200 full and part-time employees.

Over the course of the first 20 years the business outgrew several locations and in 1987, the family purchased 4.5 acres of land and a 10,000 square foot building.  By 1990, the company expanded with a 6,000 square foot addition to the shop.  With the purchase of two additional acres in 1992, and financing through an SBA 504 loan of $178,000, the building was remodeled, the sales lot was enlarged, and customer parking was increased.

The business continued to grow.  Having operated from a very crowded lot for several years, the decision was made to purchase 30 acres on Grant Creek Road in Missoula.  During the summer of 1998, they broke ground on Bretz RV & Marine’s current facility.

Bretz RV expanded into the Billings market in 2008 when Tour America RV became part of the Bretz family.  Additional expansions occurred in 2010 with B Young RV in Portland, Oregon; in 2011 with Happy Trails RV, Inc. in Boise, Idaho; in 2016 with Bretz Capital Sports Sales in Boise; and finally in 2017 with Gull Boats and RV’s in Missoula.

The business received additional SBA assistance in the form of a $4.2 million 504 loan commitment in March, 2016.  A new facility is being built and will provide additional outdoor space for inventory.  The expansion includes retail space, a showroom and service department with multiple RV service bays, paint bay, parts department and office space.  The project is jointly funded by Big Sky Economic Development Corp. in Billings, and Bank of Montana in Missoula.  The Montana Board of Investments is also a participant in the loan package.

“Big Sky Economic Development is proud to have partnered with Mark Bretz on the expansion of Bretz RV & Marine in Billings,” said Brandon Berger, finance director for BSEDC.  “Seeing the investment Mark is making in communities like Billings and Missoula is a testament to his success as a small business owner. 

“Mark and his team take pride in the products and services they deliver, and his passion for the industry is evident.  Mark has carried on the family legacy and has made Bretz RV & Marine the signature RV dealerships in the Northwest.” 

Mark is a co-founder and the current Treasurer of Recreational Dealers Cooperative Association, the world’s largest RV Dealer buying group.  His past community involvement includes being a member of the Montana Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs (MADE) at the University of Montana in Missoula. 


Company Name: 
Bretz RV & Marine
Missoula, MT