February 5, 2004

Longhorn Conversions’ Trailers Gaining Notority For Manufacturer

What started out as a sideline for a local family to add a little extra income has turned into a full-blown business with exciting opportunities for continued expansion.

Longhorn Conversions started out six years ago on the Emel family farm when Randy, Jason, Melinda and Melissa Emel completed their first trailer conversion job, installing a living quarters area in a horse trailer. The building project still allows the owner to haul horses in the trailer but it converts a portion of the floor space into a living area for travelers to utilize while on trips with the animals.

“We had been selling trailers for 10 or 12 years and heard people talking about these types of conversion jobs,” Jason Emel said. “They were always complaining about how expensive it is. Finally we looked into it a bit and decided that we could build the conversions right here in Memphis for a lot less than what these folks were having to pay.”

Six years later the business has expanded and is looking for future growth. Initially the family completed only a handful of special orders in the first few years.

But the orders continued to increase forcing Longhorn Conversions to construct a new shop in Memphis on Highway 136. The company completes many trailers a year.

“It takes two to three weeks to build the average conversion with some of the bigger jobs taking at least a month,” Jason said. “But with the growth in the number of orders we hope to see the production numbers double this year.”

Of course that would likely entail further expansion for the growing business.

The company already has added additional staff beyond the founding family members. Jeff Frederick and Drew Holt work on the assembly and construction crew with Jason and Randy. Danny Kirby helps transport the trailers and Jim Adams does upholstery work for the interiors.

“While this started out as a family show we definitely wouldn’t be where we are today without these guys,” Jason said. “We’re extremely fortunate to have such a good set of employees.”

The crew keeps busy installing the living quarters in a variety of styles for horse trailers ranging in sizes offering a number of possibilities.

The typical conversion includes a sleeping area, a kitchen and bathroom complete with shower.

The group starts with the shell and installs insulation, wiring and plumbing as well as all of the other necessities.

“Basically we are building a house inside a trailer,” Emel said. “We pride ourselves in the quality of the workmanship as well as the quality of the products we install in these living quarters.”

Typical camper style setups use cheaper materials such as particleboard and other low cost materials. Longhorn Conversions utilizes solid oak paneling, real wood cabinets and other high quality materials.

This serves as a boon to the local community, which is seeing the benefit of the growth in the local trailer company’s sales. Emel said the company is able to buy much of the hardware and plumbing supplies locally and also utilizes local services such as welding to help build the final product.

The living quarters come complete with air conditioning and heating, but that option depends on where the trailer will be shipped.

“The last trailer we built went to Tuscon, AZ, and they didn’t need a heater,” Randy Emel said. “We sent one to Wisconsin and they didn’t think they needed the air conditioning but wanted to be sure the unit had a good heater.”

Currently Longhorn Conversions is building units for Titan Trailer MFG. The national company has 115 dealers across the United States. The bulk of the orders come through the company’s various dealers.

However Emel noted there is no exclusive contract, meaning the company is free to build conversion units in any type of trailer and has done projects for area dealers including Maxwell Trailer of Missouri.

While the business has focused on conversions for horse trailers, Emel said he anticipates expanding to do some new projects including trailers for ATV’s and motorcycles. He also has received interest in a trailer for specialty vehicles such as mountain-climbing Jeeps and noted the local race car drivers also have mentioned interest in seeing trailers for race car transport including living quarters.

But it is the horse trailer outfit that has gained Longhorn Conversions the most notice. The crew recently completed a custom trailer outfit for a new television series “Corrals Across America”, an American Adventure series that will air on RFD-TV beginning next year. The program features Carey Clay as he travels across the United States to beautiful and exciting places related to horseback riding.

The show is sponsored in part by Titan Trailers, which is providing the custom horse trailer complete with living quarters designed and built by Longhorn Conversions.

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