Tough Top Awnings gives county a team of experts

As a small team, every employee learns all manufacturing aspects of the business

Tough Top Awnings
Tyler Hammack is the owner of Tough Top Awnings in Brush Prairie, along with Christie Hammack. Courtesy of Viki Eierdam

It’s that time of year again when adventure types hit the open road with their RVs, travel trailers and toy haulers. A common replacement or upgrade is an awning and, thanks to Tough Top Awnings, Clark County residents have a team of experts in their backyard.

Back in 2006, avid RVers Ray and Sandy Oberreuter were challenged to find a consistent source for quality replacement fabrics. Adding to the mountain of proof that necessity is the mother of invention, the Oberreuters opened Tough Top Awnings as a mobile business that began in Arizona. A couple years later their then son-in-law, Tyler Hammack, came on to help build the business and daughter, Christie Hammack, created their online ordering department from the ground up.

Today, the founders are back to enjoying the world at a leisurely pace from their Class C motorhome while Tyler and Christie have moved up to ownership roles with Christie’s brother, Rick, focusing on graphic design and marketing.

Over the last 12 years sales growth at Tough Top has increased 20 to 30 percent year-over-year. Since setting up a permanent base in Clark County, consistency in material has been met with consistency in the workforce.

“Operating out of one center has helped us find quality employees who’ve stuck around with us,” Tyler said. “We had a lot of temp workers when bouncing around. We found a lot of smaller-town people who were hard-working and well-educated because of the great schools in Clark County.”

This past June, Tough Top started their fifth employee. A college student, she is tasked with summer operations so the management team can concentrate on new product development. As a small team, every employee learns all manufacturing aspects from raw material coming in the front door to the finished product shipping out the back door.

From slide-out toppers to main pull-out awnings, privacy panels, window awnings and door awnings, Tough Top has developed a reputation as one of the best in the industry. The reason for their success is high standards. They are loyal to their fabric manufacturers – one located on the East Coast and another located on the West Coast – who source predominantly U.S.-made material and they are consumer advocates.

Tyler said that a lot of RV owners are discouraged from doing their own work by dealerships and repair centers. He wants to help owners avoid the high hourly labor charges by supplying detailed how-to videos with every purchase made. Several Tough Top videos can also be found on YouTube, and Tyler conducts in-person seminars in Arizona.

“We want to make them self-sufficient so they don’t get to a camp site and have to find a repair person. We strive to save them money and time so they can get out there and do what they’ve always dreamed of doing which is exploring the world,” Tyler said.

Tough Top relocated from an industrial area in Vancouver to its own five-acre parcel in Brush Prairie. Within the next year it is their hope to double the size of their current 3,500-square-foot facility to keep up with their five-day order fulfillment time frame.

It’s not unusual to have an RVer swing by Tough Top’s shop for a hands-on installation, so Tyler would like to add two or three RV sites over the next couple of years for customers to utilize, as local permitting allows. Until then, they’ll continue to enjoy the unique camaraderie of RVers on an install-by-install basis.

“A lot of people will come through and have us install our product. They ask if we want a down payment and I say ‘no’ because they are so trustworthy, I’ve never been burned by an RVer. They live in small communities with paper thin walls and they all get along like they’re best friends,” Tyler said.