Here’s some positive news to celebrate. Hallmark Manufacturing’s bankruptcy has officially been dismissed. We visited Hallmark a few weeks prior to the announcement and found the 54 year old company moving full speed ahead. Hallmark never missed a beat.
On October 6th, 2023, Hallmark Manufacturing’s bankruptcy was officially dismissed.
According to Hallmark Manufacturing, filing Chapter 11 was a defensive legal action taken to protect their company from a frivolous lawsuit brought by C.F. Maier Composites, Hallmark’s original fiberglass roof and panel supplier. In addition to the lawsuit, Hallmark Manufacturing added that C.F. Maier Composites wrongfully detained Hallmark Manufacturing’s roof and panel molds.
Hallmark Manufacturing has now produced all new fiberglass molds for their roofs and side panels, and is working with a new fiberglass vendor.
Furthermore, Hallmark reports that all customer orders were fulfilled during the seven month bankruptcy, the company has remained profitable, and they continued taking orders, and building campers.
Hallmark On the Move
About a month before the official bankruptcy dismissal announcement, Angela and I visited the Fort Lupton, Colorado pop-up camper manufacturer. Within minutes of walking into the factory, Mike Hastman breezed past us on a forklift hoisting a freshly completed roof and soft wall onto a new unit.
And that’s when it hit me. Not Mike’s smooth forklift maneuvers, but rather the reality that Hallmark hasn’t missed a beat. We knew Hallmark was still in operation, but to see the team in person moving at their production pace was a wonderful thing to behold.
For the record, Angela and I have now visited Hallmark Manufacturing seven times; 2007, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2018, and now 2023. It has been a few years due to our schedule and the pandemic, but we are very pleased to report that Hallmark is running as it always has. In fact, many of the same team members we met in 2007 are still at their post; working with customers and building molded fiberglass pop-up truck campers.
We spent the better part of two days observing the crew and renewing our understanding of the Hallmark process; station by station. As we walked the factory, we found the Hallmark team buzzing with production. Most importantly, the team was in great spirits and working on customer orders.
Unlike most truck camper manufacturers, Hallmark Manufacturing builds all of its drawers, cabinet doors, and cabinetry in-house. Here you see craftsman, Clyde McCullough, assembling a bamboo-faced drawer. Even the inside structure of this drawer is rock solid and beautiful.
Hallmark’s custom-built cabinetry results in some of the most warm, inviting, and downright gorgeous interiors you’ll see in any truck camper or RV on planet Earth. I realize that’s a bold statement, but I would put Hallmark’s cabinetry and interiors against anything we’ve ever seen. Simply stunning.
Not too far from where Clyde was working were four one-piece fiberglass and carbon fiber roofs. We also saw sets of fiberglass side panels and other fiberglass elements on hand and ready for the production line. Matt Ward explained to us that their new fiberglass vendor has been a fantastic partner consistently supplying them with high-quality roofs and side panels.
Speaking of roofs, Dave Hastman has been assembling Hallmark roofs for as long as we’ve been visiting the company. And for that same period of time, elements of Hallmark’s roof manufacturing process have been secret.
What we can tell you is that Hallmark’s one-piece fiberglass and carbon fiber roofs are vacuum-bonded in-house. The result is a waterproof and nearly indestructible assembly that’s ready for off-road abuse. For Hallmark customers with units that pre-date the one-piece fiberglass roof (2008), Hallmark offers a popular fiberglass roof and three-layer insulated soft wall upgrade.
Hallmark’s approach to manufacturing is a keen blend of new and old-school materials and techniques. For example, they utilize their proprietary one-piece, fiberglass and carbon fiber vacuum-bonded roofs and molded fiberglass side panels, and mate them with old school (aka proven) wood framing. Rather than chasing the latest construction trend, Hallmark sticks to what they know holds up in the field; sand, rock, mud, and even pavement.
Speaking of old school and proven, in the above image, Al Sailas tests a water tank by pressurizing the container with air. Once the tank was pressurized, he sprayed the exterior with soapy water and looked for bubbles. In this case, bubbles would mean a leak. Once the tank passes this test, it’s installed. The Hallmark team will later test the water system with water before delivering the unit to a customer.
After Al completed the test, Matt came over to discuss the customer build. What I like about this photo is how it shows the Hallmark family atmosphere. Hallmark owners often rave to us about how the Hallmark crew treated them, took care of their questions, and left them feeling both supported and excited to go camping. We had much the same experience when we met the Hallmark team in 2007.
Here Mike Hastman is installing an under-bed fiberglass storage compartment. The under-bed storage greatly increases the amount of internal storage in a Hallmark and would be the envy of just about every hard side camper owner out there. It also helps to further insulate the bed from the outside temperatures.
Having been at Hallmark for decades, Mike has his own tasks and floats between the various production stations filling in where needed. He’s also something of a Hallmark historian making sure we understand not just the manufacturing process, but the people and stories behind it.
In a separate room from the main production floor, Bill Mitchell, was assembling Hallmark’s three-layer insulated soft walls. Every Hallmark comes standard with insulated soft walls that – like nearly everything at Hallmark – are 100 percent manufactured in-house.
Note the wood jigs around Bill’s work area. Along with his specially designed and marked table, these jigs make his soft wall process fast and accurate.
Hallmark’s outer and inner soft wall layers are made from high thread count Image Tech fabric. The inside layer is made from closed-cell foam (note the large roll behind Bill). For additional strength and weather protection anywhere there’s stitching, there’s a fourth layer of moisture-wicking cotton/nylon.
Behind Bill, Mary Janes sews the soft walls together. Mary also happens to be an avid quilter. As soon as Angela heard this, she brought out some of her latest quilting creations from our camper including this crayon quilt for our one-year-old cousin. Thankfully, Mary was done for the day and we didn’t delay anyone’s Hallmark build; honest.
In the same room, Matt was assembling foam cushions. I know I’m repeating myself, but Hallmark also makes all its cushions in-house. Suffice it to say this is also not an industry norm.
When we first met Matt – nearly seventeen years ago – he was making the buttons and cushions at Hallmark Manufacturing. Now Matt runs the company, but he still enjoys getting away from the computer and phones to work on Hallmark campers. Not only can we relate the desire to get away from anything with a screen, but it’s also refreshing to see the leadership team stay hands-on with the product.
Matt was not the only one on the Ward team to roll up his sleeves and build a camper. After spending his morning and early afternoon in Hallmark Service, we found Andy Ward assembling a camper frame. My conversation with Andy at that moment mirrored much of what Matt had said to me earlier. Andy still enjoys building Hallmark campers and added that he loves being part of a winning team.
Matt and Andy’s father and the Owner of Hallmark Manufacturing, Bill Ward, is an unstoppable force of nature. Honestly, I think it might take an M4 Sherman to pull Bill away from Hallmark.
Like his sons, Bill loves building Hallmarks and spends his days walking the factory and helping anywhere he can. Then he gets on the phone and pours decades of truck camper wisdom into whomever happens to call. Just be warned; Bill’s advice can be unfiltered. You get the unvarnished truck camping truth and all of Bill’s passion and care for Hallmark customers.
At Hallmark, there’s always a line of campers pointing to the load out bay. Each camper is being completed and otherwise prepped for customer pickup. In this picture you see Lee Collins doing some final caulking and sealing for a camper scheduled to be delivered that week.
Lee was also working on Hallmark repairs and refurbishments including the installation of a new one-piece fiberglass roof and soft wall on a 1990’s era Hallmark. The customer had purchased the camper for a song and was spending less than the camper was worth to get the new roof and soft wall installed. This is an important detail about Hallmark. They can often take a twenty-year-old (or older) Hallmark camper, and make it ready for the next twenty years of camping fun.
Speaking of customers, Bill Gebhardt picked up his brand new 2023 Hallmark Cuchara during our visit. This was actually Bills’ second Hallmark Cuchara (his first one was used) and he was very excited to be picking up the Cuchara he ordered, exactly the way he wanted.
Hallmark allows customers to select the cabinetry wood (oak, amber bamboo, maple, or cherry standard, cherry, hickory, walnut, and Coosa composite extra), interior fabric (for dinette cushions, mattress, valances, and window covers and accents), and a deep list of interior and exterior options. Hallmark is not a custom manufacturer, but you get a lot of choices to make your camper your own.
Above: Clyde McCullough, Andy Zwicker, and Dave Hastman (front row), Bill Mitchell, Lee Collins, and Bill Ward (second row), Andy Ward, Don Study, Mike Hastman, Al Sailas, and Matt Ward (back row), Molly Ward, Cassi Ward, Debbie Ward, and Mary Janes (not pictured)
Hallmark isn’t the only one that’s a bit old school. Per my usual, I gathered up the team for a group shot. Not only do I want to honor the proud teams moving our industry forward, but I also relish the challenge of getting these teams together (think herding cats), and getting them all to smile at the same time. This crew was easy; assembling and smiling simply by asking.
We left Hallmark very early on a Friday morning. Before I climbed into the driver’s seat, Angela and I took a walk around the building. No employee vehicles were parked at the front door; no customer load-outs were at the tall bay door. All was quiet on the Hallmark front.
During that warm September morning, I reflected on the excitement that was brewing at Hallmark. The bankruptcy dismissal had all but been officially announced, and the management and production teams were eager to put the cloud behind them. They were ready for what was before me; a company with clear skies, and a new day. Finally, that day has come.
Now that the dismissal is official, please join us in congratulating Hallmark Manufacturing.