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  • David Grant McCombs

The Canned Ham Man

This article was previously published in the June 2013 issue of Cool Tears and Tiny Campers Magazine and was the first article NOT about a teardrop! While this company is no longer in business, the article is an interesting read. Welcome Canned Hams as part of the Tiny Campers side of the magazine. If a canned ham trailer is your thing, then check out https://tincantourists.com

"I had ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) when I was a kid and nothing really held my attention very long. Then I discovered trailers, and my world changed," Chris Burkhardt said. "If I wasn't building trailers here, I"d be building them someplace else." Burkhardt and his sister, Shelly Nichols, own The Canned Ham Man, a trailer repair, restoration, and rescue business in Riverside, California.

"I am a perfectionist. A trailer we had recently finished restoring was ready for the customer to pick up. I decided, under closer inspection, the new paint really needed some wet-sanding. The "finished" trailer was re-"finished" eight hours later. I have an obsession with details. I'm old school - my name is everything," said Chris.

"I keep waiting for someone to yell at me or get me in trouble for goofing off," Nichols said. "It's fun to come to work with my family; I mean, I bring my little girl to work. Where else can you do that? It's a great job"!

Retro white and pale green canned ham camping trailer with a table and chairs outside the door

The Canned Ham Man gives happy credence to the adage, "Get a job doing what you love and you'll never work a day in your life." But life for Burkhardt has not always been so wonderful.

"My life was pretty terrible," Burkhardt said. He was savaged by devastating personal tragedy and awash with alcohol and drugs. He slinked into a dilapidated trailer on Lytle Creek to await the end, but in reality, that old trailer was the beginning. Burkhardt turned that bleak necessity into a thriving empire.

"I used to wake up in the morning and say, 'Why did I have to wake up at all? Why couldn't I just die in my sleep?' Now, I'm excited. I can't wait to see what the new day has in store for me," he said. "Now, I can't get him to go home and get some sleep"! Nichols interjected playfully. "He's always here."

Although the atmosphere of the shop is low-key and fun, restoring vintage trailers is a serious matter. The shop itself has half dozen trailers in various stages of restoration. "It would be easy if they were all the same. Each trailer is different, each unique," explains Burkhardt. "They might be the same year, the same model, but they are very different. They differ not only in their restoration needs, but in floor plans. In the day, trailers were built like in a new car dealership: you could order different options, color schemes."

"We are restoring one trailer with a gourmet kitchen, another to be a traveling art