In this episode of the Hostel Road Trip Podcast Pandemic Mini-Series, David Cook from the Barn Door Hostel is going to tell us about opening a climbing hostel and having COVID-19 hit is the first year.
David's also going to tell us about some of the structural challenges and facility-based issues that one can have when converting a barn that was once the chicken coop and a mechanic shop into a hostel. And that could be some good feedback for you listeners out there.
SHOW VIDEO TRANSCRIPT
James Black (00:01): Welcome back to the hostel pandemic mini series, shimmy black with the road trip podcast, back to Bobby Dyer from [inaudible]. Hey guys, good to be here. And David Cook from the barn door still newly opened the Hampshire. Yeah. Climbing a epicenter of the Northeast. Yeah. Someone got to represent that area here at Tufts that what's going out there, but we're going to have a great episode because we're going to hear from David about what it's like to be in your first year of operation and a pandemic hits. He just opened, he's not Mark. He had a strong opening, but now where you go from there as we've talked to people that were in the process of opening up or talk to people that have been open, but let's talk a little bit more about the person who had just, and then a little tree on top of that. James Black (00:55): David's also going to tell us about some of the structural challenges and facility-based issues that one can have when converting a barn that was once the chicken coop in the mechanic shop into a hostel. And that could be some good feedback for you listeners out there, but to dive in Dave cook, who was at one time, one of our original managers at I T H and is now raising Phoenix and operation in New Hampshire. We're so very proud of him. But David first, tell us a bit about your hostel what's the barn door hostel about for sure. Barndoor Hostel. We're in Rumney New Hampshire. It is the climbing like Mecca of the Northeast, anybody that rock climbs literally from around the world, they have heard of Romney. There are the easiest climbs, so easy that you can do it barefoot with your dog all the way up to world class. Now Olympic climbers have done them once and everything in between all difficulties, there's over 1300 routes here, like established climbing routes which is equal to the amount of residents in the town. So it's pretty funny. Yeah, we're really small town and the climbers flock from all over our, our main demographic is Boston, New York, Montreal. You know, that whole five hour radius from us. So Romney needed something and we, we built it here. We are. James Black (02:42): I fucking love it. Now, the facility that, you know, that's the location geographically, which is cool, but give us a little bit of taste and insight into the really cool facility we're seeing. Sure. Yeah. So this was, as you mentioned, a super old chicken coop yeah, it's been, so the building is like 3,500 square feet. Yep. And so we moved in here. My business partner is, my parents came up here to we are, we're all doing it together. And we had a hell of a time renovating this massive dilapidated building from a chicken coop and mechanics shop into a hostel. And we had to make it all up to code. We sleep 30 people indoors and we are looking at on nine acres. So we also have a campground and people can pay a little bit extra in coming in and, and use the bathroom and stuff like that. If they want, if they don't want to do that, then there are composting toilets and an outdoor shower for the campers. James Black (03:58): Would you say that it's a year round operation or are you one of the seasonal style Northeast hostels? So we were originally I was planning on being seasonal because climbing is such a seasonal sport. But I have actually seen a lot of people come up during the winter. We stayed open just to test it out throughout this past winter. And we saw actually a lot of people coming. It was a mild winter, so people were coming to climb. They were also coming to ice climb to ski and snowboard to bag some of the 4,000 footers that you can find in the white mountains. We're super close to Mount moose lock. It's like 30 minutes away. And also some snowmobilers. Oh, wow. No mobile trail, like a 10th of a mile from our property. You said ice rock climbing, ice, ice climbing. James Black (04:53): Yeah. So with the crampons. Oh, that's legit up here. So yes, we are year round now. Yep. So now, okay, so year round, that's exciting to hear. And now I now hoping that next time I'm up there, the winters have I'll state my parent's house and join you for a little while, but yeah. Check it out now that you've got this winter season behind you and you're coming out and you're just about to celebrate your one year anniversary. Give me some insight into how is this experience for you, because I know what it's like for us, you know, as an established place, that's been open almost 10 years, that's a wildly different experience that a person like you who's just coming up on their first year. What's this like? Yeah. So in terms of COVID-19, it is a financial nightmare. I, it is everywhere across the world. James Black (05:56): But without the customer base and the financial stability of a longer operating business it's very difficult. So we've actually been reaching out to a bunch of our old guests and have been asking for donations. We've reached out with the small business association programs that are available. I actually haven't heard anything back yet. But I know that the application process for those types of SBA loans, usually one of the first questions is have you been in business for at least five years or two years? Do you have right returns? Which means you would have been in business for three or four. That's that tough cookie for you that as you're in it, but you may have just filed literally your first Accenture. I did. Yes I did. Which is such a tough scenario to be getting judged off of that very minute, very difficult year, not your best years, those first ones. James Black (07:16): So even if you are operating for a few years out of your tax returns, those aren't your best tax returns. So that's a very chat. So you're going through all these motions. Tell me about a little bit more of this reaching out to past guests. It's just like a go fund, me sponsor thing or more internal. It's more, it's more grassroots. It's not really as organized as it go fund me. The majority of our clientele is return customers. The folks that are climbers that live in Albany or, or Providence or those areas, they're frequenting this area Romney specifically to climb, to work on a project that they're doing, you know, trying to figure out the moves on a climb or something like this. So they're here every week or every other week. So we have a really loyal customer base and we've reached out to them, Hey, we know that you'd like us not to sound area. James Black (08:17): We know that we know that you like staying here and we like having you help us stay here. So that's actually been a super helpful thing so far, we've just been posting on our social media. You know, you can donate to our Venmo, which is Barnard. Barndoor hostel. You can buy gift cards via square. That link is on our website. And you can also just purchase like a gear. We have branded t-shirts, we have pint glasses. So all of that inventory is just sitting here right now. So it's very helpful for people to buy it and we can ship it and turn over some of that. Yeah. That's great. That's a great, you guys really got it all covered as far as that goes. Yeah. Yeah. I think GoFund me is kind of a little bit washed out sometimes the more like honest is sometimes a bit more helpful. Sure. I love this day, but I think you're really on to something for the listeners of you saw everyone jumped on the go fund, me wagon, everyone was on it. James Black (09:26): It just didn't feel exactly right for us. That's the people that did it and are doing it in our survival. I think it's beautiful story. I love what you just brought up so much more. You got all this merchandise, these sweatshirts, these cups, these whatever that gives the person the opportunity to help you out. But at the same time, not by just giving you money blindly by buying or kicking off for us, a virtual punch card, like, Hey, buy 10 nights that you can use for the next year at a discounted rate now so that we can stay afloat. It be exactly a year. So these are fun ways and cool ways where I think you can encourage and inspire your base to help you out. But in a more genuine way. I think that's a really cool idea. Yeah. One last thing. James Black (10:21): One last thing that we, we are implementing. So the, it is an old barn and it's a pain in the ass to clean. So a lot of all the time we ask our guests to take their shoes off and we have loaner slippers to go around kinda like Japanese style. So we're, we're in the word like this is launching tomorrow. The Barner hustle slipper club, you described it with the punch card. But for barndoor hostel, you get your own slippers and we'll store them here for you. And you're locked into a price point for lunch zipper club for life. James Black (11:08): This kid worked at an IGH. I'll tell you, you know, I have to say, like, I learned everything from you and body. Honestly, literally everything from interacting with guests to how to unclog a toilet. Like I was a sheltered Connecticut boy, you know? And it really opened my eyes. So it was, it was our pleasure, David, you were, you were Jeb to have a board, but it's been great that we've stayed in contact over these years because, and we were joking about it. When this first broke up, what did Apple, Jimmy text you a good warning, right? You said something like, make sure you have bleach weed and toilet paper. And it was pre COVID-19. It was like three or four days before this whole thing really hit off. And I texted you back like a week after. And I said, did you know something? James Black (12:10): How did you know this? Like your get bleach, get toilet paper. Like you gotta move your supplies around in this year. And as I was joking around, if he's got the pit mix, the bleach, the weed, you can rub the, your slippers on and go the slipper. Club's beautiful because it's just like having your own mug at a bar. Right? Exactly. Yeah. That's Oh, the hostel in Burlington. And that was unique. How everybody took their shoes off and like walked around the hostel with no shoes on. It's amazing what it did for the noise. Also it's like I said, it's an old barn. It's massive. So these are 14 foot ceilings and it's like 50 feet long. It's pretty echoey in here. So people are trudging around with their like hiking boots or something like it's a pain in the ass. So there's mud there's noise. So slippers all the way. That is awesome. We were, we were scheduled to do the podcast with you, which we had to delay a couple of seasons of recording here, but we can't wait to get up there personally what Bobby and I have said, and I think this would be, you want to cover in the summertime so we could ride motorcycles up there for bird Island, because that's one of the best rides on the motorcycle Rhode Island. And then we could stay outside in the summertime experience, just LA LA land. James Black (13:42): Now in closing, we were going to give our guests a little bit of insight as to what of your struggles that was unique. That a lot of people don't think about, but you know, shit's in the details, details of the ship this barn, and now you've got up to a hundred people that can come stay at it. Tell us about some of your septic issues. The infrastructure, when we moved in was nonexistent it's, we're in such a rural area that there's no city water or no city sewer. We can't just, you know, dig 20 feet and hook up to some pipe. That's not a thing up here. So you have to make sure that you have have enough water, a big enough. Well, that's going to supply showers and cooking and blah, blah, blah for, yeah, like you said, a hundred people. But the main thing, the main issue for us was our septic system. We actually had to get a commercial dual tank system and there are a of legalities and proper paperwork and all of this stuff that I had no idea about until it was, it wasn't too late, but it was like right on the break of like, Oh fuck, where we're messed up. Can I say, fuck [inaudible]. James Black (15:12): But these are great points for the listeners. That is a classic example of something that would not be on your radar. It would even be off the radar of your CPA or accountant. That's putting together your projections. He's not going to see that or know that self and town hall looking at zoning records, you know, that is such a key element. And then you talk about also the thing that sometimes you're too far into it already. So you've already got your life savings invested. You've already signed these leases. You've bought a place and you've got a mortgage. Then you find out, Oh my God, I need a $40,000 sprinkler system or a hundred thousand dollars septic. We got one of those too. So all these things that you know, could really be deal breakers in. It's sad because it happens in your, a great story and inspiring story. James Black (15:59): But for you, for every one of your stories, there's probably five that are the horrible other side of the person had the belief. They had the skill, the talent that location needed it, the business model would work and they didn't find out about this septic system and it killed their project in motion. We were very lucky because our property is bordered. It's kind of a triangle shaped property in two of those sides are Brooks like protected environmentally protected Brooks. We're very lucky we have enough space to create a septic system, but if you're in a state or a town or whatever, that has environmental protection policies, or even just state mandates or whatever. Exactly. So that all needs to be on your radar. ASAP. people are paying for beds and toilets at the end of the day, beds and toilets. I keep a comfy bed shitter and you're on your way to Oscar young man. James Black (17:07): So that's stuff that Bob dire, you have anything in closing. You want to tell this handsome gentleman over abrupt. I was, you're talking about septic. I mean, we had an issue here in San Diego, the place, and it was fun. I learned that the plumber recommended using a certain kind of toilet paper. That'll break down easier. And it's not that you don't have to think about when you buy toilet paper. A lot of times you want to buy whether you're buying the expensive stuff, the quality stuff, sometimes that stuff doesn't break down and it goes through your pipes and that could be causing you more trouble. So that was a tip we learned of like researching a toilet paper that breaks down can help me out a lot as a hostel there's there, aren't a very lot of nuances that go into that. Septic toilet paper is definitely one of them you know, signs, reminding people to not flush sanitary products or whatever yeah. James Black (17:59): Providing available options for them to, to, you know, some people don't like toilet paper. They want to do the, the fancy, like wet wipe thing. What do you do with that? Can you flush? You know, like those are things that you have to, there is. Yeah, shit talk. It's a whole other series 30 minutes, but Hey, next time on the mini series, we have another great recording with Joe Gill at Asheville, North Carolina, by Dave cook and Romney your hands at the barn door. We are so excited to come out with the hostel road trip, hopefully, maybe sometime this summer. And thank you so much for joining us again from my San Diego. You guys, Dave, beautiful and handsome and we'll be okay. Bye. Bye.