When a huge flood roared through Lyons, CO in 2013, no one anticipated that from the devastation would arise one of today’s trendiest vacation destinations.
Yet the devastation was so far-reaching the town’s zoning laws were eased for rebuilding purposes.
In came WeeCasa, a resort using tiny homes – popular structures that often defy traditional zoning codes – but which were allowed under the modified rules. “There were at least 250 weddings a year in the town,” says Kenyon Waugh, the “wee-EO” of the company. “But after the ceremonies, they were leaving with their wallets and going 16 miles south to Boulder to sleep.” Getting visitors to stay in this beautiful community that boasts spectacular hiking, rugged road bicycling, fishing and numerous festivals, as well as weddings, wasn’t difficult. But finding a place to accommodate them was.
Enter Rod Stambaugh, owner and brainchild of Sprout Tiny Homes, Inc., which he started in La Junta, Colorado in 2013. His philosophy dictates: “It’s all about engineering, design, using the right technology and going chemical free,” he says of his popular home designs.
The smaller spaces require active air circulation, as well as innovation to solve the challenges of living in a home that averages 175 square feet. Stambaugh initially focused on creating custom homes for individuals, but he was dismayed how often they’d compromise quality to save costs. He considered the benefits of mass-production, where he controlled the product, but had no takers.
Meanwhile, WeeCasa’s two initial tiny homes (which Waugh bought on Craigslist) were met with great success and he wanted to expand his operation, but had to do it before the zoning exceptions expired in 2015.The two joined forces.
“It was all about how fast and well Stambaugh could manufacture,” says Waugh, who had spent two years of “uphill challenges” to get permits for the tiny homes resort.
Sprout understood the time frame. The design team created two models to specifically function as overnight hotel rooms. Living space was maximized, kitchen area minimalized. Bathrooms included full-standing showers, and the convertible beds were all high quality and comfortable. Optional lofts would provide additional sleeping options.
The response was overwhelming. “It’s turned into a destination environment for people who come from all over the world to stay in tiny homes,” says Stambaugh.
Outside magazine listed WeeCasa as one of the “Best 28 Trips of 2016.” The resort now boasts 11 different Sprout models and the two companies have teamed up to package their resort model to other destinations.
“Now, three years in, we have a good story and we can go to (other) planning commissions and show how this works,” notes Waugh.
He estimates one-third of the guests come simply for the tiny homes, one-third for weddings and family celebrations such as 50th anniversary gatherings and one third for the outdoor experiences.
Waugh and Stambaugh believe other places throughout the country have similar appeal, which is why they’re offering this business model to other entrepreneurs, in a franchise-like package.
“People are eager to have alternative experiences in travel and hospitality,” affirms Stambaugh, “and tiny homes offer that. There’s going to be a uniqueness wherever it’s located – the good news is, this business model works!”
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