Building Our Own Mobile Shop

sally_ann_vintage_clothingIn our last post I alluded to the fact that we were wanting to get a “shop on wheels” to sell our handcrafted items from at festivals, farmers markets and such. We have been scouring the web to get ideas about what we wanted it to look like. We want it to be unique and colorful just like our products. The vintage trailer turned mobile retail space idea has always appealed to me. What we have found is that most of those “boutiques” are created using the vintage canned ham travel trailers that are less than 12 feet long and most of them are not very tall inside. Granted, they make for a very cute place to sell your wares from and almost every single one can be pulled by just about any car on the road today. Plus, you wouldn’t be charged for more than one vendor space at most places. We need a little bit more room than that and wouldn’t mind paying for two vending spaces if we have to.

My mom is getting up in years and we try to ask for vendor spaces as close to the rest rooms as possible. So, when we were pricing one of those vending enclosed trailers I had to make sure to include a toilet and sink as well as the accompanying grey, black and fresh water tanks underneath. We also need a combined air conditioning/heating unit in the ceiling. Of course, a little mini-fridge, microwave and coffee pot would be nice as well. If we are going to be at place for 8 to 9 hours that day or even over the weekend it would be nice to be comfortable. Plus, if the weather is inclement maybe we would get more customers who want to cool off, warm up or even get out of the rain. Our final consideration is that we want to just pull into the place, put out the awning, a stand-up sign and be ready to do business. All this putting up the tent, tables, table clothes, displays and then the merchandise really tires you out before you even can begin selling to your customers. Then at the end of the day or weekend you have to pack up all the merchandise and displays, break down the tables and tent, stuff it into the van before you leave. With a store on wheels we just hook it up to our minivan and we are out of there!

Now, like I said, we priced one of those enclosed trailers but they lack character. They are basically a rectangular box on wheels. Yes, you can have them wrapped with a custom design of your choosing but still they are just a box. Their only advantage is that they are “made to order” so you get what you need where you need it and have all new appliances, floors, ceilings, fixtures and equipment. The last one we priced with just the bathroom package and no shelving was around $22,000. They said, it would take about 2 to 6 weeks to complete the entire thing to be ready for pick-up. They would even do either gas or solar power. Now, having sat next to a food vendor for one weekend I know that we would have to have the quietest and cleanest working generator we could buy. You cannot always depend on there being electricity available at these shows and generally, if available, you are always charged an extra fee for their use.

Then, I looked at the Toy Hauler travel trailers. There are a couple that will work nicely and all we would have to do is take out the fold-up beds/couches and their frames from the walls but then you have this huge pull down back wall to either leave in place or open up to use as a porch. They have the requisite power supply, fridge, sink, bathroom facilities and all the holding tanks that you would need to be comfortable. Again, most include a shower and stove, neither of which you would really need or want in a shop. Those are running anywhere from $22,000 to $35,000 and most are at least 28 to 30 feet long with only a select few under 20 feet. You would definitely have to re-wrap or re-paint the outside anyway because most of them have all these swirling brown stripes all around them. Yes, they also lack a certain character to help you stand out as well. I emailed one of the manufacturers to get a price on one of them with just the toilet, one large sink, microwave and a fridge and possibly putting in another door on the back wall inside of the ramp. We will let you know if they respond.

I have been looking for a vintage trailer that we can renovate but, there again, you are talking about $10,000, a couple of months and lots of your own blood, sweat and tears if you do it yourself or about $15,000 to $20,000 if you get a renovation company to do it for you. Most vintage trailer renovators only want to restore them to their original designs with just more modern appliances and not as retail spaces. Apparently, the “vintage” trailers out there are few and far between and they don’t think we should create a retail space out of them.

I even thought about getting my brother to build us a wooden house on wheels from the Tiny House Plans website that I read all the time. This had the advantage of being unique and I can have cedar shingles, a little porch on front with carved designs or even make it look like a Victorian cottage with board batten siding. If we ever decide not to have a retail shop anymore it will still be around to convert to a tiny house for us to live in. But, these are generally quite heavy, when they are well made, and require a large truck to pull. And, you have to be really careful with the measurements to keep them within the legal limits of an RV to be able to take them on the road. I still love this idea and may use it in the future.

So, I came up with the brilliant idea of building my own “vintage trailer”(well, mostly my carpenter brother will be doing it) using the various historic pictures as a guide. The one I like the most is called a Holiday House Trailer. They were only manufactured from about 1960 to 1962. During that time there were only about 200 of these babies made and very few are left today. That makes them over 50 years old and the company is no longer in business so there shouldn’t be any patent infringement and with us building it ourselves from the ground up we won’t be insulting any vintage trailer renovators out there. They also manufactured a very limited edition, George Jetson looking, Travel Trailer called the Geographic (Model X) but sadly, there are only one or two of these left either. I’m not as fond of that one as I am of the Holiday House.

Over the next several months we will be gathering more information about the Holiday House Travel Trailers, pricing materials, trying to find sources to use reclaimed materials (Used but new to us), getting a used heavy duty trailer to build on, and trying to raise money to pay for it all. Of course, I have to talk my brother into doing it or at least carving out a space at his place where we can all pitch-in. If you know someone or have any detail plans for one of these little beauties and would be will to share please contact us. And if you would like to contribute a few dollars towards our mobile shop campaign (page will be posted soon) that would be great as well! Either way we hope you will share our post, campaign page and tell all your friends and family about those crazy Southern Craft Women and their wild scheme to build a vintage trailer retail shop from the ground up!

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