A small Mississippi company spawned by Hurricane Katrina has begun building “Lodge-on-Wheels” recreational vehicles — small, all-wood residences mounted on utility trailer frames, the first of which served as emergency housing for the company’s president who was left homeless by the storm.
“We are really just getting started,” said Julie Martin, president of The Martin House Co. LLC, Bay St. Louis, Miss., whose company began production in February. “We do custom builds, and that is what we emphasize because everybody wants something different.”
Currently, Lodge-on-Wheels RVs are offered in 160- and 200-square-foot floorplans. Each has a kitchen with stovetop and small refrigerator, full bath and loft for sleeping or storage. The 7,500-pound to 8,500-pound units are built with cedar siding and pine interiors with bamboo floors. Electricity and fresh water are provided by standard RV hookups. Retail prices start at $33,900.
Bay St. Louis, about 60 miles west of New Orleans on the Gulf Coast, is where Katrina’s eye hit land, destroying almost everything — including Martin’s historic home, a former customs house that dated to 1787. Also leveled was her business, a small restoration company.
After Katrina, she lived for four months on a government-supplied cruise ship docked in nearby Pascagoula. “I had to come up with another idea,” she said.
After doing some research, Martin teamed with Jay Shafer, who lives in a 70-square-foot home in San Francisco and owns Tumbleweed Tiny House Co. They designed a small, efficient home that could be moved from place to place as needed.
“I lived in it for two years,” Martin said. “It dawned on me one day that this might be a good business. Things around Bay St. Louis were a mess, and they still are.”
Lodge-on-Wheels’ marketing has mostly been via the Internet (www.lodge-on-wheels.com) and her company has received publicity on National Public Radio and magazines in London, Germany, Russia and Belgium. A French company is negotiating to be a European distributor. “I had thought originally, that the market would be local, but there is tremendous interest elsewhere, including Europe,” she said.
Martin acknowledged not many Lodge-on-Wheels are likely to be seen pulling into a traditional campground. “Our market is people who are not going to a campground and they are not going to parks,” she said. “They want it on their property, but they like the idea of them being portable. They are very good for hunting.”