The Glamping Business: Maine Forest Yurts

Interview by: Alexandria Autrey

How long have you been in the glamping business?
We started in the business in 2012 and our first yurt went up in early 2013. So, we’re still new to the business. Our second yurt went up last summer in July and we’re still in the process of ordering our next one which should be done and ready by the first of next year.

When did you guys get involved in glamping?
My dad, Bob Crowly, was on the show survivor and he’s one of the oldest winners of the show. After he won in 2008, he and my mom retired, since then we’ve owned this property. We have deer and my parents bought the property in the early 1980s, we have never really done anything with it. After he retired, my father started coming out here and was just playing around with the idea of a yurt as well as building his own kind of prototypes. He would make these yurt prototypes and we thought one day we could rent one of these out. We ended up staying at another glamping yurt facility campground and we thought wow this is something our family could do because we have the property for it. My parents were at a point in their lives where they could do it and we loved the idea of a yurt. We honestly didn’t know what glamping was when we first started our business. We were building yurts and then we heard about glamping and we said oh that’s what we can call it. A lot of people don’t know what a yurt is so when you call it glamping more people know what that is rather than yurting. So starting our glamping business, just naturally happened we never even thought of going this way.

How long did it take to start up the business?
It could have been started within 6 months but, somebody had given us a log cabin so we had to move the cabin from one town to another. And there were a lot of things that delayed the process of opening up the business. But, it took about a year in total once we were focused and ready to start our first yurt. The hardest part about building a yurt is the foundation of them and putting down the floor and the deck. The yurt itself goes up in just a couple hours. It’s a long process but, once you have that it all comes together very quickly.

Do you all live on the property?
My parents bought a farm house across the street. We are very spoiled with how life has treated us. Things just happen and it’s like this farm house across the street was in foreclosure and we got it for a great deal. We weren’t thinking about moving to the property but, it was such a good deal it just worked the way it should. So yes, we do live up here.

Where did you get your glamping supplies?
The yurt itself, is a pacific yurt and inside the yurt there are bunk beds, kitchens, tables and futons. That’s all wood featured in the yurt we have cut down and made from our property. We try to get everything discount that’s how my family has always been. It’s a fun way to be creative in the business and come up with designs for the yurts on a budget.

What hurdles, if any have you all faced?
The hardest part has been the business aspect of glamping because, my mom was a respiratory therapist and my dad was a teacher during their career. So we have never done the QuickBooks or the accounting part of it but, it’s been pretty smooth. We’re not growing too big too fast so we can cross little hurdles.

Are the yurts, for the most part, the same?
Yes, they are all 24 feet in diameter and they both sleep 6 people. There are bunk beds and a futon that pulls out into a double bed. In addition, they all have the same amenities. And all feature four burner gas stoves but, each are different in character.

Is there a favorite yurt that people like to stay at?
No, for me, I like one yurt better in the winter just because, it is more exposed to the sun. But to answer your question, no it’s a straight divide between the yurts.

What activities do people like to do when they are staying at Maine Forest Yurts?
During the winter, they like to cross country ski or snow shoe. In addition, they like to hike around the property as my dad has done a really good job at marking the trails. During the summer, they like to hike and go into Freeport which is a little shopping town 15 minutes away from the property. They also like to go canoeing, swimming and kayaking during the summer months. We have two canoes and two kayaks available onsite for guests. However, honestly some guest will come and just sit in the yurt to get away.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far being in the business?
I would say that the biggest lesson we have learned is that you can’t expect anything. It’s essentially like we when we built this business we thought it was going to be a winter property and as it turns out, our summer is more booked. Everything that we have thought was going to happen has kind of gone the other way but, in a positive way. My dad’s project of our yurts was to allow veterans to come out and kind of re-acclimate into society and it’s the opposite. It’s just been groups of women that come out.

Your glamping property has a Durham project, what is that?
Durham project is our non profit that allows disabled veterans and other non profits to come out to stay at the yurts for free. And we also do a big fundraiser at the end of august that’s a four day event and it’s run like survivor. We have a guy who loves survivor and he’s the host of the show and we have 18 people come from all over the US come to play this game. All the proceeds from the game go to the Durham warriors project. We’re getting more veterans and their families out here which is wonderful because, it was our vision from the beginning to be able to give back to them.

What is the profitability for your business?
For us it has been. For us we were fortunate enough to have this land. It wasn’t as much cost as someone who was starting from scratch. Having land definitely has helped.

Do you guys have plans to expand?
We have a permit to put up 6 yurts on our property but, right now it doesn’t make sense for us financially. We have plans to add more but, we’re going slow and steady.

What’s the biggest challenge of owning a glamping destination?
For us, it’s taking a step back and not growing to fast. Focusing on what we already have and making it as close to perfect as we can get it. I took over doing the day to day business for my parents in January and so when I took over it allowed us to take a step back because, we were ready to put up our next yurt and decided to wait until I got more comfortable with the bookings. So essentially, we need to get really comfortable working with what we already have before adding on.

What demographic does your resort see? And what is target demographic?
We see a lot of women groups and families with young kids. That demographic is what we like to focus on. My dad thought our glamping resort was going to be a veterans place for army units to come and instead it turned out to be a family getaway. It’s definitely a family place.

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