Minnesota man carves out niche with custom-built campers
NEW LONDON, Minn. – Mike and Deb Geister have been catching more than a few envious eyes at parks and rest stops with their custom-made teardrop camper trailer.
With its shiny, aluminum exterior and sleek hump-back design, the half-pint camper looks like it popped out of the 1950s.
That’s just fine for the Geisters, who on one camping trip spread out a red-checked table cloth and listened to a little Frank Sinatra while drinking wine and cooking spaghetti on the camper’s gourmet-style kitchen, with maple cupboards and a stainless-steel counter that’s housed under the back-hatch hood.
“My wife and I fell in love with that style of camping,” said Mike Geister, who hand-made his first teardrop camper trailer in the summer of 2012, using recyclable materials and low-energy LED lights.
After fielding numerous requests from people who also wanted a teardrop camper, Geister turned his craftsmanship hobby into a new business – Geistwerks LLC.
Working out of his home on New London’s Mill Pond and marketing primarily through Craigslist, Facebook, Twitter and his website, Geistwerks.us, Geister has made and sold about a dozen campers.
Calling it a blend of camping with a tent and a pop-up camper that includes a “bed on wheels with a little kitchen,” Geister said traveling with the compact teardrop makes it possible to get away from it all without taking it all with you by providing a place to sleep and make meals.
“It’s really geared toward efficiency,” Geister said. “It’s a simple camping experience.”
Simple – but with luxury.
Geister’s designs include high-end touches like a memory-foam mattress, air conditioning, a TV and hand-made cabinetry that’s backlit with colored lights to “set the mood in your little honeymoon camper,” Geister said.
The basic 5-by-8-foot model that sleeps two people costs about $5,400. But the cost can easily double as customers request specific enhancements.
He recently built one that sleeps four for a family with two young kids.
Starting with a sturdy trailer base and a steel framework, Geister builds the camper cabin from wood that’s covered with aluminum sheets. It takes about six weeks of intense work to build each one.
“I hand-cut everything,” he said. “It’s all hand-crafted.”
Unlike manufactured campers, Geister said his teardrop models are “built to last to hand down to your kids.”
After putting his “soul” into building each camper, he said, “each one is terribly painful to send out the door.”
Geister has been catching so much buzz that he’s now looking for a site to move his business to and expects to hire staff to construct the campers so he can concentrate on designing and marketing them.
Maybe he can even find a little time to go camping.
Ironically, since he started making the teardrops, he’s had little time to camp.
But when he and his wife do go, they always attract a crowd.
A benefit of the camper is that it takes little to no setup other than parking it and opening the door, Mike Geister said.
Because they’re so light-weight, it takes little fuel to pull them, and because they’re so small, Geister said it’s easy to find a place to park the teardrop.
“People are starting to lean away from bigger is better,” he said. “It gives you so much freedom to camp anywhere.”
For more information on Geistwerks camper trailers, go to www.geistwerks.us