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Old 04-15-2019, 06:38 PM   #1
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Airstream as coffee shop?

Hi all-first time poster here. I have searched the forums, and read though the threads regarding food truck conversions. I have a modified version of that question with enough of a divergence from the standard "can I convert to food truck?" to warrant a thread. (I think!)

I am considering converting an Airstream to be run as a coffee house/satellite office space in the summers. Two things that make it non-standard:

1-It would live on a lot that I own. Essentially, it could be only quasi-mobile and not hinder it's usage.

2-It would be gutted. I wouldn't care about the condition of the interior; I'd want to strip it down to as close to a box as possible.

It would also be parked within 30 ft of a building I own, with electric/water. My neighbor is a propane retailer.

The only criteria I'd need to meet is A)water tight, or can live outside year-round without leaking, and B) ideally have an internal clear height of 7'. People won't want to use this if they can't at least stand up in it.

I have no idea if this would work or not, thus I figured I'd ask here. All feedback is welcome!!
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Old 04-15-2019, 06:57 PM   #2
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All entirely feasible depending on the amount of money you want to spend. What size trailer would you buy (probably at least 30 feet) and how much $s to renovate it?
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Old 04-15-2019, 07:37 PM   #3
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Ceiling height in our 91 is 6'-6" +- minus air difusser trim.
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Old 04-16-2019, 06:13 AM   #4
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i think that's a cool idea; it could be a drive thru or a walk-up. You could put some chairs and tables outside and serve sandwiches or something too. Also, if you set it up as non-portable, you will have to do something about the tires.. maybe jack up the trailer so the tires are hanging a little off the ground?
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Old 04-16-2019, 09:59 AM   #5
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“coffee shop”

This was located at Germany airport, Nuremberg, I think?
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Old 04-16-2019, 10:06 AM   #6
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Thanks all! I don't have a fixed budget. Obviously I'd want to be into the trailer for as little as possible(how cheap does a 25-30' airstream get if the internals don't matter?)

Yes, likely have it live on jack stands or something of the like.

It would live if a perfect location to have lawn chairs and such set up outside.

I'm a fairly handy guy, with experience in both cars and construction, so I'm confident I could frame out etc whatever needed to be done, IF the thing could be done for a reasonable price.

Where's the best place to look for a dry shell?
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Old 04-16-2019, 11:40 AM   #7
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Beer Trailer

Here's a beer/cocktail trailer we're working on for a gentleman in Illinois. Complete with serving hatch and foldout oak serving shelf.
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Old 04-16-2019, 11:53 AM   #8
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This folks specialize in custom Airstream Trailers http://ultimateairstream.com/


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Old 04-16-2019, 12:02 PM   #9
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This kind of thing has been done by others, but you'd have to run the numbers carefully. The bit limitation on coffee shops is that people show up, spend $3 on a cuppa, and then occupy one of your limited seats for 3 hours as they peck away at their notebooks. Meanwhile, other paying customers are displaced. Quickly you can see how non-viable that is.

A walk-up with perhaps a rain canopy would reduce that kind of pressure. That's the model that Hey Cupcake! appears to be using in Austin, and they have survived financially for at least a few years now. Two-minute vid here, not much focus on the Airstream per se.

https://heycupcake.com/pages/story
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Old 04-16-2019, 12:20 PM   #10
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Bear in mind OP that you don't necessarily need to go low-end on the business model. If you have the space, the utilities, and the authority to park it, you could for instance create a professional lease space of sorts (although I cannot advise you on what such a contract would look like).

I showed up one day to the office of my former CPA only to find her with a huge poo-eating smirk on her face. "Guess what I just got?" she crowed. "An Airstream!"

She converted it into a tax office, and thus the space was capable of hosting activities that generated far more revenue than any consumer food or gadget outlet. (And incidentally, I decided on that day that at some point, I, too would have an Airstream that I can work out of -- and about a dozen years later, I finally did.)

Here's a Wall Street Journal article on it (given its age, it should not be paywalled). Bear in mind that this was 2003, so upcycling an old Airstream was a new and unusual thing to do back then.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB1042578580153298944

Later when she built a boutique hotel, her Airstream tax office was hoisted onto the roof of it. Here's a link to that story where the New York Times photo shows her still with that same poo-eating smirk on her face.



https://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/18/r...al/18sqft.html
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Old 04-16-2019, 02:00 PM   #11
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Coffee shop

Here’s an inspirational success story about a very special woman and her restaurant that evolved at one point from a vintage 1965 AS.

https://www.foodandwine.com/blogs/20...-freedom-maine
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Old 06-10-2019, 03:03 PM   #12
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Are you thinking something like this?
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Old 06-10-2019, 04:10 PM   #13
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There is one for sale on govdeals.com auction in Tennessee right now that is partially gutted. Might fit your bill? Looks like it had been used a some type of business.
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Old 10-25-2019, 06:51 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnbob View Post
Here's a beer/cocktail trailer we're working on for a gentleman in Illinois. Complete with serving hatch and foldout oak serving shelf. Whoops - pic didn't load. Fixed.
Whoops - pic didn't load. Fixed.
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Old 10-25-2019, 07:17 AM   #15
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If the customers come in and go out of the trailer/shop they are going to bang their heads on the door frame. The low door opening and the curve in the walls makes this almost a sure thing. Not sure how you would get around that. And it surely hurts.
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Old 10-25-2019, 07:29 AM   #16
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Hi

Ceiling height is reasonable at the center of the trailer and drops off towards the sides. In order to seat more than a couple people in the trailer (they are narrow) you likely will have seating tight to the walls.

Most of the setups I have seen use outdoor seating and simply do the prep in the trailer. The point of sale is through a large "window" in the side of the trailer.

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Old 10-25-2019, 09:07 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rjd2 View Post
Thanks all! I don't have a fixed budget. Obviously I'd want to be into the trailer for as little as possible(how cheap does a 25-30' airstream get if the internals don't matter?)
Perhaps as cheap as 3-5k, depending. This is assuming you buy an older, vintage trailer in rather poor shape, which may sell for cheap, but require a lot of work.

Older vintage trailers, 1980 models and earlier, may be found in useable condition to those requiring a complete shell-off, frame rebuild major projects. This has been done many times, but never quickly or easily, unless you hire it out to those with lots of experience doing exactly this sort of thing, but then the cost escalates and you indicated you would like to do the work yourself.

Any customization of any Airstream can not be done "cheaply" to wind up with a presentable, weather-tight trailer.
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Old 10-25-2019, 09:30 AM   #18
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Hi

So what are you up against when you get your "couple of thousand dollar" elderly trailer?

First, either it's stationary ( = never moves) or it's mobile. I'm guessing mobile is the choice there. That implies:

1) brakes
2) hubs
3) axles
4) hitch
5) breakaway system
6) battery
7) lights

all are functional. If not, getting a license plate on it will be tough.

For any use you will need:

1) A solid floor (they can rot out)
2) a reasonably solid frame (they rust out)
3) functional seals on the windows and vents
4) interior lighting

You may also need:

1) Airconditioning
2) 120V power
3) basic water
4) drains (sewer)
5) smoke detectors
6) propane detectors (if you have propane)
7) heat
8) hot water

Your local codes may / may not require various things if many customers are seated inside the vehicle. ( multiple exits .....).

It is not uncommon to see costs run up into the many 10's of thousands of dollars. Indeed if you pay for labor they go up very fast. Since there can be a range of skills involved, doing it all yourself may or may not work out.

Bob
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Old 10-25-2019, 10:04 AM   #19
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Old 10-25-2019, 10:12 AM   #20
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Could be he woke up and smelled the java?
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