A Seattle Lodging Startup Is Renovating Properties to Accommodate Active Travelers

Loge Camps renovates midcentury hotel properties to attract patrons who love camaraderie, the great outdoors and a bargain.

HEY, BUNKIE. Hostel-style rooms like this one at Loge at the Sands in Westport provide lower-cost options for individuals, families and groups.

This article appears in the June 2018 issue. Click here for a free subscription.

Cale Genenbacher thought better of lugging his kayak up to a fifth-floor hotel room. But keeping the gear on his rig didn’t work out well, either. The kayak was stolen.

Traveling regularly to waterfronts or mountains, Genenbacher saw a need for hotels geared to people like him — active types who hike, sail, surf, mountain bike, ski and explore nature’s bounty. Johannes Ariens, an avid surfer and skier from the Olympic Peninsula, had similar ideas around lodging that caters to outdoor enthusiasts.

A mutual acquaintance suggested Genenbacher and Ariens set up a chat, and by the fall of 2016, the two decided to create Loge Camps, a Seattle-based startup with the goal of acquiring underperforming midcentury motor lodges and mom-and-pop hotels.

GROUP HEALTH. Loge Leavenworth offers access to prime mountain biking (next photo below) — and more sedentary pursuits.

The idea — the latest to target travel-savvy millennials — is to renovate the properties, adding features such as storage space for surfboards, drying rooms for wetsuits, hostel beds for low-budget travelers, and common spaces for residents to gather and talk. The properties will then be marketed and revitalized under the “Loge” brand. Loge, pronounced lodge, stands for “live outside, go explore.” (It’s also the Dutch word for “lodge,” though the Dutch pronunciation is nothing like the English.) Says CEO Ariens: “We reactivate the properties and essentially bring them back to life. … Our goal is to be the epicenter of the outdoor industry on a national scale.”

After buying its first property in the coastal city of Westport, Loge Camps began renovations in March 2017 and finished construction last August after adding a new café. In the past year, it has acquired properties at Snoqualmie Pass and Leavenworth in Washington, Mount Shasta in California and leased one in Bend, Oregon.

“We like those properties where you can see the doors to every room and people are coming and going,” Ariens says. “It drives the sense of community when people can see each other.”

Loge might be on to something. Outdoor activity is booming. The Seattle Times recently reported that 940,000 adults in the Seattle area have gone hiking in the past year, double the number in 2008. The rapid increase in the region’s population is clearly a factor. But the area is also attracting residents who are, on average, younger and more interested in the outdoors. Last year, 41 percent of local adults said they hiked during the past year, according to Nielsen, the market research firm, up from 25 percent in 2008. And half of the millennials surveyed said they had hiked within the past year.

One way Loge hopes to attract young people is by offering in one location multiple types of lodging — from affordable campsites and RV hookups to competitively priced hotel rooms. Midcentury hotels typically have onsite living quarters with a kitchen for proprietors, which the company converts into five- or 10-bunk hostels that resonate with budget travelers.

Current offerings don’t work for today’s young, says Genenbacher, Loge’s president. “You’d meet someone maybe on a trailhead, but we would all be staying at these random campsites and hotels,” he says, which often precluded opportunities for camaraderie and fellowship. “At the end of the day when relaxing, those are the people you want to join up with.”

While renovating its Westport property, now called Loge at the Sands, the company added communal spaces such as an outdoor kitchen, a fire pit, a bar and a café to encourage guest interaction. There’s also WiFi to help customers stay connected. “People are coming to outdoor recreation to share joint passions,” says Ariens. “It’s really about enhancing people’s experiences through shared knowledge. We see people coming back after a day at the beach, cooking some food in the outdoor kitchen, sitting around a fire and starting conversations.”

The Westport site has 15 hostel bunks that go for $50 a bed per night. RV hookup spaces cost $45, while hotel rooms are generally about $130 a night, though the rate varies by season. Also available are covered and “rustic” tent sites.

Loge plans to customize each location to take into consideration an area’s popular activities. Loge at the Sands in Westport has features attractive to cold-water surfers, for instance. “We have a large wetsuit drying room that’s humidity controlled, with heaters and fans,” Ariens points out. “A wetsuit will be dry by the next day. We also do board storage. It’s all code-access controlled and has security cameras.” Through a partnership with Evo, the Seattle-based action sports retailer, Loge offers on-site demos and rentals of recreational products like bikes, kayaks, paddleboards and surfboards.

Early indications are the plan is working. Repeat customers helped fill many weekends in Westport last summer. And after promoting the site to companies wanting to hold corporate retreats, Loge also saw an uptick in weekday business. “Both outdoor enthusiasts and those companies that support them can come together,” Ariens says. “We saw Westport as, ‘Let’s see if this works,’ and it took off.”

Loge then acquired and has begun renovating Loge Leavenworth in the Bavarian-themed mountain retreat that’s popular for its access to the Cascades, trail running and hiking. The property offers cabin rooms and hostel bunkrooms. Coming soon is an Evo mountain bike demo center, scheduled for completion this summer.   

Evo’s Surf Demo Center at Wesport, right, has a wetsuit drying room.

Next up, the Bend and Mount Shasta facilities will get phased renovations. The sites stay open as upgrades occur and amenities are added. Loge leases the Bend property, formerly the Entrada Lodge and now called Loge Entrada, offering 79 rooms on a sprawling 6.5-acre site. Ariens says it will become the model for future projects. Loge plans to add 20 to 30 hostel beds and up to 30 campsites and RV spots.

“Bend was a primary target,” Ariens explains. “We want to be in very well-known recreational hot spots.”

The Mount Shasta property, formerly the Finlandia Motel, was added in April, and the company plans to secure footprints in other outdoor recreation hubs, such as Boulder, Colorado. And as Loge has added more large sites, its concept has continued to evolve. By summer, the Leavenworth and Bend sites are expected to have outdoor stages so they can feature weekend concerts and movies between May and September. Westport already has a stage.

IN THE BOARDROOM. The fleet of boards at Westport includes performance hardboards, soft-top longboard and thicker, wider fish boards.

“[The stages give] people a reason to come together and talk,” Genenbacher notes. “The stage opens within a big lawn area, and we have lawn games. It becomes a community space with kids running around and petting dogs. At the end of a day recreating, you can pull out a blanket, have a beer and relax.”

Loge Camps launched with a $30,000 Kickstarter fund. By fall 2017, in exchange for an equity stake, Evo agreed to provide business training and administrative support, although Loge runs independently. Evo also brings in the equipment demo centers for guests’ access to high-end outdoor gear.

The company is working with Evo in other ways. Phase 1 of the Snoqualmie Pass property involves the Pass Life Lofts, a mixed-used development created by Evolution Projects. One of Evolution’s partners, Bryce Phillips, is the founder and CEO of Evo.

Loge eventually plans to build its own separate facility so it can offer full lodging choices, include camping and hostel beds. Genenbacher, now a Snoqualmie Pass resident, says the area is becoming increasingly popular for year-round recreation, with visitors flocking there to camp, ride bikes and explore during the non-winter months.

The company’s rapid growth with limited capital in less than 14 months has given the two entrepreneurs confidence to expand even faster. Employee count was expected to go from 27 workers to 50 by April. And Loge Camps has plans to launch a $10 million to $20 million real estate fund, seeking investors to support a national expansion. Current investors, besides Bryce Phillips, include Alan Tabor, founder of Mountain Hardware, and Dan Nordstrom, former CEO of Outdoor Research.

Loge Buddies

Cale Genenbacher (left), 30, is originally from Illinois. He moved to the Seattle area two years ago after an Army career. He grew up enjoying outdoor pursuits and while in New York, he got into ultrarunning and skiing. “I got hooked on outdoor recreation,” he says. “I spent all my free time either being in the water or in the mountains.”

Johannes Ariens (right), 33, grew up surfing in Westport and worked at Snoqualmie Pass as a pro ski patroller for 18 years. After graduating from Seattle University, he oversaw design and construction for two different firms, working on U.S. Department of Defense projects. He then worked for a small specialty design-build contractor before helping to launch Loge.

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