YOU GUYS ITS FINALLY DONE! I have never been more exited to share a blog post. Building our Happy Camper Cocktail Co. mobile bar been a true labor of love, with blood, sweat and tears fueling us along the way and we are finally road ready and headed to our first event, Enumclaw’s Farm and Frills Antiques and Junkers market. This event is held at the Enumclaw Expo Center which is also the home of the King County Fair, the oldest operating fair west of the Mississippi and an annual summer event for my family. Bringing my new business here, of all places, after all of our hard work is a dream come true. In addition, all the alcohol sales will support arts in our community through Ravenstone Arts. Chhyeah, I’ll drink to that! But first, let’s take a look back and reveal the “after” photo of this mobile bar makeover that we’ve all been waiting for.
Oh how far we’ve come…
After gutting the interior, patching and repairing the exterior to chase away leaks, and painting the outside, we got to work laying out the interior for cabinets, sinks and our keggerator. Around this time we also learned that the department of labor and industries would have to review and approve our building plans for the trailer, since they must permit all structures that WA state employees work inside. Seriously. What this means for pedi-cabs and those sno-cone stands I cannot even imagine, but for us it meant that a very nice guy named Shane would need to look over everything and ensure we met building code with our trailer renovations. More over, it meant many late hours and a lot of frustration for Troy. Thank goodness he is an electrician by trade and familiar with that code already, but getting the plumbing approved was a different bear to wrestle. We didn’t have to get a structural engineer’s approval- thank the good Lord- since the trailer will support less than 500 pounds so after a month. It took several weeks of emailing questions back and forth and waiting for approval, but thanks to Shane at L&I, we final received the ok to build.
At this point, the design changed significantly from our original thoughts because of requirements we came across through the L&I permitting process. We ended up with a 3 compartment sink for washing, rinsing and sanitizing dishes, a hand washing sink for our bartenders, a freezer which we will convert into a keggerator, 4 lights, speakers for music, several extra outlets, an electric hot water heater, a water pump, waste water and fresh water food grade tanks, all food grade piping for the plumbing, a small ice sink to chill bottles, and cabinets for storage.
If you’re electrically minded and counting amps right now you’ve probably noticed that Troy had to convert the panel to support 30 amps. At venues without electricity we will solve for this by buying a small, whisper quiet generator so we can still serve at non-commercial venues such as backyard weddings or a big grassy field above a canyon overlooking Lake Chelan (if this is your preferred wedding venue and you’re getting married in the next 2 years, email me, I want to do your wedding!)
What came next was the very unglamorous and frequently frustrating reality of a talented husband working a second fulltime job every night when he gets home from work. Troy slaved away on this thing night after night. Our neighbors heard saws, hammers and swearing until 9 pm nightly for the last 4 months. He paused only for dinner (sometimes) and Henry’s nightly horsey rides (always.) To anyone who is thinking, “wow this looks cool, I want one for my backyard!” please consider that renovating a trailer, no matter your level of talent or experience, is harder than it looks. We definitely underestimated it because of our experience renovating two houses and the considerable tools we have at our disposable via family and friends in the construction industry. We were very wrong. This shit is hard. Nothing is plumb. Nothing is level. It can leak from anywhere. In addition to budget and time and permit approvals, you have to consider weight, space & mobility. The trailer moves as you work. It is like building a tiny house, which is harder in a lot of ways than building a regular sized home, and building a car at the same time. Needless to say we are very, very relieved to be (mostly) done. We still need to install the keggerator in the freezer and tie a few loose ends but we are road ready and will be serving from these beautiful bars this weekend!
Design-wise, I’ve known how I wanted to renovate our vintage 1966 Aladdin travel trailer since the day we bought it. I wanted to retain a vintage vibe but with a very fresh and modern feel to it. I wanted the exterior to be white and wood, so that it would blend with any décor and venue. The interior would be similarly neutral in dark grey, white and wood, but have additions of style by way of hardware, pattern, and texture. One of my favorite elements that I picked out right away was wallpaper. After researching other camper bars that have inspired me along the way, I knew I wanted the back wall behind the bar to be a statement piece, as it is the most prominent to our guests. I love and drool over wallpaper on blogs and magazines all the time but I have not used wallpaper in a home of mine since I was 9. Back then, Venise picked out Beatrix Potter border (what an odd 13 year old) and I chose sunflowers and our parents ACTUALLY LET US do the room HALF AND HALF! (Sorry Henry, but that is never happening.)
This time, I am far more proud of my choice. The MissPrint wallpaper travelled all the way from the UK to land behind our bar and the journey and the price for this designer print was completely worth it. I love the white and champagne coloring and the design which looks subtly like a martini glass or a pennant style party banner. I’m also in love with the cabinet color from Sherwin Williams, “Pinot Noir” and will definitely be using it somewhere in my home in the future. To add some pizazz to our clean front 60’s style cabinets (all built by Troy! So much savings!) I picked shiny brass hardware. The mishmash cabinet pulls were from Second Use Seattle, a salvage home store. The Ebay milkglass sconces on the wallpaper wall were one of my very first purchases and it was a very sad realization when we went to install them and realized the lamps are too tall. For now we’re rolling onward with exposed Edison bulbs on top but I’ll keep looking for a shorter, fatter milkglass lamp. on the opposite wall above the serving window we kept the original 1966 Aladdin hideaway model camper spotlights in brass and white and we nestled a sound bar in between them so we have some jams to shake those martinis to. The stainless sinks are from ebay and are teeny tiny and adorable. The counter tops are thin sheets of aluminum cut to fit and trimmed with rustic wood covered in saw teeth marks and history, just like we like it.
Of course, all of the exterior and interior trim wood and our custom made windows (watch them open for the first time here!) came from my dad’s building supply and salvage store, the Millwork Outlet. His place is a veritable treasure trove, representing years of rescuing & auction bidding of cool historic materials, and trips to the store inspired us all the way through this project. Our bar tops are particularly cool thick slabs that wear the marks of time and have a rounded edge to compliment the sloping roof line of the Aladdin. Finally, the crowning pieces to this King of the Trailer Park are the windows. My dad and uncle designed and custom built these window using gridded glass French doors called “true divided light” doors . They had to design something that would open and close easily, be light enough to be easily lifted by one person and secured in place for use at events, be sealed so no water could enter, and lock to go down the road. These close flush to the bar to keep out water, have sweeps on the sides built in, are held in place with simple metal bars we slip over some rods on the counter top, and are light enough for me to lift alone. I knew from the start that I preferred wood windows rather than the pricey accordion style, and so did our budget. Having a family in this business definitely helped with our start up costs!
Watch the “after” video tour: