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A Friend Across the Mitten

Earlier this month, we were blessed to connect with a fellow aspiring operator, Jacqueline Petro. She, along with her son and daughter-in-law, are opening The Woods Luxury Camping in Fennville, Michigan, which is just outside Saugatuck. Jacqueline found us on Facebook and shared with us a ton about her journey to open her campground. It was so encouraging to hear from someone going through the same process as us.

Jacqueline purchased her land in November of 2022 and received conditional approval from the township this month. She plans to offer 42 sites composed of safari tents and tipis on her 45-acre parcel. She's putting everything she has into her new business, including all her free time and eventually selling her coffee shop. Like us, she knows the market for luxury camping is in demand and expected to continue growing, so it appears to be worth the effort and the risk. She is projecting annual sales of $1.5 million with 80% occupancy and plans to operate seasonally.

During our chat, Jacqueline confirmed for us many things we expected or had already experienced, including concerned neighbors, higher than originally budgeted expenses, and the need for a great civil engineer and land use attorney (also part of those "gulp" expenses!). She notes that the concerns of neighbors stem from a perception of losing familiarity with one's community or fear of the unknown. Fortunately she was able to present a strong enough case to the Township, helping them to see how the pros greatly outweighed the cons, which were largely based on misconceptions. She did have the brilliant idea to petition area businesses to provide her with letters of support to present to the township. We will be adding that to our plan! Jacqueline also feels a responsibility to be a good steward of the land and a good neighbor to those surrounding her business. She is at least the third person in the industry to tell us our planned nightly rates were low, which is good when we are trying to budget conservatively.

Jacqueline plans to open her campground in spring 2024 and we plan to cheer her on in her journey. Best of luck, Jacqueline!

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