Tiny Estates 1

Tiny Estates in Elizabethtown. Tuesday, August 20, 2019

On Wednesday morning, Abby Hobson was at a local Target, trying in vain to get multiples of any one cleaning product.

The supplies weren't for her family, but rather an attempt to further stock up at Tiny Estates, the campground populated entirely by 200 to 400-square-foot "tiny" homes. As spring and summer event schedules fall by the wayside in light of the havoc of the coronavirus, Hobson is seeing vacation reservations fall by the wayside as quarantine-related inquiries tick upwards.

"It's tough as a small business," says Hobson over the phone. "Especially because we stock toilet paper and cleaning products in such a large volume and now, you can't even go to the grocery store and buy two. We're seeing this in a lot of different facets, for sure."

On the Tiny Estates website, approximately 33 residences are listed for rental stays, while Hobson says there are another dozen residents that live there on a longer, month-to-month basis, usually in homes that they've wheeled in or built themselves.

"At this point, we don't really have anyone that's maintained their booking for their original reasons," explains Hobson. "Most people were coming this time of year for Hersheypark, or concerts in the area. Blue Man Group getting shut down last week [for shows scheduled between March 27 through 29] was a big one."

Initially, Gov. Wolf's proclamation mandating the closing of "non-essential" businesses extended to hotels and commercial lodging, though that was later walked back. As Tiny Estates consists entirely of self-sustaining lodging, it fits the definition of "RV parks."

"It's sort of an awkward middle ground," says Hobson. "We're finding that we're functioning like a hotel, but falling more under the regulations of an RV park."

To decrease chances of virus spreading, Tiny Estates has instituted a "No Contact Check-in," which consists of placing a recently-cleaned key inside of a regularly-cleaned lockbox outside of the main office, which itself is currently closed to visitors. Hobson says that Tiny Estates is following all CDC guidelines, as well as strengthening the rigorous cleaning that already comes with being in the lodging industry.

The idea of a "no-contact" check-in appealed to Rachel Wood, who recently found herself with a quarantine conundrum.

"My daughter, Alison, was staying with my mother, who has a heart condition," says Wood over the phone. "My daughter didn't necessarily listen to the social distancing aspect of this and visited a friend, so we wanted to quarantine her for a few days. We decided to do Tiny Estates, because in hotels, you have to walk through the lobby and interact with people. We felt it was a safe and secure place for her to stay."

Wood, 20, stayed in a house called "The Climber." According to Tiny Estates' website, "The Climber" is $75 per night and features three single beds, a TV and shower, among other amenities.

"She was very excited," says Wood. "She wanted to stay longer."

Wood's husband, Brian, is a physician, and the couple has discussed having him quarantine himself at Tiny Estates if circumstances necessitated his stay.

"We've talked to several health professionals, mainly pharmacists who are constantly travelling, about longer-term stays," says Hobson. "Our fear, obviously, is for someone to quarantine for a short period and then someone coming in afterwards. So, we're working to make that a good option and not put the next person at risk."

Prior to the spread of the coronavirus, Hobson says that Tiny Estates had a host of business opportunities that are now on hold or at risk of cancellation, ranging from an events center to future Tiny Estates locations. 

"It's tough, because I want people to know that it's a good place to quarantine, but then you get people who are scared about staying somewhere where someone might have had it," says Hobson. "To us, it's an option for your daughter home from school, or you're trying to protect yourself, where your house is self-sustaining and the risk is so much less than staying at a hotel."