Published Mar 29, 2016
Josh and Leigh Saint are selling The Hiker Hostel, just outside of Dahlonega, GA, near the iconic southern portal to the Appalachian Trail. They're fabulous folks who love the Trail.
Here's what happening ... in their own words.
The first question everyone is asking is "Why are they selling The Hiker Hostel?"
The Saints: While we still love what we do, we are ready to have some more adventures of our own.
People presume these days that whenever anything shuts down along the Appalachian Trail it's because of "hiker trash" and folks who are "self-entitled" or worse. Any of that true in your case?
The Saints: Absolutely not. We have THE BEST guests. Now, we're not saying there haven't been a few folks whose departure brought relief, but those are few and far between. In 12 years of operating this business, we've never had to ask anyone to leave.
Being the first hostel (for northbounders) on the [Appalachian Trail] has its advantages. First of all, there's hardly any body odor to deal with! But seriously, the self entitlement hasn't really started at this stage. And if folks have unrealistic expectations, our standard reply is, "What do you expect for $19?" Humor and a little sarcasm go a long way and seem to diffuse situations quickly. Josh is pretty quick-witted while my epiphany of what I should have said comes about an hour later!!
I think we're also a pretty unique AT hostel because we cater to A LOT more than just AT hikers. Our guests include thru-hikers, section hikers, day hikers, road cyclists, mountain bikers, trail runners, wedding groups, families celebrating birthdays and family reunions, retreats and workshops (guide retreats, corporate retreats, yoga retreats and trail-running workshops, even a quilting workshop!), Dahlonega tourists, shipping container and tiny home enthusiasts ... just to name a few!
Dreamers are going to dream about buying The Hiker Hostel. What does it take to run a hostel, realistically?
The Saints: We joke during our interview process that working at a hostel simply means you're a glorified housekeeper and chauffeur. So, with that being said, it takes a good work ethic and easy-going personality. You also have to be able to be flexible and adapt, which is easier for some (Josh) than others (Leigh)! It also takes patience, determination, energy, vision. And sometimes, you just have to "fake it until you make it!"
The hospitality industry can be tough, especially when it's in your home. No one is in a good mood every day and all the time. And sometimes it shows no matter how hard you try to hide it. There's no calling in sick when you need a mental health day. There will be 20 people lining up for breakfast, and after they check out, 10 loads of laundry to be washed, dried and folded, and lots of bathrooms to clean!
Has running The Hiker Hostel been a dream come true? Or a nightmare?
The Saints: If you ask Josh, "how's it going?," the response you're likely to receive is "Livin' the dream in the gold city!" This is by far more than we could have ever dreamed! This is like a fantasy come true!
Our hostel dream started before we even got out of Georgia on our thru-hike in 2000. Getting started on our hike was easy since we had family nearby and we lived in Dahlonega already. Hearing other hikers' stories about just getting to the trail got the wheels in Josh's head spinning. (He's the real dreamer and sometimes manages to pull Leigh out of her comfort zone!)
We would spend hours talking about how we should open a hostel and what services we would offer. Three years later, we bought three acres of raw land and were building a hostel! And we've continued to build our business every single year. We never stop thinking about how to improve or grow.
What will it take for the next owners to succeed?
The Saints: Their own vision of what their hostel will be. They have to make it their own. We've received SO many comments and compliments since announcing that the hostel is for sale. I've been humbled by the response. Josh and I have put everything we have (and I'm not talking about money) into making this place what it is.
I know that part of the reason people come here is for the "feel" of the Hiker Hostel. I want our guests to feel at home here, and that's the atmosphere we've tried to create. The new owners will need to create their own feel if they want this to be more than just a lodging facility.
What's next for the Saints?
Tags: Attractions, Tourism, Appalachian Trail, News, Closings, Robert Sutherland Travel Writer, Hikers, Hiker Hostels, Information, appalachian trail hikers, josh leigh saint appalachian trail hiker hostel, hiker hostel for sale, hiker hostel for sale appalachian trail, and dahlonega hostel for sale
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