Paul St. James has a campground along the Mays Landing-Somers Point road, but he lives most of the year in Phoenix. Over the winter he was watching a lot of tiny-home TV shows. “They have an entire channel. Fifty percent of the time they sell vacuum cleaners and the other fifty percent of the time they show mini homes.”
He realized the tiny homes he saw on the shows were not dissimilar to some of the recreational vehicles in his campground. “When I saw the tiny homes, I thought, ‘This is interesting. They are RVs.’ They’ve got wheels and a hitch and all that.” His manager at the time got in touch with a tiny home builder in Pennsylvania – Liberation Tiny Homes – and while St. James was still in Arizona the builder dropped off a tiny home that is now available to rent on his campground via AirBnB. The home was built for the shore, with an outdoor shower (as well as a full bathroom indoors).
St. James, 83, is a fan of the tiny home trend, but he understands that some people – say, homebuilders and local government, are not quite sold. That’s in part because if they are used holiday homes on a campground, there’s no property tax, he explains. “There’s some resistance but it will be overcome in time.”
Resistance will be overcome because the market for tiny homes is so huge, St. James believes. From older people who no longer want to pay the taxes or heating bills for a large, empty house, to millennials and generation Z kids who can’t afford the traditional move out of their parents’ home, a tiny house makes sense.
“This business – we’re not on the ground floor. We’re not even in the basement. We’re in the sub-basement. This is so new, this is very exciting – this has got a long way to go.”
The aspect that St. James is particularly excited about is one that makes sense at the shore. “The thing that I find exciting is, everybody would love to have a summer home. A vacation home…This is ideal.”
St. James is sticking around in Atlantic County to make some more improvements to his campground. (He also runs mobile home sites in the area and credits himself with setting a higher standard for the properties that his competitors had to copy.) He’ll be driving back to Phoenix after he’s done here. “I don’t like to fly because I heard that they make you take your shoes off and all my socks have holes in the toes and I don’t want to… So I drive.” St. James is dapper, with a tie clip and jacket. It’s hard to believe he would have holes in his socks. “The real reason is I bring stuff and I take stuff back and my dog.” Hope, his miniature greyhound, goes with him when he travels.
Take a look inside the tiny home: