The first time Ben Jenkins met Billy Gibbons, the guitarist and lead singer for the rock band ZZ Top, they sat in Jenkins’ 1958 Airstream trailer in the parking lot of the Four Seasons Hotel outside Dallas.
“The meeting was supposed to be at the hotel bar, but once he heard I had the trailer in tow, he commandeered a hotel golf cart and we went out to do the meeting at the trailer,” says Jenkins, the 39-year-old owner of the Texas design company OneFastBuffalo, whom Gibbons had hired to help launch an online store. Jenkins bought the renovated trailer four years ago. It serves as a mobile office and, occasionally, his second home.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that for adventurous entrepreneurs, architects, graphic designers, engineers, and salespeople, the office is wherever they choose to park. These professionals are “location independent,” in the words of Airstream owner Sharon Pieniak, a 41-year-old designer and photographer.
Pieniak doubts she’ll ever go back to working in a regular office. “I’m a freedom junkie,” she says, “though I might decide to have a home base to return to every now and then, where I can keep things I collect from traveling.” Pieniak plans to spend the fall working with clients in Napa.
Much of the mobile office buzz stems from the weakened economy. Airstreams cost from $50,000 to $60,000; for an independent contractor on a budget with a demanding travel schedule, that makes them a tantalizing alternative to renting expensive office space by the square foot, says Wally Hofmann, co-owner of Hofmann Architecture in Santa Barbara, which specializes in the renovation of Airstream interiors. With 12 trailers in production, Hofmann says he’s operating at peak capacity and receives more than 50 calls a month.
Sales of brand-new Airstreams are up, too. Over the past 12 to 18 months, says Airstream Chief Executive Officer Bob Wheeler, “we have seen a significant increase in the amount of people who are utilizing their Airstream for both professional and recreational use.”
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