October 3, 2023

LOGE: A Unique Concept in Outdoor Accommodation with Cale Genenbacher [EP 404]

Show Notes

Rick Saez
LOGE: A Unique Concept in Outdoor Accommodation with Cale Genenbacher [EP 404]

Welcome to Episode 405 of The Outdoor Biz Podcast, brought to you this week by FreshBooks.

If you’re looking for a place to get out and explore with family or friends, you will love this episode with Cale Genenbacher from LOGE Camps.

Inspired by the surf, climbing, and camping culture of the 70’s and the relaxed energy of a road trip with friends, LOGE inspires people to get out and explore together. They find forgotten motels near our favorite towns and trails and bring them back to life
with a variety of ways to stay like single, double, family-style bunk rooms, and campsites. From on-site gear rentals to fire pits and free live music, we deliver a welcoming outdoor-adventure-focused experience at each of our locations.

Cale Genenbacher tells us about their latest hotel in the foothills of the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. Long considered the Mile High state’s best-kept recreational secret, LOGE Wolf Creek now provides a launchpad for the outdoor community’s biggest passions far from the crowds of Colorado’s more established and glitzy mountain towns.

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Show Notes

Welcome to the show, Cale.

Thanks for having me.

Yeah. Good to catch up with you. You sound like a busy guy. I think you, just, you’re all over the place seeing all [00:01:30] the properties and whatnot. That’s pretty cool.

Yeah, I know. We’re, incredibly busy right now. A lot of travel, but the nice part is, typically a pretty beautiful location. yeah, keep them [00:01:40] busy.

Good for you. So let’s begin with maybe your most adventurous outdoor role, the U. S. Army 101st Airborne. I guess you served five [00:01:50] years a year, which was in Afghanistan. Give us the Twitter version of that adventure. That sounds wild.

Yeah, it was, it was an incredible time. I mean, it feels like a [00:02:00] lifetime ago. But, most of those five years, I was an infantryman, so most of those… Five years were spent outside. And I’ll tell you what, like that we’re in the Eastern part of Afghanistan, [00:02:10] real close to the border of Pakistan and some of the most beautiful mountains I’ve been in my life, but, a ton of leadership lessons, a lot of time, I’m a big runner.

And I don’t say [00:02:20] that because a lot of time spent, moving and suffering, but, a great experience and, a lot of time in the woods and mountains, which is where I’m happiest. it was an incredible adventure. I don’t think you can [00:02:30] replicate it.

I have a good buddy of mine that ran an expedition company over there that did, adventures in those mountains, and just sad to see what happened.

It’s amazing. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It’s [00:02:40] a, it is a beautiful part of the world. just a tough part of the world for the people that live there and everything else. But, yeah, I mean, it was an incredible adventure and very, shaping [00:02:50] in terms of, life, especially at that age.

-So then after the army, you went and got your MBA from Vanderbilt. What inspired that move?

Yeah. it [00:03:00] was, I actually love the army and, had planned to spend a lot more time there than what I did. My wife was in the army as well. She was a Black Hawk pilot and we [00:03:10] found out we were having our first kid.

And we hadn’t, we didn’t see each other very much in the army and, didn’t want to necessarily kind of do that with our first daughter in terms of not being there. [00:03:20] And yeah, I had, I, I wish I could say I had a huge strategy, but I just knew that I didn’t know what I actually wanted to do after the army.

And so my thought was, going to [00:03:30] business school, I wanted to go to, a great business school, which Vanderbilt certainly is. to kind of immerse myself back in the business world and figure out, truly what I wanted to do. So it was, [00:03:40] it was a family move, as much as anything else to kind of chart the next path in my life post army.

-That makes sense. Yeah. So let’s get back to the outdoors. Did you camp or hike or hunt [00:03:50] fish as a kid?

Yeah. I mean, I grew up in central Illinois, there’s not like skiing and rock climbing. All those things aren’t a big part of life, but we definitely hunted [00:04:00] and fished a lot of, ball sports to baseball, soccer, football, but, deer and Turkey, my brother did a little bit more, duck too.

And then, fishing, but it’s,[00:04:10] pond and lake crappie large mouth bass, but, everything in the outdoors as a kid. and a lot of, yeah, a lot of hunting and fishing more than I do now. I wish I could actually do a little more fish than what I actually do. So [00:04:20] that’s a great place for that back there too.

I grew up in that County and Adams and Pike County. massive will tell the air, and then [00:04:30] you can fish, but I don’t know that a lot of the stuff that you pull out of the Mississippi, you actually want to touch, but yeah, absolute, awesome area to kind of grow up outdoors, a [00:04:40] lot of different, I, I don’t really hunt too much anymore, primarily because of time and other hobbies and kids and whatnot, but yeah,

I grew up in the outdoors and more in [00:04:50] the hook and bullet world than in the adventure world that we’re in now. I just got back from Kansas and it’s, it’s very unlike Bishop, but there’s a lot of hunting and fishing. [00:05:00] Yeah. A high school buddy of mine’s dad has that. They have a family ranch back there. So we went back and hung out there. Totally fun. it’s good time. very different. there’s beautiful outdoor places all over the [00:05:10] country. Like I’m a big believer that, Yeah. I mean, it’s easy to be snobbish about, the height of the mountain or whatever, but , is the Rolling Hills in Kansas or some of the,[00:05:20] kind of wooded areas back in, in Illinois or, anywhere else in the country.

There’s some beautiful areas. yeah. Yeah, it was, and Midwest is great people too, so it’s a good place to be from. Yeah, [00:05:30] exactly.

-And how did you connect with Lodge?

yeah, I Co founded LOGE back in, in 2016, part of, not being sure what I wanted to [00:05:40] do now to the army. I went to Vanderbilt and that’s where I actually started working on it. after a little bit of time, I realized. I was passionate about entrepreneurship and, someday I wanted [00:05:50] to, own and run my own business. And I had spent so many weekends in the army just trying to get away from the base and get outside, whether that be [00:06:00] to run or climb or bike or ski.

And I was always kind of staying either at a really crappy mom-and-pop hotel or, staying 45 minutes away at a Holiday Inn. [00:06:10] So I didn’t always want to camp. And as I thought about all those experiences when I was in business school, I was [00:06:20] actually on a long run and I was planning a trip in my head for my wife and I and our daughter to go to East Tennessee.

And I thought, man, if there was just a place, where,[00:06:30] I knew it was going to be a great place to stay, but there’s community and gear there. Cause I was still renting a lot of gear versus owning it. I was like, man, if someone could just do that in the places that [00:06:40] I go all the time, every other weekend, like that’d be incredible.

And that’s when I kind of clicked. I’m like, oh, I could do that. Yeah. Yeah. founded a lodge [00:06:50] just about a year out of business school.

-Oh, wow. And so you guys have 11 locations, right?

Yeah. We actually have a few more that we haven’t technically [00:07:00] announced yet. So right now, including some that we don’t, that we haven’t announced yet, we have 17. So it should all open between now and the end of next summer.

-Very cool. Do you have a favorite?[00:07:10] it’s like asking which, which is your favorite?

yes and no, no, not a true favorite, but [00:07:20] you know, Westport, Washington was our first property.

And I still think when you show up, to Westport on a summer weekend. [00:07:30] And this is an intangible, but the vibe is like nothing I’ve ever experienced at any other place I’ve stayed. It is like what I imagine life, you show up and there’s [00:07:40] people, cooking and sharing food in the outdoor kitchen and kids are all running around and there’s, fires and music and surf.

It’s just, It’s the type of vibe that, we seek to replicate, within every [00:07:50] other property we do. And in many ways, I think that one, Westport, has a special place in my heart.

I think your first one always does, too. I don’t have kids, but your first kid always does, too. I’m a firstborn, [00:08:00] so I know what that’s about.

yeah. Yeah, totally. yeah, it’s, yeah, a great place, and we’ll definitely be the leader among equals, maybe.

-Very cool. [00:08:10] I guess you’ve been with… Longer than five years you were thinking about it. Yeah. Way, way back. Are there a couple of accomplishments there that you’re most proud of? Some deals that were hard to [00:08:20] do?

you got the place and realized, holy cow, this is more work than we thought.

Maybe the whole thing has been that, it’s all more work than we thought. I, [00:08:30] yeah, a couple of things. one, I would say is just surviving. I don’t think anyone tells you going into business, how hard it is to just [00:08:40] survive, Nonetheless, to grow, but just to survive. and I, when I think of my head back to, the onset of COVID and 2020, we were only, we’re a little less than [00:08:50] two and a half years old as a company. and we knew we were raising capital then to survive. man, the amount of kind of sleepless nights and grit to navigate that.

Yeah. [00:09:00] And so that leads me, I think one of the biggest accomplishments is just the team. Like the people that we’ve been able to have on our team and work with [00:09:10] is incredible, and that have kind of come together with a belief in the concept. It’s pretty incredible. And I’m really proud of it because it’s, Lodge is a young company and a growing company [00:09:20] and faces challenges all over the place.

And. When you look at, the people on our team and how they work together and just continually solve problems, [00:09:30] I’m always incredibly proud of the team that we’ve built and what they do both at lodge, developing new properties and our general managers and our team, [00:09:40] it’s, Incredible.

So that would have to be, number one for me. And then, number two, I think would be like just getting our first property. open, like we were,[00:09:50] we would go pitch investors and then go, clean a room and then go, obviously after washing your hands, go make a latte and check out surfboards.

I mean, just doing everything. And then [00:10:00] before it even opened, We’re out there, landscaping and framing walls and all those things. So just getting that first one open, there’s just so many things working against you [00:10:10] to do that. And then, I think the other reason is I used to joke with people all the time when they say, what’s your background in hospitality?

I said, actually, I used to have the most [00:10:20] inhospitable. job in the world, I was an infantryman. And so I think, yeah. So coming from that, background and being able to open a place where you can hear the conversations around the fire and people are [00:10:30] just having fun. I think some of those, whenever I show the property, I see guests and like the community gathering in a way that we wanted to happen.

that’s when it [00:10:40] just, that makes everything worth it. the team and getting properties open and just anytime I see. our kind of guests and crew, interacting. Those are the kind of the most proud things for me. [00:10:50]

-That’s pretty cool. how big is your team now?

our headquarters team, is 17 people. And then, all the properties. full teams of incredible [00:11:00] people from general managers to our hosts and our housekeepers. so pretty good sized team across all the properties. Yeah.

-That’s amazing. So what would you say has been the most challenging?

Obviously [00:11:10] there’s, everyone’s different and the whole project itself is a big challenge. Is there any one thing that says, God, every time we do this, it’s a pain in the butt. [00:11:20] yeah, I think I would say communicating vision. Is it’s always challenging with every new with every property that [00:11:30] we do every camp that we do, we don’t want them to be the same.

We wanted to have similar threads in terms of, the access to the outdoors and gear and [00:11:40] outdoor amenities and the food and beverage, but we don’t want them to be the place and the people in that place. And I go to that place. And what we’ve certainly found is whether [00:11:50] it be, communicating with potential designers or team members or, a lot of folks jumped to what I call the. Google page one result. [00:12:00] And it’s so much, it’s so much deeper than that. And it takes a long time to truly communicate the vision for what we want a [00:12:10] property to become, because oftentimes what you see, when we’re buying it or when we’re designing it is so radically different than what it will become, [00:12:20] not only on what the spaces, are, but you know, what they will be, oftentimes we’re going to take down walls and so communicating vision is, if you ask me at the start, hey, [00:12:30] communicating vision, where do you think that’s going to be in terms of your shot? I would have said Number 580 on the list and it’s probably, it’s probably number one. yeah,

-that’s interesting. And do you guys must [00:12:40] have a pretty detailed onboarding program and all those things for new folks and whatnot? And each property I bet has its own manifesto, if you will. I mean, you write that vision a million times, [00:12:50] probably created a million times.

A hundred percent. Yeah. I mean, you have all the checklists and those really help you kind of onboard and get open. But what we [00:13:00] really try to do and why, communicating vision is so important is I, I am not only my unable to, I shouldn’t make all the decisions for the lodge, right? We have [00:13:10] so many smart people, so many great people that all themselves have so many experiences and value add the outdoor. So [00:13:20] we want to communicate vision so that they can under our vision and our purpose, which we talk a lot about as a company so that they can make a decision themselves and they’re empowered [00:13:30] to do And so it’s just, whether it be on design or operations, the kind of vision and purpose is just so important.

Sometimes I feel like a broken record with how much I talk about purpose, but those are, [00:13:40] it’s huge for our business. they’re really complex. I mean, I don’t care who you are. I mean, if you do a right, it’s complex. It’s hard. Yeah. Yeah. Which it probably should be. I know it should be.[00:13:50] it’s a 24 7, 365 business, right? Yeah, Your experience is shaped at every touchpoint, so it’s a lot.

-I think I recently read that you added [00:14:50] Wolf Creek. Tell us about your process for selecting new locations. That’s got to be probably pretty challenging as well, I would think.

It is. [00:15:00] And it’s definitely an art as, as much as a science,we have, we kind of start big picture and say, Hey, at least in the near term, [00:15:10] this is where we won’t be, and we’ll have a region and then we’ll define, okay, these are the cities and places or areas that, that [00:15:20] we want to be, and then we go there,we go there, we get a feel for this town versus that town, what is the vibe we go to the trails, we go to the, [00:15:30] climbing spots and crags, we go to the ski mountain, we say, like, where does it make sense for us to be, and then oftentimes, we’ll just begin talking with people, right?

I don’t think there’s any [00:15:40] substitute in business for speaking with people, even though I think it’s put pretty far. And say, where do you go? What trailheads are most popular? Do a lot of people stay at the mountain or are they actually driving down? [00:15:50] And we have a kind of, maybe more scientific process to narrow it down, to kind of pretty tight regions and then it’s going to get on the ground and get enough fuel for it.

And Wolf Creek [00:16:00] is one of those areas, That just has intangibles that we love. I mean, it’s,it’s not on, it might not be necessarily on the national radar, but it definitely should be on the [00:16:10] regional radar, right? It’s, incredible skiing, the most snow in Colorado, but it, to me, it feels like, true Colorado, get off 70, get into the, one of those great climbing, incredible fishing.[00:16:20] and mountain biking, and then obviously the snow. it’s one of those places that we honed in on and we absolutely love. I think,again, maybe getting away from a little page one [00:16:30] results of, outdoor places in Colorado, maybe, South Fork area isn’t number one, but it should be up there. It’s one of those special places that we want to help people discover. Yeah. [00:16:40]

Very cool. A good buddy that I fish with a lot. We used to have a term for that, low getting information from the locals because every time you go fly fishing, the first place you go is the fly shop [00:16:50] because you want to get the local knowledge, right?

You need the local knowledge. We need to know what bugs are biting, what time, where temperate blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So that there’s [00:17:00] nothing that can replace that local knowledge. I don’t care where you go in the world.

And that’s a big part of, as we open camps, we want to be able to help do that, [00:17:10] For our guests, like help, be that local. And that’s part of why, I mean, Locals coming and hanging out on our properties, whether it be for cafes or music or movies or events, like it’s a big part [00:17:20] of our business. And it’s something that we encourage. Cause there’s no, there is no substitute, no matter where in the world you go for that, that ultra local intelligence.

-So is there anything new in the pipeline you can talk about?

There’s a lot, we’d to be in, we’d like to be in your neck of the woods, here pretty [00:17:40] soon we’re working on. I wish we could say we have something, more firm than what we do. and then, we actually in Asheville, North Carolina, recently bought a place that we’re [00:17:50] incredibly excited about. And I mentioned it cause we’re, we’re really looking to build in that area too, like generally, and, in the Southeast more, and, I spent a fair bit of time in the [00:18:00] Southeast when I was in the army and love what it has to offer outside of Asheville,there’s a number of spots that we’re looking at. And then, right now, what we’re trying to scout for. That’s a little bit [00:18:10] tougher. It’s just more surf properties. we got a lot of those other properties that kind of get 17 are ski and mountain bike and everything else. And so surf [00:18:20] is a big part of where we found ourselves, maybe lighter in terms of kind of the pipeline and what we’re working on. it’s not a hard ask to tell your folks on the team, Hey, we need to do [00:18:30] about this market out on the coast, not to go to the beach for a month.

-Oh, yeah, that’s cool. Awesome. So will [00:18:40] LOGE always be US based or do you have plans to add international locations?

Oh yeah, no, we’re, we are, or are you already in No, in, not, we are working on [00:18:50] Canada right now. Okay. So several properties in the hopper. not as part of that, 17 I mentioned earlier, but we’re really excited, to go to Canada first. I think it’s a. especially, [00:19:00] we started in the Seattle area and,when I lived up there, going into BC was a really a natural connection. and we also own a number of things in the Northeast. And going up into,the [00:19:10] Montreal area and everything else, those are really natural connections to us.

And I think people that are in the outdoors too, those are, North of the border. There’s some incredible places to ski, hike, climb, [00:19:20] fish. And yeah, we’re focused on that in the near future. Hopefully. We can get a couple of open next year. That’s what we’re going to do. Some great areas up around BANFF. One of the, one of the first properties we started looking at, was up there, in Kenmore, which is, outside of, right outside of BANFF.[00:19:40] yeah. Unbelievable. I really hope that we can get something up there.

-Yeah, cool. So let’s shift gears a little bit. In addition to running, it sounds like you do all the outdoor activities, right? Anything you don’t do? [00:19:50]

Yeah. No, not, I mean, there’s a lot of things I don’t do well. I feel same here. yeah. I feel like I’m, definitely like the jack of all trades, master of none.

No, I do a lot [00:20:00] of trail running. rock climbing, skiing, back streets. I grew up fishing, in the last couple of years, I’ve started to fly fish a little bit more. I’d love to do, [00:20:10] I’d love to spend more time doing it. And, I think what I, don’t do as much, it’s just I don’t know what hobby gives is mountain biking.

I have daughters and we’re, they’re [00:20:20] kind of getting an age where they’re excited to get into mountain biking. And so we need to get some new bikes and get out on the trail. But I think I, I do most of them don’t really do [00:20:30] any, but I love doing them all. Yeah. That’s part of the challenge for those of us that do all the things, It’s really hard to be, you could probably be pretty dang good at a couple of them. It’s [00:20:40] hard to be good at all of them.

-Do you have any suggestions or advice for folks wanting to get into the adventure biz, outdoor biz?

You know, I would [00:20:50] say it, it’s a, it goes back to, one of the things I said about is you got to go talk to people.

I think in the outdoor business, there’s no substitute for sitting down [00:21:00] across from people and talking to them. I think, the outdoor businesses is a lot more tightly networked than I would have guessed,six or seven years ago. And go to the shows, go to the seals, [00:21:10] talk to, figure out what part of the industry you’re interested in and show up and talk to people because.

It can seem like a, tough, part of the business to crack into, but people are so incredibly welcoming if you can [00:21:20] just kind of sit down and chat with them. So I would just say. find the spot that those people are and, get yourself there and with a little bit of a budget to buy some coffee and beer for folks and, you’ll find yourself in the right spot pretty [00:21:30] quick.

-Do you have a favorite piece of outdoor gear under a hundred dollars?

I would probably say a [00:21:40] Leatherman. that’s a good one. Yeah. it just, you get a good left man for 65 bucks and I don’t, it almost doesn’t matter what sport I’m doing.

I feel like one with an [00:21:50] arm’s reach. Camping, climbing in a, bottom of a,pack while climbing or backcountry skiing or whatever it is. I feel like I almost always have a Leatherman by me and it saves [00:22:00] my butt more times than I’d care to admit.

-As we finish up, is there anything else you’d like to say to or ask of our listeners?

yeah, I mean, [00:22:10] first go explore the place near your home. I think we’re, we have this, we, we fetishize, Jackson Hole and Whistler and those type of places, I [00:22:20] think regardless of whether you’re in Kansas or Bishop or Utah, I think there’s some pretty incredible and overlooked places right outside your back door. And, so I would [00:22:30] encourage people to do that. And I think along the way, if you find yourself, close to the lodge, then go check it out. Even if you’re not staying there, we’re, yeah, we want to just be a spot for the community to come [00:22:40] together, whether it be to get, that local Intel on what’s biting or, just to have a beer and hang out with other people that are like minded.

Those would be, I think the things that I would encourage people [00:22:50] to do. 

-Where can people find you if they’d like to follow up?

Probably, email or [00:23:20] LinkedIn. I’m not on, on the socials, as they say, really not on Twitter, Instagram, or, any of those things, LinkedIn [00:23:30] is probably the place where I am the most about all the socials, but still probably not all that much. Probably the easiest place to track me down.