A savvy entrepreneur and nature lover finds that making camping easy for others isn't just fun - it's a growing business. Meet Kristine Lyons of Gulf Coast Camper Rentals.
- story by Lisa Monti, photos courtesy GCCR
Kristine Lyons has held on to fond childhood memories of family camping trips to Buccaneer State Park, exploring nature trails and pulling in fish and crabs on the seawall with her brother.
Those special memories were so strong that she wanted her own kids to have similar experiences, so Lyons continued the tradition of camping at Buccaneer with them as they grew up.
Lyons knew that the camping tradition was successfully passed when her daughter asked to go camping on a visit home from college. But there was a hitch.
“I had just sold my camper, and when we started looking for one to rent we couldn’t find one. I ended up buying one,” she said. Always the entrepreneur, Lyons decided on that very camping trip to start renting her new rig to help make payments on it. That was in late 2014 and in short order Gulf Coast Camper Rentals was officially in business.
A Facebook page and word of mouth quickly attracted customers, so she doubled down on inventory based on high demand. “I bought another one and it stayed booked. Then two more,” Lyons said. “Once I got to six I quit my day job. Selling furniture wasn’t my thing anyway,” she said.
Today there are 13 2017-2018 model campers for rent in an assortment of sizes for $120 to $155 a night with a two-night minimum. The largest can comfortably accommodate four adults and four children.
But Lyons takes it one step further by offering delivery and set up of the campers at several campsites in Hancock County and beyond. Her brother, Robert Miller, and his wife, Michelle, take care of delivery and pick up, servicing and cleaning up everything when you’re headed back home.
Yes, all the renters have to do is show up and, well, camp. “That’s what we do the best,” she said of the unique delivery, set up and pick up service. “We’re living in a society where nobody has enough time. They would rather me do the work so they can just show up and have fun. Our motto is, ‘We do the work, You enjoy the adventure!’ ”
Locally, Gulf Coast Camper Rentals sets up at Buccaneer State Park, long Mississippi’s most popular state park, McLeod Park, the campsites connected to the Silver Slipper Casino and Hollywood Casino and nearby Flint Creek in Stone County. The convenience will cost you an additional $85 for locations in Hancock County. Farther afield you pay by the mile.
Lately they have set up for campers at the new Reunion Lake facility in Robert, La., as well as at popular campgrounds in Lumberton and throughout Louisiana and over to Gulf Shores, Ala., and Destin, Fla.
Lyons said the campers aren’t used strictly for camping. They’re popular with participants at festivals, Cruising the Coast, ATV events and the annual Gulf Coast Winter Classic horse show in Harrison County. “People use them for mother-in-law suites in their yard and for weddings. Film companies use them when they’re shooting commercials and just to hang out in.”
She’s also thinking about adding some special packages for honeymooners and customized services customers may request.
“We’re flexible. We just want you to have good time.”
It seems that when people get a taste of camping, they enjoy it enough to want to do it again and that means plenty of repeat business for Gulf Coast Camper Rentals. “Some of our best customers owned campers in the past and are not interested in owning one now. They want to camp a couple of times a year and renting is cheaper.”
The success of the camper rentals led Lyons to buy a building on Highway 603 and open a camper store which is stocked with camper parts and supplies, everything from water hoses to backup cameras.
“We’re doing camper service now too,” she said. She and her brother are newly certified recreational vehicle inspectors available for those looking to invest in an RV. “We’re trying to be a one-stop shop,” Lyons said.
And she’s keeping the family camping tradition going these days by taking her grandchildren camping at Buccaneer. “Basically, camping is making memories. Even the most miserable times we had camping we still laugh about today.
Gulf Coast Camper Rentals
10381 Highway 603, Suite A
Bay Saint Louis, MS 39520