It all started when Zinninger’s father, Steve, bought a ‘76 Airstream. It was another vintage acquisition in a long line of classic cars and old homes that Steve and his family had restored as they moved around the country for his national commercial painting company.
“It was in my blood growing up,” Zinninger said.
After doing extensive research on Airstreams to help his father with the restoration, Zinninger noticed a void in the market for high-end renovations of vintage trailers. He saw an opportunity to move on from his travel-heavy job as a foreman for the family painting company and create his own business.
“I didn’t want to start a business where I just fixed people’s air conditioners or busted tail lights on their trailers,” he recalls. “There’s 200 of those shops in Salt Lake. It was a matter of building a niche that was unique enough that people from all of North America would see it as valuable.”
Soon after, Zinninger found a warehouse and began purchasing Airstreams to renovate and sell.
“We realized real quick that it’s not a very sustainable business plan unless you have infinite dollars to throw at it,” he explains. “In the meantime, we had purchased some cheap vintage trailers and set them up outside the warehouse. By happenstance, people started driving by and knocking on our door asking if we worked on them or just sold them.”
Camper Reparadise is born
Ditching his original plan, Zinninger began renovating trailers for walk-in customers, friends, and family—and word spread.
“I had people from Maine to Hawaii bringing me work; and we even did a bunch of work overseas.”
His team has turned a horse trailer into a traveling tiny home decked out in black walnut. They’ve engineered an Airstream so that the entire side opens up for sweeping views of the landscape, and they’ve installed woodburning stoves, epic stereo systems, heated floors, and electric sliding beds. And when parts are out of production or won’t fit in the iconic curve of the Airstream, the team has to design and fabricate something that will.
“We’ve worked with everybody from Joe Schmoe who has scraped all of his money together and he’s got this dream to live out of this thing, and we’ve got to try and make it happen for XYZ budget and timeframe; to Jamie Foxx who we worked with for his sunglasses company to build out a van for him,” Zinninger says proudly. “We’ve got this whole world of people who are looking at these vessels and how they can create their business, their life, their hobby, their dream into these little shells.”
The projects take anywhere from 1,200 to 2,000 hours of work and range from $100,000 to $225,000, depending on how fantastical the client’s ideas are.
“We even installed stained glass interior doors in one project,” he said.
Though competition in the field of vintage trailer restoration has definitely increased over the last decade, Zinninger continues to evolve Camper Reparadise to stay at the top of the industry.
The company can work on the cars that tow the trailers, outfit the trailers with off-road capabilities, and install off-the-grid packages with solar panels. They also rent out refurbished vintage trailers through an offshoot of the company, Retro Rentals.
“Seven years later we are still at the point where we are always pushing ourselves and thinking of a new cool way to do something.”
He continues, “It’s a ton of fun to design these things, especially with this group. My brother-in-law works here. I’ve got three of my friends who I’ve known for almost 15 years working here, and my parents are here almost every day. Every day is bring your dog to work day.”
No two projects—or days, for that matter—are the same at Camper Reparadise.
“We get to work with people that are building out their dreams and help make that happen,” he said. “It’s pretty wild.”
Camper Reparadise is located at 2382 S Redwood Road, West Valley City.
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