When Hoekstra was a kid in the 60s, he saw these classic mobile caravans still in use and he promised himself that one day he would buy one. When he bought his first fixer-upper, he was a graphic designer/illustrator in Amsterdam – something that came in handy for designing, but didn’t exactly train him to be a builder. However, with borrowed tools, 20 weekends and a trek to the south of France, he eventually had a beautifully restored caravan. People loved the design and immediately started asking: Is it for sale? Is for rent? Do you know of other caravans for sale?
Very few antique, restorable wagons were left, so Hoekstra decided to try his hand at designing and building one from scratch. He showed his early sketches to a friend who immediately bought it, and thus, a business was born.
Soon after, Hoekstra realized he needed carpenters and a workshop pronto, so he traveled to the Czech Republic to set up shop. The wagons are built with beer, laughter, and fine workmanship. They are popular with different people; some live in their wagon permanently, campsites and hotels buy them to rent as romantic get-aways, and some are even used as backyard workshops or studies. There is even one reported to be a cozy waiting room for a dentist’s office in Switzerland.
In total, Roulettes has built and sold 80 caravans and they are noticing a trend for clients wanting caravans with bathrooms and energy efficient features. Moreover, what attracts customers to the designs are their unique look, compact size, and the fact that they do not need a building permit.
Hoekstra enjoys his clientele, saying: “Most are blessed with ‘good taste’. If not, they would buy a plastic mobile home for less money. It’s always fun for us to see how their new caravan is decorated. Most clients decorate their caravan with all kinds of fancy that they would never let into their houses; it is half the fun of owning one!”
In addition to designing and building caravans and datchas, Roulottes has eight caravans for rent on a beautiful campsite near Ajoux, France. Roulottes has interest in wagons from the USA, but the shipping cost to the USA from Europe is prohibitive, so this European gypsy caravan building business is seeking collaboration in the California area. So – got a hammer, a love of history and a flair with the paintbrush?