When Don and Carissa Niemyer decided to move their family to Colorado Springs, they knew they wanted to bring a piece of Portland with them.
The Niemyers had operated coffee shops in the Northwest for years and were living in a 100-square-foot tiny home with their two kids—and they loved it. So when they chose to move to the Springs, they chose to do something previously unheard of along the Front Range: They opened Story Coffee Company, the region’s first tiny house coffee shop, in a 160-square-foot relocatable structure that has been stationed at Acacia Park since November.
“That was always the plan when we decided to move here,” Don Niemyer says. “We wanted to do something that was super high on both elegance and simplicity, and the tiny house format was the best format we found to do that.”
The Niemyers dream of living in a tiny house again, and they are not alone. The sweeping socio-economic movement that is the tiny house boom includes thousands. Across the nation, people of all demographics are deciding to forgo mortgages and suburban living for the simplicity and cost-effectiveness of these tiny homes, which are generally considered to be dwellings smaller than 400 square feet and costing no more than $60,000.
The trend drew big attention in the Springs last summer, when local business owners organized a festival called the Tiny House Jamboree. The three-day event was touted as the first of its kind and attracted as many as 40,000 visitors, as well as national media attention.
“The jamboree was to embrace the movement as a true one that isn’t going away and to try to organize the industry that was growing around it,” says Darin Zaruba, the primary organizer of the Jamboree. “I view this as the start of a directional change for the movement.”
Zaruba owns and operates the Colorado Springs-based tiny house company EcoCabins. When asked about the growing trend and where Colorado Springs places on the tiny house map, he says, “It hasn’t even hit here yet.”
Why not? He says Colorado Springs and El Paso County present some of the toughest zoning and building restrictions in the country when it comes to tiny home living. “[Tiny houses] are kind of a square peg in a round hole,” he says. “They don’t really fit in any code or regulation or zoning that the municipalities can actually put their finger on.”
Most of Zaruba’s sales are to people choosing to live off the grid in the mountains. He says he knows of fewer than a dozen currently living within the Springs city limits and its neighboring communities.
Why then, have tiny homes become such a craze in a city where no one uses them? Zaruba says that was very intentional.
“I made a very concerted effort to really put the spotlight on Colorado Springs, and I was really hoping that the city and the county would look at this, consider it and step up to be leaders in this movement,” Zaruba says.
Zaruba isn’t alone. Another company that has done much to encourage the movement’s growth in Colorado is the California-based Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, which opened a showroom and manufacturing facility in the Springs last year.
“I think Colorado Springs is the perfect setting for this,” says Human Resources Manager Justin Hall. “I think this product and this concept makes sense here. … As it continues to grow, I think there is a real opportunity here to brand this the ‘Tiny House City of the United States.’ ”
Join the Tiny Jamboree
Aug. 5-7, U.S. Air Force Academy
So what does tiny house living feel like? Find out at the National Tiny House Jamboree. Hear speakers. Meet vendors, and tour models. Enjoy food trucks and music. And please note that the location has been moved to the Air Force Academy outside Falcon Stadium. tinyhousejamboree.com
—by Cameron Moix