A first glance at photographs of JuneBug Retro Resort in the North Carolina mountains is sure to elicit wide grins. It’s a throwback to a bygone era — the glory days of road travel. The resort’s natural, open-space setting sprouts a half-circle of 10 neatly arranged campers and travel trailers, some of them Shastas, in groovy pastel and primary colors. A few others — sleek, shiny, silver beauties — reflect bright sunlight toward the site’s Blue Ridge Mountains backdrop.
Fun? You betcha. The spot is so Instagrammable that checking in for our overnight visit had to wait while we snapped dozens of bright, festive photos beneath a perfect Carolina blue sky – the turquoise, red, yellow and white trailers vying for our attention.
Checking-in and learning the backstory
The project is the brainchild of Charlene and Tom Pagano, a hubby-wife team who haven’t flung loose their corporate suits entirely. Charlene was a paralegal for 14 years before taking on the new resort full-time in 2017, just after saying her vows. Husband Tom still has a day job, working remotely for a pharmaceutical company as medical director overseeing scientists in ophthalmology research for age-related, macular degeneration.
After check-in, we spot Tom relishing this new second job, handy hubby/farm hand/inspired leader, who climbs a tractor with ease and hops on a backhoe whenever needed to keep the property’s 50 acres available not only for the travel trailer campers but also flocks of couples and families celebrating special times.
We explore the grounds from the row of campers to the far end capped by a small merry-go-round on a playground atop a tidy mulch bed, then across a wide field to the special events site.
As we walk, Charlene shares how it all started: “We wanted something we could do together, and one morning Tom woke up and said, ‘I’ve got it: We can build a retro park.’ I was like, ‘What the heck is a retro park?’
A popular wedding venue
With its first full season under its belt, JuneBug Retro Resort has earned a reputation as a hot destination wedding site, as well as the perfect getaway for reunions, corporate retreats and upon our visit, an Asheville Van Life Rally that attracted 200 vans, easily accommodated across the property’s open fields.
“And it kind of evolved from there. We were looking for 2 to 5 acres, and we landed on 50; so it was ‘OK, we’ll give this a shot.’ Then we got engaged during that whole thing and decided let’s get married at the farm, and thought, ‘Hmm? I wonder if other people would like to get married here?’ ”
The wedding was June 2017, and Charlene had quit her job the month prior. Now, she plans weddings and oversees the office and upkeep of the campers, working with an assistant and two full-time employees.
The resort’s first full season, May-October 2018, saw it host 25 weddings, and 2019 is already shaping up well.
Weddings or groups have to buy out the whole resort as a package, renting the entire space for at least 24 hours. For 2019, a Saturday wedding booking is $8,500, including rental of all the campers; on a Sunday or weekday, it would be $6,500.
At 3,600 square feet, the separate event space, partially tented, is reached via a charming wooden bridge crossing the half-mile of river on the property. The site accommodates up to 200 party-goers or up to about 1,000 for concerts. Additionally, there are tent/van camping sites throughout the property for when the camper-trailers are full.
Overnight or longer-stay guests are generally coming from about a 100-mile radius and from our own home base of Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Says Charlene, “It’s people who like to come to the mountains and like something different.”
Each camper is equipped with air conditioning, a bathroom, refrigerator, microwave and hot/cold water. Smaller campers rent for $125 per night; large ones $220. We settled for our night in the large, silver, streamlined “honeymoon suite.”
The owners spent $40,000 refurbishing the unit, which has a happy décor complete with a dining table overhead light that had us thinking about Goldie Hawn and TV’s “Laugh-In.” Family Circle magazines from the era were a hoot to flip through, and the box radio worked. A couple of ’60s era chairs allowed for reading space, along with a long padded bench in front of the living room window.
Worth noting: There was no TV nor WiFi access, which we actually liked – a short break off the grid. Also adorable were the kitchenette and refrigerator.
A highlight, however, was situated across a walkway in the center of the row of accommodations: A long, silver bathing trailer. Still funky fun outside but modern and convenient within, it featured two, lockable identical sides. On each side, the his-and-her basins were perfect alongside a two-person shower. Mood music welcomed us along with comfortable seating and a full-size toilet. (While trailers have their own showers and toilets, too, they’re just not as luxurious and modern as the bathing trailer.)
Easy to fall in love with JuneBug Retro Resort in North Carolina
Charlene oversees the profusion of spring and fall flowers populating an impressive garden bed of 2,000 blooms along portions of the property. Guests can hike to a far-off ridge for a bird’s eye view, and after sunset, a firepit circle of halved-timber logs awaits under a starry, night sky.
The Paganos continue to work closely with the gentleman who sold them their first camper, Scott Whitmire. Charlene explains: “He had a landscaping company and a talent for restoring vintage trailers. About six months after buying the camper, Tom called him up one day and said, ‘Hey are you interested in some restoration work? We can keep you busy for a couple of years.’ And we did.”
As of this writing, the owners are busy working with Whitmire to transform a 1960 Airstream 20-footer into a clamshell dry bar/coffee cart to continue embracing the vintage style that defines their getaway. We’re sure the coffee served will be heavenly and good to the last drop!
The Paganos’ good idea turned into a full-time business, and it’s obvious that word is spreading about how special this mountain spot is. The couple, who now live 10 minutes away, hope to build a home on their 30 wooded acres. It’s clear that their little retro park is going to keep them busy for a long time.
IF YOU GO
*The resort’s address is actually Weaverville, NC (population about 3,000)—not Asheville. This quaint, attractive town is worth exploring, as reported in Our State magazine:
“The five-block stretch of Main Street is home to a half-dozen cafes and restaurants, a fly-fishing outfitter, a renovator’s supply company, a spa and a handful of craft galleries. A yoga studio sits just off the street. The old guard is still in evidence, too: the upholstery shop, the insurance agency, the car-repair shop with bluegrass music spilling from its bays.”
What is appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?
- For travelers who delighted in road-tripping as children, especially in the family car towing a Shasta camper, a stay here will be a thrilling throwback to that happy memory.
- The resort’s acreage puts “campers” in the heart of nature and wide-open spaces while offering comfortable amenities such as hot/cold running water, cooking facilities, and units each with a picnic table with center umbrella.
- The bathing trailer is fantastic.
- The park offers affordable accommodations in a fun setting.
- Camper steps rise from ground or gravel, so take precaution.
- The parking area is separate from individual campers but nearby most. Those preferring less walking will want to avoid renting campers at either end of the row.
The authors were overnight guests of JuneBug Resort.
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