Picture this: Your out-of-town family are coming to town for a wedding. Where should they stay? Your house is already full of kids. There’s always a hotel or Airbnb, but they could get pricy and inconvenient for anyone observing Shabbat who wants to walk to synagogue. So what do you do?
Dave and Talya Weinberg’s suggestion is a 30-by-9-foot RV travel trailer. For $150 a night, up to seven people can sleep in what the couple calls their “on-demand luxury suite.” The unit has a kitchen, bathroom, TV and Wi-Fi.
They call it the Shluff Inn, shluff being Yiddish for “sleep.” The Weinbergs say they’ll haul it to any driveway in the Baltimore or Washington areas.
“There’s nothing like this, and it’s needed,” Dave Weinberg said.
He got the idea one day when talking to his friend Josh Katz, owner of Ben Yehuda Cafe & Pizzeria in Silver Spring, about the difficulty of hosting extended family for special occasions.
“There’s a challenge that most Orthodox communities have, which is that because we all live within walking distance, generally, of a synagogue, there’s almost never any sort of hotel or regular hospitality outside of the good graces of people,” Dave Weinberg said.
He spend six months researching trailers and settled on a dealership in Pennsylvania. When they returned to their home Silver Spring after picking up the trailer, Talya Weinberg said they turned a few neighbors’ heads when they parked it in their driveway. And her husband said “learning how to back it up was a trip.” He knocked over their mailbox in his first attempt.
Dave Weinberg created a survey to gauge interest. He sent it to the JewishSilverSpring listserv and shared it with the Kemp Mill Jewish Facebook group. Within 24 hours, about 200 people replied, with many showing interest.
“I was blown away by how many people responded. It was crazy,” Dave Weinberg said. “And what that data showed us is that people absolutely want to be able to have a regular place they can turn to when friends and family come visit for holidays and events.”
The Weinbergs held a soft launch in March for the Shluff Inn, “and within two hours, I had already sold out Passover.” They’ve also received interest from people from as far as New York City and Chicago.
Part of the reason the Weinbergs wanted to start Shluff Inn was so they could use the trailer themselves. Recently the couple did a test run with their kids to Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware.
“We can use it every now and then for our family, which is wonderful. And the rest of the time it’s really meant as a business,” Dave Weinberg said.
Rabbi Brahm Weinberg (no relation) of the Weinbergs’ synagogue, Kemp Mill Synagogue, advised the project.
“We’ve worked with the rabbi to ensure that nothing turns on automatically. There’s no worry about electricity or water systems for Shabbat and Yom Tov,” Dave Weinberg said.
The plan is for a hard launch in August.
Shluff Inn is the Weinbergs’ latest business venture. Talya Weinberg is an artist who’s illustrated a children’s book and designed greeting cards. Under the name Talya’s Art Studio, she leads virtual art classes out of her garage-turned-studio.
Dave Weinberg is a “serial entrepreneur” who works as a startup consultant under the name Gently Ventures. One of his projects was Kosher19.com, which raised $83,547 to deliver 10,408 meals to frontline healthcare workers across the country. Another was PeteSwag.com, a virtual store selling made-to-order merchandise related to the Pete Buttigieg for America presidential campaign.
“A lot of what I do is build something from nothing. And I love that,” Dave Weinberg said. “So Shluff Inn was a good fit for that.”