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Hidden Gems: Meet Meghan Reed of Camp Mill Pond

Today we’d like to introduce you to Meghan Reed.

Hi Meghan, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
The Camp Mill Pond story really started last year when we (Meghan and James Reed) acquired our historic St. Charles, MO home, which just so happened to have a log cabin built around 1835 on the property. The moment we looked at the property, the concept of using it as a vacation home rental and having it centered around a Wes Anderson summer camp theme just started flooding in. I mean, who gets to be that lucky to own a bonafide cabin that’s 180-years old and have it within walking distance to all the fun St. Charles activities and festivals on Main Street? The cabin was meant to be shared with others, and a vacation rental is a perfect way to do that! I knew early on, though, that it was not going to be your typical Airbnb.

We took the summer camp of the famous Catskill Mountain resorts and just ran with it. I never got to go to a summer camp growing up, but one of my favorite movies as a kid was the original 1961 Parent Trap, which had the most classic camp movie set. I also was a big Troop Beverly Hills fan. The costume design was out of this world and kept popping back into my head while designing the interior of the cabin. Classic pink, green, and brown tones mixed with yellow were the beginnings of our branding. And then there is the whimsy and fun of Wes Anderson films that I couldn’t shake. I did not want you to walk in feeling like this was a standard cabin with typical furnishings. And with all the 5-star reviews we’ve gotten, we feel that was accomplished with our use of mid-century pieces, a vintage-looking mint fridge, yellow velvet couch, and lucite chairs. I love to think The Wilderness Girls would have approved of our glamping cabin, with its strong nod to the past but with kitsch luxury finishes.

The cabin is called Camp Mill Pond as a nod to the slow rhythm of hot summer days and as a tribute to Christopher Weeke. Weeke was the original owner and builder of our historic home (the first home in St. Charles to have a bathtub and steam furnace) that shares the property with Camp Mill Pond cabin. Weeke had a pond and spring that ran his mill, Weeke Flour Mill, on the 900 blocks of 2nd street, St. Charles, MO.

What makes the cabin’s history even more unique is that it didn’t always sit on our property. The log cabin was built by Fidelis and Euphrosine Schwendemann, who came from Baden, Germany. The pair married in 1835 at St. Charles Borromeo Church. The cabin was constructed originally on a farm in St. Peters, MO, near the Mid Rivers Mall Drive-Mexico Road intersection. As the family grew, frame additions were made to the home and later completely surrounding the log cabin within. When the frame house was being torn down, the log cabin was found hidden inside. To preserve the log cabin, it was moved in 1997 to our property located in Frenchtown.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back, would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
We definitely had some challenging moments! Looking back, it was kind of insane, as we moved in Mid-April, began the cabin renovation in May, and had our first guest a month later on June 18, 2020. Oh, and it was during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Although it is one of our quickest renovations by far (we’ve done several home renovations on our rental properties, including other historic homes), it was our most unnerving as it was happening during the stage of COVID-19, where everything was shut down. IKEA was closed, massive shipping delays on Amazon, and daily reports of the travel industry sputtering to a complete stop. We had no clue if we would really be running a vacation rental after the end of the renovation. My husband and I definitely had some talks about the potential for this not to become an Airbnb and just a space for our family. We decided to push forward with our plan and create a space that we knew would feel warm and inviting while also being incredibly special and distinctive. It was one of those moments of “if you build it, they will come.” Which turned out to be true. We got flooded that summer with bookings the moment we officially opened. And what surprised us was how many local St. Louis guests stayed with us, too. Everyone was looking for a change of scenery in a safe environment, and I think we can all relate to that.

The goal was always to allow our guests to reset themselves in a fun environment. Almost like a mini detox from the stress we all feel. And that’s what I love about good design and how it can impact our moods. I’m really into how people respond to their environments and how design and architecture can influence how they feel. Which can have such a chain reaction to other parts of their life. It might sound crazy, but even down to the light bulb temperature we used in the cabin was chosen with intention. It was all carefully thought about to help people relax.

The record player is a big hit, along with all the decor and welcome goodies we have sprinkled throughout the cabin. One of our guests left us a note that only one night in the cabin felt like “a week of relaxation!” And that is precisely how we want our guests to feel. The cabin aesthetics set the stage the moment our guests arrive that this will be something they have never experienced before. Not a lot of people get to say they got to spend the night in a 180+-year-old cabin!

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
My background has always been in marketing, but within large corporations, so this has been great to really control all the connections that need to be in place to create a unique experience. It is a gift to give back to others with a beautiful place to celebrate an anniversary, wedding, or just to have a night out away from it all!

Our first year with Camp Mill Pond has been so successful that it allowed me to quickly quit my stressful corporate marketing position and start my own marketing consulting company, M. Reed Studio (mreedstudio.com) When I’m not working on the cabin, I design websites and brand strategies for fellow entrepreneurs and businesses. As I began to share more about the success of the cabin and interior design projects on Instagram, I started getting requests from others on how to run a successful Airbnb. Now I’m also coaching individuals who want to start up a vacation rental or get into long-term rental properties. Even helping homeowners who are wanting to make design updates to their homes. It definitely has been a challenging yet rewarding year of growth.

Any big plans?
We are so excited to be kicking off some Camp Mill Pond collaborations with other local businesses this year! It is great meeting fellow business owners in the St. Charles community and working on projects together. We can’t wait to share what we’ve been cooking up for this fall!

Contact Info:

Image Credits
M. Reed Studio and Megan Gray Photography (for our family photo)

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