Pomelo Grove is more than a place to rest your head
Words by Ashley Locke
This is not your grandparents’ camper.
Full of bright colors, patterned wallpaper, and stylish kitchenettes, the five campers that make up Pomelo Grove create a one-of-a-kind glamping (glamor camping) experience—a first of its kind in middle Tennessee.
“My background is in merch and product development,” said Erin Wolff, the founder of Pomelo Grove. “I’d been working in the corporate retail space for almost 10 years, and at the end of that I felt like I was plateauing. I knew I wanted to strike out on my own—I had always been fulfilled by experience.”
Each year, she would plan a massive adventure—a memory to cherish. When she decided to leave the corporate world to pursue a new path, she knew there had to be a trip in between. “My husband and I did a cross-country road trip. We stayed in state parks and flew by the seat of our pants,” she said. “Throughout that journey I kept seeing unique spaces and hospitality operations. We stayed at a few of them—the energy in those spaces was super exciting. Then I knew I wanted to be a part of the alternative hospitality movement.”
She landed in Nashville in 2017 and immediately got to work on her vision. She linked up with Brian Fuente, who was just beginning his custom trailer company, Aero Build. Together, they developed the campers to be sustainable off-grid. Each one runs on a small generator. Each has a 40-gallon tank for showering and washing dishes, and a compostable toilet. What does that mean for Pomelo Grove? It’s mobile—the campers can function anywhere.
The interior details were chosen with intention. “Part of my mission is to show love through hospitality. I feel like you can do that by paying attention to the details,” Wolff said. “I didn’t want to decorate them with cookie-cutter things. Pieces are sourced from thrift shops and estate sales and scavenges. I wanted a lot of details that enforced that slow, intentional experience.”
Slow down—a needed message for today’s hectic world. The campers invite you into slowness with French press coffee makers, which require a little more attention than automatic drip pots. There are record players that spin 45s—one song per record—which makes even throwing on music a more thoughtful process. There’s sudoku, crosswords, and boardgames. Everything, slow.
Wolff feels her thoughtful approach is needed in the hospitality space. “I think I’ve identified that providing a bed to rest your head is one thing, but people are looking for experience,” she said. And she extended that experience through partnerships with other Nashville businesses. “Our coffee, the Pomelo Grove Blend, comes from roaster Stay Golden. We use biodegradable products from The Good Fill for the bathroom. Bang Candy Company is a chocolatier in Nashville that makes an artisan s'mores kit for the nightly fire pit. There’s a local baker’s pancake mix in the kitchenettes for easy breakfast,” she said. “I love the discovery—people come in not knowing about these companies. We provide stuff people can investigate and engage with.”
Finding a land partner took some work, but in June of 2020 Pomelo Grove opened for business on Bloomsbury Farm in Smyrna, Tennessee. “They were community oriented, so they felt like my number-one option for a partner,” said Wolff.
At the height of the pandemic, Pomelo Grove turned out to be exactly what people were looking for. “Everyone was like, ‘Thank goodness there's something just a short drive away—easy to get to—but it still feels like I’m going somewhere.’ People were pumped to experience it,” said Wolff. “There was a huge group of people that had their trips elsewhere canceled, and they were coming here instead. Then there were lots of groups that would rent out all of the campers to be able to spend time together. Everyone could have their own safe camper, and the common space was outside, so it was perfect for COVID.”
After opening, Wolff had people ask if Pomelo Grove provided food options so they wouldn’t have to bring their own. The requests inspired a partnership with another local business, In Good Company. “They make meal kits for us so people would be able to have food stocked in their camper fridges on arrival,” said Wolff. The options include burgers, grilled pizza, french toast, breakfast pastries, and more. “Everything is prepped and ready to cook, but making food is still a slow process and a fun activity—and the food is really good.”
After a year at Bloomsbury Farm, Pomelo Grove is onto its next great adventure in Texas. Half an hour outside of Austin, Solomon Adams had just begun a new event concept. View Over Reimers was a small capacity concert with a focus on experience—the event included extras such as brewery tastings, dinner with the musicians, and happy hour jam sessions. “One of my friends who works in music got connected to Solomon through a mutual friend,” said Wolff. “My friend was saying to him that he needed more lodging. Solomon and I chatted, and he loved what I had done—he felt like I could be his partner for the hospitality piece.”
So, Wolff is taking the campers farther down south, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be gone from Tennessee forever. “My grand vision is to be a multi-location hospitality brand. Hopefully by late 2022 I’ll be on the road to having multiple locations,” Wolff said. “I want to compete in the national space with glamping folks. I think there’s so much space in the glamping industry, and what I'm doing is very different from what they’re doing—what I have on the experience side is what everybody wants.”
Follow along to see where Pomelo Grove pops up next at www.pomelogrove.co
Pomelo Grove has a sister property in East Nashville. It’s not a group of campers, but it’s still tiny—tiny homes! The Ironwood Grove Tiny House Hotel opened in July 2021. The community offers a similar experience to Pomelo Grove but in an urban setting. Check it out at www.ironwoodgrove.com.