Hutchins Hostel 

Travelers get new digs

Bon Jovi's "Runaway" blares from a boom box as contractors drill, nail and tile a 120-year-old East Broadway building in anticipation of Missoula's first hostel in nearly a decade. Dave Loos hopes to open his 12-person facility, dubbed Hutchins Hostel, later this month.

"It's the right time to try it here, especially given the economy," he says.

The bottom flat of the two-tiered building will offer two bunkrooms, a lounge and access to shiny silver appliances—including a commercial dishwasher—for $30 per night.

Loos' facility aims to fill the gap left after Missoula's 22-bed Birchwood Hostel closed in 2000. Since then, he says, thrifty tourists have had a hard time finding affordable yet comfortable accommodations.

"The choice right now is either stay at a campground or stay at a hotel," says Loos.

Before he started the project, Loos tapped Ernie Franceschi and Gayl Teichert for operational insight. The couple shuttered the Birchwood nine years ago after more than two decades of housing travelers from around the globe.

"We go from the beautiful to the bizarre," Franceschi says of the Birchwood's clientele.

He specifically recalls one Japanese man who was roller-skating cross-country, and wonders aloud what happened to a half-naked toddler found alone in the middle of the night. Then there was the Troy booster club, which, in 1980, tripped a fuse while blow-drying at least a dozen Farrah Fawcett hairdos.

"We were in the house and our lights were dimming," Franceschi says, "and we couldn't figure it out."

Loos developed the business plan for an eco-friendly hostel while working toward a graduate degree in environmental studies at the University of Montana. Throughout the renovation, he aimed to keep the project green, bringing the flat up to code with smart insulation and lighting. If everything pans out, he aims to add solar panels down the line, as well.

In the meantime, after 13 months of poring over blueprints, pounding nails and painting, Loos is focused on his first chance at house mothering.

"I hope I can get as many interesting people as Ernie and Gayl did," he says.

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