In a former dental office near a developing area of downtown Greenville, two young entrepreneurs are crafting a new aesthetic for Southern lodging.
Joe Hindman and David Stone Jr., both Greenville natives, are the co-owners of Modal, a hostel-style lodging set to open late this year. It will be one of only two hostels in South Carolina, joining Charleston's NotSo Hostel.
Hindman started developing Modal back in 2015, when he, "naively" as he now says, thought he could open Greenville's first hostel in a year, maybe two. But Hindman, who, until October, was still working full-time as a marketer and designer, realized the undertaking was much larger than he had thought.
"This project has been my version of a master's program," Hindman told a group of current and aspiring hostel owners and operators at the American Hostel Conference, a three-day gathering held in Charleston last week.
Stone joined the team later, bringing real estate experience from his Greenville-based Stone Property Management. The former dental office was his idea, after the potential purchase of a more industrial-style property downtown had fallen through.
"It looked very vanilla on the outside, so he wasn't sure at first," Stone said.
"But the aesthetics are the easiest thing to change," Hindman added.
The aesthetics will be an important component of Modal, which they described as an "elevated" take on the hostel. Think custom bunk beds, local art displayed in rooms and a carefully crafted online presence.
They see the business catering particularly to digital nomads — remote workers who, now more than ever, are likely to take their work with them on the road.
Modal will have four different setups: a 12-person co-ed dorm, a six-person all-female dorm, a four-person male dorm and one private space with a queen-size bed. Each room will come with a separate bathroom.
Though it distinguishes them from nearly every other lodging in the state, Hindman and Stone haven't decided yet how prominently they will use the word "hostel" in their promotion.
The term typically refers to a lodging that offers relatively low fees, often with options for inexpensive dorm-style sleeping arrangements.
For example, at NotSo Hostel in Charleston, guests can stay in a dorm-style room on the peninsula starting at $30 a night.
Modal's prices haven't been set yet, but Hindman and Stone said their rates will be less than a hotel's but a little more than the average hostel.
Recently, hostels have been gaining more popularity in the U.S. — the booking site HostelWorld lists five in Austin, Tex., six in Denver, Colo. and a couple in Asheville — but it's still a relatively unfamiliar concept in South Carolina.
Since Modal is Greenville's first hostel, the city didn't have any regulations that applied to hostels specifically. For building codes, Modal has to follow bed and breakfast standards, but, for zoning purposes, it's considered a hotel.
In a presentation about hostel industry trends, Byron Bunda, a digital marketer who works specifically with hostels, pointed out a recent blurring between different types of accommodations.
Hostels want to look more like luxury hotels, but with bunk beds. High-end hotels are adding the kind of laid-back common areas that hostels offer. And Airbnb listings run the gamut, ranging from curated private apartments to simple beds in shared spaces.
In keeping with their name, Modal's owners hope to keep their business in an in-between space, ready to adapt.
Motion and movement is one aspect of the name's origin, Hindman said, who took it from transportation terms like intermodal. The word can also denote a style of jazz and a type of fabric used for towels, robes and bed sheets.
"It seemed to fit for all of its definitions," Hindman said.
Hindman and Stone see the hostel as a place to capture and develop local flavor. Unlike Charleston, they said, they feel their hometown is still working out its identity, which gives them an opportunity to present their own take on Greenville to Modal's visitors.
They plan to open the lobby area to the public, so guests may be mingling with locals during their stay.
Rooms will be named after Greenville artists, and they envision collaboration with Stone's nearby music venue, Swanson's Warehouse, and a local brewery down the street.
"That's as local as you can get," Stone said.