The pod phenomenon

HASTINGS HIGHLANDS – Craig Kelley, former economic development officer for the Township of Madawaska Valley, has launched a new business in the area.

Algonquin Pod Company provides an alternative way to camping. Instead of using a tent or a trailer, a pod can be used. Kelley’s company provides these unique pods to an ever-growing market.
He attended a trade show in the fall of last year and began talkin
g with some local wood-lovers. They were discussing what a true Ottawa Valley house would be like and how they could make one. This would mean everything made from lumber and materials and manufactured items from the wood industry out of the Ottawa Valley.
“So, we figured that if we married the two- tourism and wood-based – that would be an interesting idea. So it led to some research on my own time to see what could we do, and I had some colleagues that were talking about the yurt and we said those were neat, and they’re part of the eco tourism type thing, and everybody that likes to kayak and canoe. But that’s not Ottawa Valley – we’re about wood,” Kelley said.
Kelley came across the pod design which originated in the United Kingdom. A British man who designed these pods branded them around the world and holds copyright to them.
“So it was a few months of conversations and negotiations and we ended up developing the Algonquin Pod Company, and acquiring the North American rights to the UK design for manufacturing here,” Kelley said. “[I] felt that this would be a good design to transfer here.”
His immediate plan is to concentrate in Ontario and get these units into campgrounds for people who don’t like to use a tent anymore, or spend money to rent a cabin, but who still love to camp.
“So this is that intermediate step that I can still show up and feel like I’m camping, but don’t have to sleep on a wet floor or worry about it raining. I’m driving a small car now, I don’t have to bring a big tent anymore and it allows the campgrounds the ability to charge more for spaces that are otherwise empty on a rainy weekend,” he said.
He added that everyone loves camping but it can be the tenting issue that can deter them from that experience.
“You know that we’re all getting older; the demographic is growing but the 40 some year olds and early 50’s still want to camp, but they don’t want to haul all the garbage with them. They just want to show up. They don’t want a cabin either, they still want to feel that they’re camping, they don’t want to clean up the beds and the sinks and the toilets and all that stuff, they still want that experience but without all the hassle,” Kelley said.
He is hoping to tap into a whole market as the business grows. Right now, it’s huge in Europe, and they’re just getting started in Ireland in the last six to eight months.
“Europeans have really gripped this pod phenomenon,” Kelly said.
He compares people staying in a pod to staying at a Holiday Inn; they know that wherever they go, the pods are the same.
Kelley is making a conscious effort to use as much Ontario wood as he can in the units and especially Ottawa Valley wood. Whenever there is local wood used, its all from sustainable forest practices. It’s all certified and most of it is coming from certified forests using local labour and local lumber.
“Madawaska Doors, for instance, they are award-winning doors, and we chose to use them locally. The wood from
any of the mills who are struggling in this year we thought we’d really support them using their wood,” he explained.
Story Continues in the June 27 issue of The Valley Gazette.