Cheeky Dog Bakery is NOW CLOSED for orders of treats and cakes, we may be back with an exciting online shop in future.  To follow Oscar pop over to instagram @cheekydogadventures. 

The Life and Times of Geri Holivan - A Pup-Up Shop

Her exact age is known only to herself, but her beauty shone through even in her worst condition.  Geri (short for Geraldine), as she is now known, is a 1960s Fisher Holivan Caravan, she hails from West Cork where her last known occupation was as accommodation for summer labour at an organic farm in West Cork.  She grew tired and was left to rest in a field on the farm for 20 years waiting for her time to shine once again!  Geri was posted on DoneDeal by her lovely owner, Jim, who was keen to see her return to her former glory and return to the road but she was in need of more than just some polish and lipstick!

After speaking with Jim, who was lovely and completely upfront and honest about her condition, Oscar and I decided to hop in the car and head out for a road trip to meet this classic lady!  We were lucky to have the company of our good friends Michelle and Seamus for the leg of the journey from Cork City to West Cork (and gave us a warm bed for the night), I'm not sure I would have found it the first time with Oscar navigating (thanks Seamus and Michelle!).  We braved the mud and appreciated the break in the rain so we could give her a good assessment and it was love at first sight!  Who could resist those curves, that quilted pattern and the barn doors?  It was time to go home so Oscar and I could make a list of the work and supplies needed to make her roadworthy and dream up a budget!

After a lot of discussion, self doubt and encouragement from the few people who didn't think I was running away with another mad idea (me? neverrrr), it was time for the grand plan, and grand the plan was!  Not all of my plans were practical, given the amount of space she had to offer and a lack of actual dimensions, but the vision was a great start and the decision was made, I just HAD to make it happen!

Weeks went on while a price was agreed and Geri had some work done on her chassis, kindly sorted out by Jim, Kermit (our VW Beetle) had a tow hitch added onto his little caboose and we were offered space to use for her make-over. Finally it came time for her to step back out into the big world and hit the road!  We needed to move her from West Cork to Wexford on what turned out to be a SNOWY day in February, I packed the car with every emergency precaution I could dream of and a kit of various straps, weights and tape to secure her loose windows, tighten her damaged walls and floor to her frame and weigh her down so she wouldn't be blown off the road on a mountain top!  It took hours of prep but with one last check of the hitch by Oscar and a flick of the switch for her trailer lights we were ready to say goodbye to the amazing natural beauty of her Cork home.  After hours of driving, across mountains, through snow and a few counties, we finally arrived in Wexford, safe and sound just before dark and Geri was at her home for the next year. 

We moved her into her shed where all the work would be done over the next year and had a look at what was ahead of us!  It was time to strip her back and see what was hiding underneath, and it was a LOT more than expected, but we were ready for a challenge.  The wood structure and wall covering was suffering from wet rot, dry rot, insect damage and just plain old age!  Parts of the walls and floor were already missing or just not attached, wood fell out of areas like dust and we were missing so many parts, including two windows and a roof light.  Not a single inch of her was going to be left untouched, with the exception of several of the curved roof beams (thankfully, these would have been horrific to re-cut to the same angle etc).

After all of the destruction and repairs it felt great to finally start on the rebuild!  We had to start with the floor and structure of the wall that had popped off and hit the floor (oops!) when we removed the wheel well on the door side wall.  We replaced the rotten small frame with beefy wood boards that could handle the serving hatch and counter.  Next the floor beams were replaced entirely and bolted back to the frame and a new floor was cut to fit the custom shape.  We finally had a floor to stand on while we work and didn't have to hop around floor beams anymore!  Oscar was always on hand to supervise and once the floor was down he was upgraded from the view in his crate to freedom to roam and inspect from inside!

We replaced and upgraded all of the wood framing to make her stronger than ever before, we beefed up the wall where the hatch was being cut to support the structure, the hatch and the planned shelving for the serving area.  We had to decide on lighting placement and wiring while everything was open and available to access (oh yeah, I did the electrical myself, I'm proud of those lights baby!) and some of those angles and cuts and curves were the cause of a lot of blue air, blood, sweat and tears!  The scariest moment was when it came time to cut out the hatch!  I had been warned by several professionals in the know (who were kind enough to advise but also strike fear into me) that if we didn't get our structure right we would have a crumbled mess that used to be a caravan when cutting out the hatch.  Talk about a tense moment!When everything is in pieces and you're figuring out everything as you go along you really have to keep your end vision in mind or you'll never survive the ugly work!  We were lucky to have Oscar on hand to entertain, cuddle and inspect our work when needed, he was there every step of the way!

Before the walls and floor could be secured down and fit out work could begin I had to plan out and install all of the wiring which will run inside the walls.  After some extensive research into DC, wattage, amps and DIY I was ready to light this puppy up!  After months of work and endless amounts of money we had a heart stopping phone call and near miss with a massive blaze that tore through the adjoining shed in Wexford and were left without power and lights for the rest of the build.  It was great timing to get the floor down, walls on and lights operational.

With lights running on solar power (and some rare good weather!) we were able to crack on with the fit out and began work re-installing the little caravan kitchen with it's new layout and little Pipsqueak wood stove!  Though we were making great strides in our progress we were rapidly running out of the time we needed to meet our deadline, we needed the Pup-Up Shop on the road and ready to rock in time for The Doggie Do and it was now crunch time!  We had to get the basic kitchen in and turn our attention to trimming and installing the windows, sealing anything and everything that could be made water tight and prepping her for paint!  The paint was definitely one of those "Tah-DAH!" transformations, weeks worth of prep and one day painting and her exterior was completely transformed!

The clock had finally run out and it was time to down tools and get Geri back on the road, our first event was only days away and we had to get her up to her new home in Dublin NOW!  Thank Dog the journey from Wexford up to Dublin was incident free (other than my nerves working overtime!) and we arrived at the storage yard in one piece.  The next day I arrived with a tight schedule for installing the storage system for the serving counter and ended up spending over an hour messing with a wire hanger and stubborn door lock!  This made for an interesting start to our first event... me, two drills and a measuring tape slapping the supports on the walls and hanging the shelves with only minutes to spare before opening to our first customers!  Eventually the wallpapers, shelves and retail peg boards made their way onto the rear walls and the interior space was feeling like a real shop!

Now, you would think a year and a half from when we first started this project that we would have it done to perfection and could sit back and relax.  Ahhh, to dream!  It has been a crazy 18 months of research, planning, sourcing and hard work but we still have a snag list of things to do of course!  Geri needs all of her interior trim fitted, the kitchen space needs to be finished with it's wallpaper, paint for the cabinets and hanging the doors, and the outside box which will house the battery and gas bottle needs to be fitted but the necessities for the shop are all there and this little beauty is a fabulous space to work in (and not to mention a real head turner and conversation starter)!

More images to be added as we continue to make progress on those last few bits...