|Two Dot Ventures, Inc. has been building car condos for
over a decade and business is beginning to boom. “Well,
that’s nice,” you might say, “but I never heard of
Two Dot Ventures and what is a ‘car condo,’ anyway?”
Here it is. A car condo is a place for your rich friend to store his car at the airport when he’s visiting the Rocky Mountains and his summer vacation home. In 1992, Loren and Dale Haarr started Two Dot Ventures (remembering their hometown) in Kalispell. They hoped to fill a niche need for people who wanted to keep their own car handy when they came to visit us.
A realtor friend told Loren and Dale about he had missed “getting into car condos” in the early 90s in Bozeman. The Haarrs decided they would try to make the idea fly around the Flathead. Loren and Dale slowly found out that the development process can take up to five years or more to get through all the planning boards, legal requirements, building codes, etc. “Nobody else is doing it, these days. Most people are intimidated by the paperwork, timelines, and the need to create condo owners associations. For the big money folks, the financial rewards look like small change.”
Time and effort are paying off for Loren and Dale. While the car condo process is long and complicated, the practice is fairly simple. Two Dot Ventures works with airport boards to gain long-term leases. Once the paperwork is done, they landscape and construct metal storage buildings. After a majority of the condo units are sold, the Haarrs hand over responsibility to the owners association. “We’re out of the loop, then.”
While things are looking good now, that wasn’t always the case. After building their first dozen car condos at the Kalispell Airport in 1992, the sales response was slow. Really slow. “We thought in a worse case scenario, we could always sell them for what we put into them.” That was their fallback for a while as it took four years to sell the first 12 units. “We’d been going through realtors. But, we learned they’re not sales people. They’re order takers.”
At the time, both of the Haarrs were working fulltime, Loren with his Montana Expressions Furniture Store and Dale at Haarr Brothers Men’s Wear. Dale, always the salesman - “he loves to sell,” passed over the realtors and got in touch with the homeowners’ associations in the Big Mountain ski area. That got sales started. Word of mouth and attractive signage pushed things along.
Over a decade later, Two Dot Ventures is now working at various stages of development with a number of car condo projects. There seems to be a story - or stories - with each effort. The Haarrs and partners in Denver built 30 units near the airport, but the condos were very expensive. They had to spend $12,000 on lightning rods! The Denver units are leased rather than sold. Despite the drawbacks, twelve more are to be built there before the end of the year. A contract is in the works to sublease property for pet kennels at the condo site. Loren calls it, “Park and Bark.” Dale and Loren are also planning for car condos at a large private airport in the Denver area.
What about cost? The original condos went for $5,000 each. The last 40 that were sold went for an average price of $21,000. These days, the condos come in different sizes. (How big is your SUV?) Right now, Two Dot Ventures is completing 47 units in Kalispell (7 left to be sold in this lot and 138 previously sold).
Loren smilingly says that the Glacier Car Condo Association has members from 38 states. The association charges $300 a year for snow removal, electricity charges, and insurance and lease fees. The Kalispell Airport has been recently upgraded, remodeled, and landscaped. “It’s the prettiest in the state.”
Loren and Dale Haarr - and sisters Elaine and Margaret Lammers - grew up in Two Dot and attended HHS. Both men graduated from the University of Montana at Missoula. Dale remembered, “In those days, it was Montana State University.”
Loren went off to Ecuador to work in the Peace Corps after getting a degree in history and political science. “I was supposed to help Indian tribesmen in the Amazon basin learn to keep cattle - educate them in animal husbandry. It turned out dismally. They had no money or interest in minerals, medicines, vaccines. There was nothing I could do to help. Cultures (and people) change only when they’re ready. Then, we all knew that the Peace Corps volunteers got the most out of the proposition. ”
Loren tells the story of his Peace Corps friend, Bill Thompson, who spent his two years wiring two giant generators which he thought would help the indigenous people. It turned out that the generators were eventually used to pump oil for Texaco.
Haarr came back from Ecuador fluent in Spanish and a little wiser for the experience. He was able to return some years ago - not to the Amazon, however - to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. “There’s a lot of technological change, but the rich are richer and the poor poorer.”
In 1973, Dale and Loren opened Haarr Brothers Men’s Wear in Kalispell. Loren had worked as a haberdasher going through college. He stayed with the business until 1988, then went off to train and work in building trades with his friend Bill Thompson. He eventually opened Obtuse Construction Company - “No job too simple” in the Flathead area. “I like working with my hands and being outside. It feels great.”
Eventually, Loren turned in his hammer for a while, and started his furniture business with another friend. Montana Expressions had two stores in Kalispell and Bozeman - still does and is alive and well, under different ownership - selling new and different furnishings. Log beds, rustic chairs and tables and benches. “It was a very creative time for me. I designed and built houses for three people. I put together interiors and exteriors. I was rubbing elbows with really creative people.” Haarr is comfortable with both designing and building. He’s in demand whenever he gets back near home country.
Loren is in demand at Two Dot Ventures. He’s the “hands-on” guy and Dale handles most of the paperwork. “This would be really tough to do on your own. It’s great to do as a team with Dale.”
Besides Denver and Kalispell, they have condos in Butte, Missoula, and Great Falls with Cody coming up soon. Sun Valley, Idaho is in process. Hawaii may be next. Vail/Aspen may also be ahead.
While the original Kalispell project of twelve units barely broke even, people eventually started to call. Building a dozen units at a time has grown to 18 and then 24 and most recently 47. The potential and the property is available to put in 150 more at the Kalispell Airport.
Still, there’s more to life than paper and steel, condos and cars. Dale and Loren are both golf nuts. (See note on “Golfing in the Kingdom”.) And for Loren, the obvious question arises as to what life would be without water? “Very dry.”
“We grew up swimming at Big Elk Creek. In college days, we got a surplus raft and floated the Blackfoot and Clark’s Fork rivers.” Loren Haarr has had some real adventures white water rafting. Gentle or heart-thumping rafting is fine. Either way. And, his son earns his incoming leading white water rafting trips in the Grand Canyon.
Whether he is designing or building, golfing or rafting, Loren Haarr makes life into a venture or adventure - or both.
|Dale Haarr is the other half of Two Dot Ventures. He is a few years
senior to Loren. Interestingly, they both graduated from what was then
called Montana State University in Missoula with degrees in history and
political science. Dale finished there in 1962 and Loren in 1968. I
wonder about their political aspirations. Don’t golf and politics
While Loren was making his way through college, Dale worked at Missoula Mercantile for five years and then spent another five with ABC (American Broadcasting Company) selling records and tapes. By 1973, it was time to settle down and Haarr Brothers Men’s Wear was established in Kalispell. While Loren left the business in 1988 for other adventures, Dale stayed on until he sold it in 1994. Thereafter, he worked as director and loan officer for Bank West.
Golf has long been a significant part of both of the Haarr’s lives, but it has gotten even bigger with Dale in recent times. Dale’s golf buddies, two in Kalispell and one in Alberta, had been imagining a trip to Scotland and playing at Saint Andrew’s for over three years. Then, a push came from one to make the trip and the rest went along. “Let’s quit talking and do it.”
The group took off on September 21 (Dale stayed an extra 10 days) and played six different courses on their trip. To play at Saint Andrew’s requires signing up for a lottery which Haarr’s friends were prepared to do. “As long as it takes.” On their second day of signing up with 126 other groups, the Montana golfers were chosen with 17 other registrants to play the famed Saint Andrew’s course.
How was it? “It was a spiritual experience. Everyone was in awe of the course. Golf was born there. Old Tom Morris started the sport with just a few holes at what became Saint Andrew’s. Eighteen-hole courses weren’t invented until the 1900s in the USA.”
Now that Dale and his friends had their spiritual experience, Haarr says “I want to play a bunch more courses. Cousin Richard Eggebakken is talking about going to England where he was born and play golf. Loren and I may join him.”
Another highlight of Dale Haarr’s trip to Scotland was a haircut. Believe it or not! Dale was given a coupon which entitled him to a nip of whiskey with his haircut. Actually, it turned out to be two ounces. More like a slug than a nip. Eh, Dale.