"I saw it and thought two things: 'Man, that's cool'; and 'I can make one of those!'" Matt said. The teardrop plans were put on the back burner for a few years as his shop, Sierra Madre Cabinet Co., flourished during the housing boom and then faltered during the bust. After a few more family issues, the teardrop plans resurfaced during a routine spring cleaning. Matt decided to re-visit the project and his first teardrop was born – from a $1,500 budget.
I ran into Matt at the Treasure Island Teardrop Gathering and later asked him a few questions about his custom built teardrop trailers that, of course, have amazing galleys and cabinets. Including galley cabinets faced with chicken wire.
What do you feel makes your trailers unique or special?
I would say that the cabinetry is definitely what makes or trailers special. Being as it's my first love, a lot of heart and soul go into making them special and unique for each customer. We use the best materials including all the cool, soft-close doors and drawer hardware. Also, each one is built by hand so if you look at one of our trailers you see the care that was taken to get all the details just right. I know for me, when I'm buying something, the little details that most people don't notice, speak all kinds of truths about the piece as a whole.
Tell me the story behind your own personal teardrop. What's its name, how did you come up with the design?
We had built a few trailers by this point, still building them without any particular client lined up so we were able to test them out on quick overnight camping trips, as we still couldn't afford one of our own. Through the test runs we learned what we liked and didn't like, and what would work and not work for our family of four. Finally, it came time to make a decision- do we go full steam ahead with the business and make a display trailer and try to take some orders? Or do we just keep going the way we had been building them and then selling them, without any way for our customers to see and feel? With that said, we were blessed that we were able to invest into our own trailer. I knew I wanted to do something different for ours and since I'm a woodworker at heart, a woody made sense. I knew what kind of look I liked so I started sketching it out by hand and came up with the design, I still have the original drawing sketch. We haven't named it yet, our daughters are working on it, for now it just gets referred to as "The Woody".
Do you design and build custom teardrops or stock teardrops? What do customers specifically ask for?
All of our trailers are custom built to the clients' specific wants or needs. I have a basic shape that I tend to stick to but even that can be changed if they like, our woody is slightly different as well. That's the nice part about not having a machine cut your parts out, you are only limited by your imagination. I haven't had a customer ask for anything too out of the ordinary, we've done a "boat theme" trailer with portholes and we are currently doing a "Navy plane" theme trailer which is fun. Our trailer has a chalkboard wall on our daughters bunk bed which is entertaining! Other than that, customers ask for the usual things: a fridge, sink, and microwaves. We will be doing an off-road trailer as well this month, and next and will be starting an off-road line once the first is done – so we are pretty excited about that new venture!
Where do you like to go camping? What are your favorite places?
We love to camp anywhere that is away from everything, and most importantly is beautiful. We love camping among the giant Redwoods and mountains. Mammoth, Yosemite and Utah are among some of the amazing places we have or would like to visit. But with little ones, most of our camping is done right here in our backyard for now in Angeles Crest Forest. We love Buckhorn Flats.
What do you like most and least about teardrop trailers and teardrop camping?
I don't think there is anything we don't like about teardrop trailers. I think what we love the most about them is that we are always packed up and ready to camp. When tent camping, you have totes that get jumbled around...not to mention, we were always missing tent poles! But with a teardrop, all we need to do is hitch up and take off! It makes doing just a quick overnight trip possible and we love those. We also love how once camping, the trailer becomes a conversation piece, we've met a lot of really nice people because of it, it's been a blessing! We love the teardrop community.
Photos by Matt Lingeman