|Dr. Robert Grunstein and Avi Barak of Teaneck founded Guest Room To Go, which provides an RV trailer for anyone looking for extra space for their guests.|
With only one hotel, Teaneck doesn’t offer many options for shomer Shabbat visitors within walking distance of the township’s many synagogues.
To address the problem, residents Dr. Robert Grunstein and Avi Barak have mobilized a solution with their new business: Guest Room To Go. The pair bought a recreational vehicle that they will deliver and park in customers’ driveways for a weekend to give them what is basically a small apartment for extra guests.
“There’s no reason for people to inconvenience their neighbors when they have a simcha or put people in a musty basement,” said Grunstein, who runs a dental practice in Paterson. “It’s like adding on … to your house just for the weekend.”
The idea began to take shape three years ago when Grunstein, his wife Shira, and their three children were invited to his brother’s house for a Shabbat brit. The house was packed full of overnight guests, and the closest place where they could stay was more than a mile away. Grunstein didn’t want to walk that far in the cold with his young children, nor did he want to cram his family into his brother’s already full house.
“I decided the best thing was to rent an RV and stay in the RV for Shabbos,” Grunstein said. They ate all their meals inside his brother’s home, but at night retired to the RV.
Earlier this year, when the Grunstein and Barak families took an RV vacation, Grunstein related the story. Barak, a construction and real estate developer, latched on to the idea.
“I was thinking, ‘What a great idea it would be if somebody had the option for an extra room for guests,'” Barak said. “This was the best solution.”
After driving to Michigan to pick up the camper, the pair put an ad on the Teaneck shul’s community listserv and slowly calls started to come in.
The camper can sleep eight people and has a full bathroom and kitchen. Grunstein or Barak will drop it off on Friday, pick it up Sunday, and even provide linens upon request.
“The renter doesn’t have to do anything,” Grunstein said.
Valerie and Miles Levin of Teaneck were the first couple to rent the camper. When her sister, brother-in-law, and their four children said they were coming to visit for Shavuot in May, Levin knew she couldn’t comfortably fit everyone for the holiday so she decided to give the trailer a try.
“It meant that there was a place for them to put their stuff,” she said. “There was a sleeping space for everyone.”
Her sister and brother-in-law spent the entire visit in the RV, while the kids alternated with the Levins’ children between the camper and the house. Each one, including the Levins’ own children, wanted to sleep in the RV.
“They had a ball,” she said.
Last month, Richard and Chana Tova Scharlat of Teaneck rented the RV during their eldest son’s bar mitzvah. Their son, Elie, had several friends from around Teaneck he wanted to come but they lived beyond walking distance. Grunstein and Barak parked the RV in the Scharlats’ driveway, the family hired a neighborhood teenager to work as a counselor, and eight boys spent the weekend in what was basically a mini-overnight camp.
“It was a brilliant idea and they executed it even better,” Richard Scharlat said. He and his wife had thought of doing a rush job to finish their attic to create more sleeping space but instead jumped at the RV opportunity when they heard about it.
Scharlat recalled that one of the guests wrote on the sign-in board, “Best bar mitzvah ever, the trailer was sick.” (Slang for “cool.”) He praised Grunstein and Barak for the work they did setting up the trailer and hauling it away afterward.
“People shouldn’t think it’s some cumbersome procedure,” he said. “It could not have been easier.”
“It was like a camping bar mitzvah,” Barak said. “All of those kids want it also for their bar mitzvahs.”
This weekend, Grunstein is bringing the RV to a bungalow colony in the Catskills for another bar mitzvah. Like the Scharlats’ affair, the bar mitzvah boy wants to have several friends present but the family can’t accommodate them all inside.
“The kids enjoy [camping in the RV] more than the bar mitzvah itself,” Grunstein said. “They get a little independence, get to fool around, and parents don’t hear the noise.”