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Andrew Mentzer

Local owner of downtown's new Idahostel

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The hostel is the backpacker's orphanage. A place where traveling, train-hopping 20-somethings stop in to recharge, grab a (mildly) hot communal shower and pound Jagermeister with Australian tourists. Recently, Boisean Andrew Mentzer decided to open Idahostel in the Idaho Building in downtown Boise. He hopes to have the space up and running by late July.

How did the idea for a hostel come about?

Before undergraduate, I had studied in Australia and stayed in hostels a bit, and then I started traveling last year and just thought it would be a good idea for Boise. I kind of structured it, though, as more of a piece of cultural infrastructure rather than just a place to stay.

Explain what you mean by that.

The theory is that Boise is years and years behind the Boulders and the Salt Lake Cities in technology startups. Part of the reason behind that is because it doesn't have the infrastructure, the progressive feng shui of a city ... If we give this kind of thing a try in downtown Boise and create that infrastructure--culturally, artistically, historically--that will bring in further incentive. It takes 1,000 things to create that feel for a whole city, but it's a starting point to give the city its legs for that kind of exposure.

Who do you expect to be your clientele?

Primarily, 20-somethings ... Millennials. People between 18-30, primarily college students. But we're not excluding anybody.

What are some of the features of the hostel?

We'll have communal bathrooms and a communal common space in here. There will be a dorm there and dorm on the corner, a larger dorm. It's going to be kind of a big fort the way that it lays out ... We'll have a door here that goes out to the alley. We'll have our own access so that people can come in after hours. We'll have a kitchenette, a theater area, a lot of common space. We're going to put in a little rock-climbing wall, I think, at some point.

And then you're offering activities?

Yeah, I've worked with a lot of regional outfitters for whitewater rafting, bungie jumping, skydiving. Basically, we'll give people the opportunity to go out and explore those elements of Idaho.

Does Boise have the traveling foot traffic to sustain a hostel?

As far as a backpacking community? It's there. It certainly is, it just hasn't really been established yet. This is a bit of a new thing. The feedback I've gotten so far is overwhelmingly positive. People are into the whole idea of giving Boise that exposure. There's about 30 hostels regionally between Portland, [Ore.] Salt Lake, Reno, [Nev.] There's one actually in Nampa, the Boise Hostel. It's about 45 minutes away ... The market that we're looking at right now is just primarily pass-through traffic on I-84.

Do you plan to court bands that are coming through town?

Absolutely. I've been talking with a few people at The Venue ... They're doing the Promenade Music Festival in October, so we're going to help them get set up with bands. We can have 24 people here, so it beats the heck out of getting eight to nine hotel rooms at $100 bucks a night ... They can have more fun and experience the city in a better way.

What are the rates like?

Starting out, it's $19 for the big dorm and the smaller dorms are going to be $22.

Have you talked to any of the neighbors in the building? What do they think about this?

People at Thomas Hammer seem pretty thrilled about it. The people at the C-Store in the basement are stoked because we're going to be bringing them some business. I've talked to the screen-printing people and the sushi people and everyone's been pretty positive.

What about the actual residents?

People who live in the building? We haven't had any contact with them because we work through a different brokerage.

Do you have any worries about transients or the homeless population?

Not at all ... We make it very clear that you have to have a credit card or a debit card to book with us ... Someone [can't] come in with $19 cash and just say, "I need a shower and a place to crash for the night." Unfortunately, that's not the role we're trying to accomplish.

Do you plan on integrating the Boise arts community into this community here?

Sector 17 came in and they're probably going to be doing a graffiti mural. And then I've got Kelly Knopp involved ... All of the interior accent walls are going to be murals ... This whole space is intended to be a work of art, with its corrugated aluminum. We're going to do some really cool things with the feng shui and make it feel like a place where you want to learn things and interact with the city.

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