"It began as a concept," John Newton said of IndyHostel, which he opened in March of 2004. "It actually started in August of 2003 with the rehab of the building, renovation and complete makeover," he said of the 1925 four-square, red wood-framed home turned hostel in the Meridian-Kessler neighborhood, where he also resides.
John Newton runs IndyHostel, an inexpensive option for visitors to Indianapolis.
The only hostel in Indianapolis and the only true hostel in the state, it features three bedrooms for travelers, including a private suite. Close to Butler and the Indiana State Fairgrounds, "You can stay here for $22 a night on weeknights, $25 on weekends," John explains.
"I'm a very social person. It's great, somebody's always here," he said, adding that the perks of running the hostel are meeting people and introducing them to the city.
The hostel has seen great success since opening, welcoming travelers "from all over," he said. "Japan, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, Canada and pretty much everywhere."
During race weekends, the hostel is in high demand. "It looks like we've sold out for the races ... and it's a beautiful thing," he laughs. This year, business is up because IndyHostel was listed in travel directories and backpackers guides.
"About 30 percent of my international travelers [65 percent of his guests are international] last summer came to Indianapolis because there simply was a hostel in the directory. They said hey, it's 22 bucks, let's check out Indianapolis! It's a day trip from Chicago on the Greyhound, too. I find it encouraging that these people would come to Indianapolis because of the hostel. I've found there are a lot of people who want to check out the Midwest."
One hostel visitor, a college student from the UK backpacking across the U.S., flew into Miami, Fla., then explored the Midwest (he fell in love with the Midwest, specifically Nashville, Tenn.) on his way up to Chicago.
The other 35 percent of his guests are Americans. "We have a lot of artists come through, a lot of musicians and convention people." Chris Stamey, producer for Ben Folds Five and Bob Mould and the NYC singer/songwriters Whiskey Breath Travelers are among the musicians who have stayed at the hostel.
"A lot of people in the neighborhood use us for when family comes to visit for weddings and other stuff. They stay here for many of the same reasons people go to hotels."
Visitors choose IndyHostel because "not all hostels are this nice," Newton said, adding that his guests prefer hostels not located in downtowns, but in neighborhoods like his. "They're smaller, quaint and cleaner." And, at IndyHostel, children are playing outside, and you can walk to the restaurants on College Avenue or take the Monon into Broad Ripple.
Amenities include a living room with local art on the walls and full kitchen. "People bring their own food, but I do sell some prepackaged stuff. Everything is set up to encourage socializing and interaction. The barriers are torn down. You aren't in a box or go hide in your room here. You hang out with people you may or may not know. My definition of a hostel would be a great, socially enhancing place to visit and meet new people."
IndyHostel hosts concerts by musicians traveling through town and a summer concert series of classical and jazz guitar on Sundays at 2 p.m. Visit IndyHostel online for more details or to see the rooms at www.indyhostel.us.