From Apartment Life to Van Life

“Scary” is how Pheobe Horibe used to describe her first night living out of a van. Sleeping in a Cabela’s parking lot was unfamiliar territory. She didn’t sleep very well that first night. Over the last few months, Pheobe has since become comfortable parking on the street or in parking lots. She prefers to park in cities or “urban camp” over finding spots in nature. “I find a sense of safety in numbers when parking with other RVs in, say, a Walmart parking lot.”

Pheobe Horibe outside her home on wheels in Falls Park, South Dakota (photo_ Pheobe Horibe).

Recently there was a big stigma around living full time in a vehicle. Many associated it with poverty or people too strange to be in normal society. With social media, van life has taken on a new life. People of all ages are converting old cargo vans or buses into tiny homes on wheels. Many people document building their homes through blogs and share their travels once they hit the road. That was how Pheobe first found out about the lifestyle. “I saw it on my Instagram feed one day back in like January of this year. I just thought ‘That. I want do that.’”

After hours of research, she bought a RAM Promaster and set to work. But it wasn’t easy. Without a carpentry or mechanical background, Pheobe had to teach herself how to make her dream a reality. A friend let her park in their driveway and another lent her a saw. The only help with the actual build she had was having a friend hold up the wooden planks that cover her ceiling while she nailed them in. It wasn’t perfect, but it was home. The sense of accomplishment was empowering.

Young Ethel’s: Serving Drinks and Hope

Mary Racine and her husband Tim had over 10 years of experience when they chose to open their bar. Mary had worked in bars for most of her adult life, and Tim drank in them. They met six years ago at The Love Bar in New York City where Mary worked. Tim was one of the many performers at the People’s Improv Theatre that The Love Bar operated from. It wasn’t love at first sight. Their relationship started as a friendship between two artists that grew into something more. Tim proposed four months after they started dating. They married after four more months.

The idea of opening a bar had been in the back of Mary’s mind for a while. Mary had experience bartending and managing. She knew what it took to run a successful bar. She knew how to order inventory, make schedules and budgets. Mary and Tim worked on business plans while she managed the popular Brooklyn spot, Sycamore Bar. Sycamore Bar not only is a bar but also a flower shop. Being unique helped Sycamore Bar stand out in a big city. With this in mind, Mary dreamed of Young Ethel’s. The name reflected her idea of a bar for young people with old souls. This is seen in the decor, a style aptly called “grandma chic.” The bar top is copper leaf, standing out against dark teal patterned wallpaper and matching lights. The color scheme continues into the back, where guests sit on pink velvet couches and watch movies on the big screen.

Young Ethel’s set up outdoor seating to follow along with NYC Covid-19 regulations.

Young Ethel’s is “an elevated dive bar.” Mary wanted to bring affordable drinks to Park Slope, a neighborhood known for its high living costs. But the low prices don’t mean poor quality. The bar serves handcrafted cocktails and craft beers to thirsty customers. Events such as art markets, karaoke and comedy nights are held regularly. In February 2020, they hosted a friend’s wedding.