Alumni starting first hostel in Grand Rapids

By Carly Simpson | 4/16/14 8:10pm

In December 2013, Grand Rapids was dubbed the 2014 top travel destination in the country by Lonely Planet, an international travel website. After this announcement, Grand Valley State University alumni Matt Knaack and Tom Damitio knew it was time to start Stay Hostel, which will be the first hostel in the city.

“When I moved out here I loved the beer culture, being by the water, the four seasons-kind of everything,” Damitio said. “With Stay Hostel we can provide a service and bring more people to the city that we love.”

A hostel provides inexpensive accommodations for travelers. People can rent a bed for one night or several. Knaack and Damitio believe their business will be an alternative for people who do not want to stay in a hotel, cannot afford to or want to experience a different side of the city.

“The entrepreneurial spirit of Grand Rapids, it’s so progressive,” Knaack said. “A lot of people are trying to set up their own little shops locally and we want to be a part of it.”

On Tuesday, the pair launched their crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, a web platform used to generate funds for various campaigns such as political candidates, nonprofit organizations, philanthropic events and start-up companies.

Stay Hostel needs $50,000 for opening costs and the first six months of operation. So far, Knaack and Damitio have raised about $1,600 on Indiegogo. The crowdfunding campaign will end May 30.

Donors will receive “perks” based on the amount they contribute. The listed perks range from $1 to $2,000 donations. People who donate $5 will have an abstract portrait of their face drawn. The portraits will be posted to the Stay Hostel Facebook page and the original drawings will be used to create a mosaic at the hostel.

For $25, a donor will receive a one night stay at the hostel for half price. The first person to make a $2,000 donation will get to name the bunkroom. He/she will also be invited to the hostel-warming party and will get a voucher to stay at the hostel for 14 non-consecutive days.

Knaack and Damitio said they have gotten a lot of support from the community, however, many people have misconceptions about hostels.

“People are really uneducated on hostels in general,” he said. “They think they’re unregulated, dirty, party spots. It’s very frustrating but we’re working on it.”

Stay Hostel will not allow people to walk in past 8 p.m. In addition, all reservations will be made online and walk-in reservations will not be allowed. There will be separate male and female bunkrooms, and private rooms for people who want more privacy.

Knaack and Damitio are currently looking at several locations for the hostel. They plan on reflecting the atmosphere of Grand Rapids in their business through local art and community events.

“We want to involve the community however we can, whether it’s having events at the hostel, movie night or helping someone fundraise,” Damitio said. “We want to promote the entrepreneurial spirit.”

For more information visit, or follow @stayhostelgr on Twitter.

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