Great Outdoor Cottages continues manufacturing ahead of move

Georgetown’s Coastal Business Park is set to become the headquarters of one of the county’s largest employers, Great Outdoor
Cottages with 150 employees. | PHOTO COURTESY OF BILL PFAFF

Construction recently began on a new 45,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Georgetown, and the company that will fill the massive space is already looking to expand its footprint in the future.

Large outdoor chaletsa cabin maker who works temporarily in Millsboro, plans to move to the Coastal Delaware Business Park this fall, expanding operations as demand for affordable vacation spots during the pandemic continues to hold.

“There’s a huge demand beyond manufacturing capacity for people to produce these units,” said the company’s chief financial officer, John Longino. “The temporary facility was really something we needed because we had a request…and we tried very hard not to miss that opportunity.”

Longino said the company, as it continues operations at a makeshift facility in Millsboro and awaits completion of the first full plant in Georgetown, is also in talks with contractors to build a second 30,000-foot facility. squares in the same business park in the not so distant future. While the first factory currently under construction would house basic manufacturing operations, the second would serve as both warehouse space and a prototype factory to explore new designs.

Great Outdoor Cottages, founded by Ocean City, Maryland, Blue Water Development Hotel Group, began operations in late 2020 with a small management team. Since then, the company has 62 employees and plans to grow to 150 employees once the Georgetown plant is operational.

Blue Water buys some of the cabins directly, and Longino said as of Memorial Day, 135 units have been built and shipped to customers in more than half a dozen locations in Delaware, Illinois, the Massachusetts, Maryland, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin, with more than 100 additional units expected to travel to similar locations as well as Florida and New York this summer.

Since the cottages all have a similar layout, the manufacturing process works like an assembly line, Longino explained. The 400-square-foot coastal-themed cabins are fully plumbed and electrical, and each has two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchenette, sitting area, and screened-in porch.

In the much smaller 12,000 square foot temporary manufacturing space in Millsboro, the operation is much like a puzzle. The company buys steel frame trailers, stacked five high, with six tires on the bottom set. Frames are separated, tires added to all and each is transported to a station where flooring and plumbing are installed.

It is then moved to the next station for the installation of the walls. Then it is slid to another, where it receives electricity and drywall. Then it moves on to subsequent stations for finishing, including painting. It’s a back-and-forth process, due to the small space the company works with, Longino said. Every day 10 units are at a different stage of the assembly process.

When the company moves to its much larger factory in Georgetown, the assembly line will be straight and smooth, allowing for the production of more than two finished units per day, which matches the company’s current capacity.

Great Outdoor Cottages’ 7-acre footprint already makes it one of the largest new businesses on the county-owned industrial site off Delaware Route 9, which shares space with the Delaware Coastal Airport, said Bill Pfaff, director of economic development for Sussex County. He said the county welcomes successful niche businesses that want to work with other local vendors. Longino said they hope to work with a local framebuilder soon and have already relied heavily on Lowe’s outlets in Georgetown and Millsboro.

The increase in production capacity will also translate into an increase in hiring needs. The company pays its workers at least $15 an hour and seeks the same types of skills as any home construction company. In addition to competitive salary, retirement savings matching and other benefits, employees are also entitled to bi-weekly bonuses which recently reached $500 per pay.

“It’s going to be one of our flagship products, which is to say one of our main operations, there,” Pfaff said. “Looking like he could be one of the best employers.”

Marjorie N. McClure