Noke Van Co. brings the first outfitted camper van-building business to Virginia

Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 8:57 AM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Noke Van Co. is one of Roanoke’s newest businesses hoping to bring a little extra adventure to the region.

They say they’re the first to bring an outfitted camper van-building business to the Commonwealth.

Keri and Justin vanBlaricom know what it’s like to live on the go. Their family of 5 once lived in an RV for 15 months.

Camper vans have been around for decades. In the last few years, the #vanlife movement exploded in popularity, fueled by the rise of millions working from home during the pandemic. It inspired the vanBlaricoms to get creative.

“We lived in 400 square feet in an RV-- that feels huge compared to the space and we were still able to renovate and find something new and different and how to better use that space,” said Keri vanBlaricom.

The vanBlaricoms have now settled down in Roanoke and consider it home. But they’ve always had a dream to help others also experience adventure and the Blue Ridge Mountains. So, they teamed up with their longtime family friend Josh Yerton and began Noke Van Co.

The trio combined their engineering skills, craftsmanship, and a good eye for design to create camper vans for those looking to take life on the go.

“I think it fits all of the pieces that we get really passionate about,” said Josh Yerton the chief designer and product engineer at Noke Van Co.

A few months later, they built their first company camper van. It’s like a tiny home on wheels.

“It’s a Ram Pro Master that we’ve converted into a camper van,” said Justin vanBlaricom. “The big thing is trying to get things to serve multiple purposes because you’ve got a small, a small area. So, we’re trying to think of ways to make sure that things can have multiple uses and that’s why this cushion will come down and the tables removed, it’ll sit right here-- and you can sleep another person across and across there.”

Inside the van, they’ve built everything a home on the go would need, including an induction cooktop, and a 12-volt fridge, a sink with a five-gallon gray water tank underneath.

“One of the things that was really intriguing to me was to take a space that was so unique and put in it a lot of features that you would find in a home that would be like really comforting, and really make it feel like a home on wheels,” said Yerton. “And so that’s where a lot of the natural wood comes from. It’s where a lot of, you know, the logo piece here or even just building a little mix that we can use for, this is called a nightstand, little nooks that we put in here for comfort and just to make it feel more like home on wheels.”

The size of some RVs is around 400 square feet. The camper van they’ve built is between 75 and 82 square feet.

No one lives in the van yet, but they hope to change that soon.

“We are the first to bring outfitting camper vans in three ways, is our goal in this business,” said Keri. “The second is we’re working on two base models--- I think would probably be the appropriate way to see it--- that we know that the form and the function are easy to use and to purchase. And so we’re looking to have those vans becoming available as soon as we can finish them over the next five to six months.”

Every inch of space is used. A full-size bed can fit inside.

“It is an air conditioning system. It’s a 12-volt system. We’ve also got a heater installed underneath the seat that blows heat it runs off the fuel line, so it does take a lot of electricity as well,” said Justin.

The seats also swivel, and a third passenger seat belt can be included.

“That’s why this cushion will come down and the tables removed; it’ll sit right here, and you can sleep another person across and across there,” said Justin.

The back of the van is the brains of the operation.

“This is what we call the garage. And the reason why we’ve created this garage the size it is--- we want to be able to fit mountain bikes.”

It has the basic necessities a normal home would need.

“You open that box up, hook the shower, head on the door and pull the shower curtain across and then you’ve got hot and cold water right here to take a shower outside of your van but still have privacy,” said Justin. “Most people, because the van is so accessible, and you can drive it anywhere... most people choose to just use a bathroom somewhere else instead of having music but we’re going to put a cartridge toilet underneath and that storage bin in the front. Just forget in case of an emergency where you need to use it.”

Their goal is to do one van build a month and have a basic model for clients to customize, whether they want to own or rent.

Noke Van Co. is also looking for those who can build and are craftsmen to help them continue building their fleet. Plus, their hope is to also work with local companies.

You can learn more about Noke Van Co. by visiting their website at nokevanco.com.