Sometimes the best-laid business plans aren’t plans at all — just ask the folks at Black Dog Cabins.
Although today Dawn and Richard Gervais’ rural Texas lodging offerings feature luxe linens, quaint cottages and even pasture-roaming longhorns, their initial trek out to Round Top was in search of a spot for themselves.
“A colleague had a property for sale in Round Top, and I told my husband it might be nice to think about getting something in the country like that in the future,” said Dawn, whose day job is in Houston real estate. “I made appointments to look at some properties, but of course we found a house we fell in love with. That really wasn’t the plan.”
The husband and wife who had only really ventured to Round Top once before, for our world-famous antiques show, now had some rural Texas space of their own. With 12 acres — and a few longhorns, too — they found themselves venturing out more and more frequently to escape the hustle and bustle of busy Houston.
And when land adjoining their property became available? They snapped it up. After all, the cattle could use more land to roam. The building now known as the Molly cabin was the first place they rolled up their sleeves on improvements, with plans to fix things up for visiting friends and family.
Constructed in the 1930s or 40s in Houston’s Heights district, the cabin was in a pretty rough state. But with help from a local construction pro, they patched holes in the walls, fixed faulty flooring and breathed new life into the well-worn structure. As for the décor? Although the Gervaises knew lots of decorators and designers in the Houston area, folks were busy at the time. Thus, they gave the work a go themselves.
“I was on Pinterest all the time,” Dawn said with a laugh.
While beautification was underway on the Molly cabin, the Gervaises were renting a green trailer on the property out to an area pastor. Once he decided to move, the renovation bug had taken hold. Thus, they decided to fix it up, too.
The team dug in once more, gutting the cabinets, adding beams to the ceiling and brightening up the space with brand-new windows. And in the end, it all worked out.
The Gervaises were dedicated to buying their decor and furniture from local businesses, Dawn said, and sourced their landscaping from local nurseries, too. And with such great results — stemming from a whole lot of work — they decided to make their property available as a local lodging option.
Black Dog Cabins, named for the family’s rescue dogs, saw its first booking in 2019. And business has moved forward pretty steadily since.
The Gervaises have guests who stayed the first year they were open, and have come back every year since — booking a full year out to ensure their spot.
Even amid COVID-19, when so many businesses found themselves struggling, lodging requests continued rolling in. Some ventured in from nearby Houston and Austin — others from as far away as Nashville or Los Angeles.
“People have been coming to get away from things,” Dawn said. “We’re about three miles from Henkel Square. We’re close enough in, but far enough out that, when you’re in the cabin, you’re in the country.”
Guests are treated to the sights and sounds of nature, including hummingbirds and cattle that graze right up by the property.
Today, Black Dog Cabins features the Molly and Max cabins — both named after family — while an Airstream trailer currently under renovation will hold the moniker of another beloved pup, Zoe. The Zoe is the third and final lodging location going up, meaning the family’s other rescue, a chocolate lab named Oscar, won’t get his own cabin — but remains very much loved, nonetheless.
Dawn noted that the journey’s been a whole lot of fun — and a bit of a learning experience, too. One of the biggest lessons came shortly after the couple closed on their house. When they met up with the old owners to learn all about how to work the lawnmower, an unexpected discovery came with it.
“They said, ‘We have a surprise for you,’ and pointed out to a tiny white thing out with the cattle,” she explained. “I said, ‘Oh, you bought goats!’ But no, one of the longhorns had had a calf. I’ve learned a lot since then.”
For more information about Black Dog Cabins, or to book a stay, visit their website.