The Eilers are your typical family—Amber and her husband Carson have been married for 10 years and together are raising their two daughters, ages 6 and 8. They, like so many other families, are involved with their local community, church, their daughters’ school, and sports.
But, the family also owns and manages The Strawberry Inn in the small town of Strawberry, Arizona which they acquired in 2016.
As newlyweds, Amber and Carson worked in real estate and began buying and flipping properties together. After dabbling in that for a while, they tried their hand at vacation rentals and bought several homes in Scottsdale.
In 2016 they came across a for-sale listing for an inn up in Strawberry, Arizona.
“The Inn was listed for sale as a business,” said Amber. “We found it and with our experience with vacation rentals we thought it could be an Airbnb.”
After some discussion, the couple decided to purchase the Inn and began what would be a major renovation project.
“No surface was untouched,” said Amber. “There were lots of repairs we had to do from lighting, to paint, to tiling.”
Fortunately, since they had already established relationships with contractors and construction workers due to their experience with house flipping and vacation rentals, Amber said they had a team they could call upon for assistance.
In addition to the remodels and repairs, Amber said she knew she wanted to give the décor of the Inn a whole face lift.
“We tried to give a nod to the local environment with a rustic yet updated feel,” said Amber. “We brought all the old furniture outside and had a free yard sale—giving away beds, dressers, everything.”
The new interior features white walls, shiplap, wood tile, and modern farmhouse-style design.
“Everything is painted white inside,” said Amber. “You can tell that it’s clean when it’s white and cleanliness is important to us.”
While renovations were underway, Carson suggested they create an Instagram account to begin interacting with their future guests, the nearby restaurants and businesses, and frequent visitors to the Strawberry/Pine area.
“Social media gave us an outlet to connect with the people who were staying at the Inn and helped us build community,” said Amber.
With over 65,000 followers on their account today, Amber says Instagram is really their lifeline to the community. “We post last minute deals on there, share about our life, and like to connect with people through social media.”
In just a few short months, the Eilers were able to transform the Inn and officially opened for business in November that same year.
The quick turnaround meant that the Eilers spent all of their time at the Inn overseeing the renovation process, all with their two young daughters, who were just 1 and 3 years old at the time.
“We were all staying in the hotel, sleeping in the hotel, with two little kids,” Amber recalls.
Now, with the help of their management team, the couple operates the Inn remotely—living in the Valley but spending most of their days off, weekends, and the girls’ school breaks in the Strawberry area.
“Sometimes we go up for just a day,” said Amber. “Our girls do horseback riding in Strawberry so we’re there quite a bit—multiple times a month if not weekly.”
However, Amber said she credits much of their day-to-day operations to the staff that assists them with keeping everything up and running.
“We have a really amazing team that we’ve built over the years,” says Amber. “It’s a big team effort to make it happen. We couldn’t do it without our cleaning staff, maintenance repair team, and the people working on the reservations.”
With a remote check-in process, similar to that of Airbnb, Amber says the Inn saw its busiest season during the summer of 2020 when people were desperate to escape their homes and the brutally hot summer amidst the pandemic.
“During COVID we were already set up to be completely unhosted, so it was perfect,” said Amber.
Apart from being a popular weekend getaway destination, Amber says they have started to see people become frequent stayers—creating their own family traditions and celebrating milestones at the Inn.
“We’ve become like a special place for lots of families,” she says. “We’ll have people who will come up for a babymoon, their anniversary, or bring their kids for their birthdays.”
With so many versatile accommodation options, Amber says there’s a space for everyone, no matter what the occasion.
At the main Inn, guests can stay in one of the 8 traditional rooms which all include their own private bathroom and are within walking distance to bars and restaurants.
A block away are tiny cottages and a few separate houses where guests can have their individual space, some which even have small yards.
The Owner’s Property has since been turned into what they call the Bungalow, which features one main bedroom and sofa sleepers, perfect for young families. They also have the Bunk House, with 4 queen bunk beds and a full kitchen—sleeping 8 people.
The Inn’s largest property is the Guest House, which Amber says was their home during COVID-19 when they stayed there for the summer. It can sleep up to 10 people and is a perfect place to accommodate large family gatherings, such as Thanksgiving.
Unique to the Inn are also its 4 renovated vintage Airstreams, which Amber says are like mini hotel suites for two. They even have a special Airstream specifically for honeymooners, which features a hot tub and a little yard.
In the months ahead, Amber says they are exploring partnerships to make the Inn a possible wedding destination and venue site.
Despite the effort it’s taken to juggle raising a family while also renovating and managing the Inn, Amber says it’s been a labor of love.
“We like being people’s special getaway in the mountains,” she says. “When people come up here it’s nice to see them unplug—enjoying the weather, making friends, reading books, sitting on the porch swing. I like that it forces people to relax and enjoy the cute the little town.”
For more information visit www.thestrawberryinn.com
Read the review and see a video from publisher and owner, Kate Reed and her family visiting The Strawberry Inn.