What’s up with the Zappo CEO’s Airstream Neighborhood?

Zappo's CEO Airstream
Did you know there was another founder before Tony Hsieh? This is Nick Swinmurn.

It all started back in 1999 when Zappo’s founder, Nick Swinmurn, was frustrated by an unsuccessful shopping trip. He decided to do something about it. The result was an online shoe store ahead of its time when it came to selection and online customer service. How did we get from there to the famous and mystery Zappo CEO’s Airstream?

Today, Zappo’s has been acquired by Amazon, and the present CEO Tony Hsieh, is a unique thinker with his eye on all things modern and trendy. It’s not a surprise that he would notice the perpetual charm of the Airstream RV. The Airstream inspired him to create a whole new neighborhood in dead urban space.

Tony with Llama in the Zappo’s office. This shot came from his Instagram feed @downtowntony.

Viva Las Vegas

In addition to being the brains behind Zappo’s, Tony Hsieh is also the driving force behind the Downtown Project, a daring plan to revitalize central Las Vegas.

The downtown trailer park that Hsieh both owns and lives in is more than just an urban campground. It’s an ambitious plan that combines concepts like small living, affordable housing, artistic freedom, and community involvement. Life in Airstream Park, or “Llamapolis“, revolves around spontaneous campfire sing-alongs, and freely roaming alpacas. This experiment in city camping and small living has become symbolic of the effort to bring this neglected area of town back to life using the Zappo’s company slogan, “Create fun and a little weirdness.”

Airstream or Tumbleweed

Zappo's CEO Airstream

Hsieh currently lives in a renovated 240-foot Airstream trailer in the park, and several of the long-term residents are employees at Zappo’s like himself. Zappo's CEO AirstreamHe moved to Llamapolis from his luxury condo in 2014, and has embraced the minimalist lifestyle that features more chance meetings and serendipitous occurrences. Guests can choose between staying in a classic Airstream silver bullet, or an even smaller Tiny Tumbleweed cottage. Both types of accommodation are upgraded and renovated with all of the most modern appliances and entertainment systems, like Bluetooth stereos and satellite television. Communal amenities include laundry facilities, outdoor eating areas, and a kitchen and pantry.

The Downtown Project continues in Las Vegas, with as much drama and creativity as a classic American road trip (downtown Vegas traffic flow isn’t there, so money’s been wasted).

Tony Hsieh’s vision of a neighborhood based on sharing space and time is an intrinsic part of a daring vision. These days, it’s more about the power of community living than gambling or show tunes, and it’s not a surprise that the shiny silver bullet and a portable cottage was the inspiration for much of it.