New in town: The Safehouse – Cardiff’s first ‘five-star’ hostel

Published on Cardiff AfterDark (7th Jan 2015)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge gets an exclusive tour of the Safehouse Hostel due to open next year, and an interview with co-creator and owner Dan Wimpelberg. (All photography by Henry Bird. Courtesy of Cover the Cake Productions.)

Safehouse - DanNext year sees an exciting new addition to the city of Cardiff when The Safehouse Hostel officially opens its doors to the public for the first time. The project is the brainchild of the glorious creative minds of Daniel Wimpelberg and Tom Hughes, who have decided to channel their travelling experiences into setting up their own boutique hostel.

What was once a disused Grade II-listed building will soon complete a remarkable transformation into a luxury hostel situated in the city centre which will soon be brimming with people from all corners of the world, and the soon-to-be-finished building is the result of months of hard work, dedication, lack of sleep and excessive consumption of American coffee courtesy of American-born Daniel.

Above left: Daniel outside the hostel.

The Safehouse Hostel will open its doors for the first time on 4 January with an ‘open house’ event, and will welcome its first ever guest this spring – thanks in large part to a TravelStarter campaign, through which the public have donated towards funding the opening of the hostel. Despite his heavy workload leading up to the Safehouse Hostel’s grand opening, Daniel somehow found time to give AfterDark’s Dean Hodge a tour of the place and an exclusive chat over coffee. Check out the full interview here first at AfterDark, in which Daniel talks about when he first came up with the idea to open The Safehouse Hostel, how he came to move from the US to Cardiff, and his newfound love of rugby.

DEAN: When did you first come up with the idea and inspiration to set up this hostel?

DANIEL: Around last year, me and my business partner Tom Hughes saw this old building and decided to book a viewing of the place. We arrived there on May 19th 2013. When I came in and saw it, I just said to myself that this building has something and that it could be perfect to turn into a hostel.

When the previous tenants The Football Association of Wales moved out almost a decade ago, it was open for office rental space, but no one could knock down and refurbish the building because part of it was listed. For instance, there’s a staircase which runs through the centre of the building which is listed so it can’t be removed. Because no one else knew what to do with it, it ended up just being empty and abandoned for the next ten years, and went largely unnoticed.

DEAN: How did you manage to fund setting up the hostel?

DANIEL: We thought the building would be perfect for us, but there was a little issue – we didn’t have enough money. But I heard of the idea of setting up a limited liability partnership, which is that anyone who invests can become a partner. So people can invest whatever amount of money they want and then they automatically own that share of the business. Me and Tom are ultimately the two designated partners and oversee the entire running of it such as taxes and everything else, but other people can still invest. We set it up that way, so that people can invest from as little as £200 to up to £10,000.

We’ve also recently set up a campaign on a brand new crowdfunding site called TravelStarter. This will run until March and people can earn rewards like Safehouse T-shirts or a Free breakfast for a small pledge. The site is set up in US dollars and the aim is also to get our name out to a wider audience abroad.

Right: The Safehouse doorway.Safehouse pic 3

DEAN: What are you mainly hoping to achieve and what do you think Safehouse will mainly offer compared to elsewhere in Cardiff?

DANIEL: I’ve travelled around the world and stayed in a lot of different hostels during my lifetime. Sometimes you go in and it’s a great building but the staff are miserable! Sometimes you go in a building and the staff are awesome but the building itself is falling apart. What me and the rest of my team wanted to achieve was a great looking building with a strong sense of community and friendly staff offering fantastic customer service. Because we’re situated right in the middle of the city centre between Cardiff Castle and Millennium Stadium, plus just a stone’s throw away from the main station, we’re in the perfect location really and the views especially are stunning. Additionally, we’re trying to raise the profile and improve the image of other hostels in the UK for people visiting from around the world.

DEAN: You’ve mentioned previously you already have bookings for next year without even opening yet!

DANIEL: We’ve already opened bookings for March onwards. We’ve instantly had so many phone calls and often I’ve been getting calls at 2am in the morning from people as far afield as France, Ireland and elsewhere. Particularly, we’ve had a lot of bookings around the Rugby World Cup next year, and are now almost completely booked out for that period.

DEAN: Have you become a big fan of rugby since moving from America to Wales?

DANIEL: I grew up in the US but growing up I played football, or ‘soccer’ as it is called over there. I grew up around the 1994 World Cup which was held in the US when it started to gain a lot more popularity. Rugby is more of a university sport over in the US and not as nationally recognised, so I was aware of it but didn’t understand much of the rules of the game. Since coming here, I’ve watched it a lot more and really enjoy it especially the atmosphere and the passion of the fans.

I’m planning to hold a lot of sport themed events in the hostel, particularly around the rugby games and also the Super Bowl. We won’t actually be showing games on TV as we want to maintain a relaxing atmosphere for some of the other guests, but we will be advertising other places they will be shown and we will be having a pre-party and after-party around some of the games, which will be a great way of getting people to socialise together as well.

Safehouse pic 4

Above centre: The Safehouse lounge room, with a certain someone lurking in the corner.

DEAN: What first brought you from America to Cardiff?

DANIEL: It’s a very long story but basically I served in the army and on one of my trips I met a girl from Wales. So about six years ago now I actually came to Cardiff to meet this girl. It didn’t work out, but we’ve stayed good friends long after and I ended up falling in love with the city and just staying here. Cardiff is a much underrated, beautiful city and a very ‘green’ place too. There’s so much beautiful scenery both in and outside the city. You got a mixture of great surrounding countryside as you go into the valleys, the bay and then an excellent city life within.

DEAN: You’ve mentioned as well you will be partnering with other businesses in Cardiff. Can you explain more about that?

DANIEL: For starters, we’re going to have a 24-hour reception monitored by two people daily, and we’ll have enough people working so that while some are looking after people’s breakfasts, they’ll also be someone to go out and meet other customers as they arrive in Cardiff. We’ll meet them at the station, help them with their luggage, and arrange free walking tours so they can get to know the city.

One of the ideas I came up with is that, in order to promote the different places and events going on in Cardiff each night, we’ll liaise with other businesses – for instance, Porter’s, Urban Taphouse and Gwdihw – and have music, comedy and entertainment acts from different venues performing for a short period in the hostel beforehand so that they’ll attract people staying in the hostel to go to that venue later. It’s good for people staying with us who are new to the city and don’t know how to go about finding out what’s on in Cardiff, plus it benefits other venues as well, and it’s a good way of creating a network between small, independent businesses in Cardiff.

DEAN: How long has it taken you and the team to build and decorate the hostel, and how would you summarise the experience so far?

DANIEL: When we went in, there was a lot of work that needed to be done on the inside. Because the outside is listed, the landlords of the building had to buy a special machine to clean it all up. It’s still far from finished yet, but its sparkling compared to before because there was actually a very small tree growing out of the building when we first moved in!

Me and the rest of my team have been working hard on refurbishing and decorating the building since July last year and have managed to get so much done in the space of six months. I’ve actually been staying mostly in the hostel too, so have literally been living and breathing this hostel for the past half a year.

DEAN: Have many people helped with both building the hostel and other responsibilities?

DANIEL: It’s a big team now. At the beginning, it was really just me and my business partner, Tom. We manage to get a lot done between us at the beginning. Today, we’ve got a much bigger team consisting of builders, plumbers, and then someone designing the beds for us.

DEAN: Can you give me more details of the opening event on 4th January next year?

DANIEL: Before the hostel launches for good in March where we take our first bookings, we’re going to have an ‘open house’ event where we officially open the hostel to the public for the first time. We’ll be inviting everyone to have a look around and give them a tour of the place. I can’t say much about it at the moment, but we’re going to launch a social media campaign leading up to the opening, more details of which will be released on our website and social media links very soon!

For Dean Hodge’s interview with Safehouse Hostel co-owner Tom Hughes, click here.

Daniel and partner Tom Hughes’ interview for Iron Heart CS – touching on the hostel and the Safehouse Sessions project – can be viewed below (filmed by Stewart Leigh-Firbanks). 

More from The Safehouse Hostel

Website        Facebook        Twitter         YouTube        TravelStarter

More from TravelStarter

Website        Facebook        Twitter         YouTube

2 thoughts on “New in town: The Safehouse – Cardiff’s first ‘five-star’ hostel

  1. Pingback: New in town: The Safehouse – Interview with Tom Hughes | Dean Hodge

  2. Pingback: ‘S4C to shine spotlight on Cardiff’s buskers and music scene’ (Article for Wales Online) | Dean Hodge

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