Klint Kranski says it's just like renting a boat slip. Only instead of dock space, you get a plot of land on a secret woodland preserve. And instead of a boat, you park a pre-manufactured, underground bunker designed to withstand whichever apocalyptic scenarios you find most terrifying.
This is Disaster Retreat, where, as the venture advertises, all the prepping is done for you.
"It's hard for executives that live in a nicer neighborhood to prepare properly," company co-owner Kranski says. "Because that's the first place people would go to loot. Wouldn't you?"
That's not to mention the challenging logistics of finding the space for a bunker and discretely installing it on the typical suburban cul-de-sac.
Disaster Retreat opened for business two months ago about an hour outside of Richmond. The venture markets itself in newspaper ads in Northern Virginia and New York, directing potential customers to disasterretreat.com. Richmond customers are welcome, but Kranski figures that preppers in this area already have access to friends or family members with land in the country.
Fueled by fears of communicable disease, extreme weather events and civil unrest, the disaster-preparedness market is flourishing. On the top end, high-level government officials have bunkers and evacuation plans. The superrich have such options as a "survival condo" built into a decommissioned missile silo, which can go for $4.5 million.
But what about the midlevel executives of the world?
After years of dabbling in disaster preparedness, Kranski, a chiropractor who specializes in weight loss and nutrition, determined that he needed a bunker to properly provide for his wife and 14-year-old son in the event of an emergency. But he had nowhere to put one, and didn't want to buy — and couldn't afford — one of the high-dollar offerings.
He decided he couldn't be the only person in such a predicament. A neighbor of his turned out to be one of them. So they opened Disaster Retreat. Kranski declines to identify the co-owner other than to say he's an executive who works in the health care industry.
Disaster Retreat offers a quarter-acre plot of land on which to bury a bunker — pre-manufactured, self-contained units that start at a little more than $75,000 installed. Customers sign a 10-year lease at $1,000 a month, which includes lot maintenance, $400 worth of food, and access to a running stream, a grass landing strip and a helipad.
During a recent visit to the property, Kranski straps a handgun to his belt, which he says is a precaution against bears and other wildlife. The property is at the end of a dirt road that primarily services aging mobile homes, the occupants of which Kranski says are unaware of his enterprise.
"We thought about putting up big concrete walls," he says, "but we figured all that would do is draw attention."
Discretion is the property's guiding principal. A former bounty hunter named Kenny lives on the property and provides "pre-event" security.
But security after what the company refers to as an event is another story. The business provides one camouflaged parking spot for every leaseholder and enough four-wheelers with trailers to get all the residents to their new underground homes. The goal is that no one — no drones, marauders or invading armies — will notice the property or its contents.
Beyond that, residents are on their own, though depending on the scenario, Kranski says they might decide it's advantageous to work together to hunt for food or guard the property. The lease that residents sign doesn't dwell on how that might work, stating only that residents will be allowed to remain on their lots in the event of "the end of the world as we know it."
Kranski says he has room for 400 bunkers, but the business's goal is to get at least 100 in the ground. He declines to say how many bunkers the land currently houses, citing security concerns. "What if ISIS heard we only had four people out here and they came and surrounded us?" he says.
Disaster Retreat's offerings are organized into three communities with names reminiscent of the cul-de-sac developments from which Kranski's customer base hails. There's Cotton Tail Hills, Black Bear Ridge and White Tail Crossing.
Kranski tours the property in a Kawaski Mule, which chugs up and down the bumpy trails past dozens of neatly marked lots: A1, A2, A3, A4 — ad infinitum.
"This is really an emotional purchase," Kranski says. "People want to be in a community. And they ask for the prime real estate. They want to be in the hardwoods, they want to be by a stream, they want to be by a hill."
To boost sales, the company is having a bunker manufactured that will serve as a show-room. Kranski says it would violate confidentiality agreements in the lease to display any of the existing units. "Would you want me showing a stranger your bunker?" he asks.
But even without a display unit to stoke sales, the promise the peace of mind for families that are well off but not superrich is resonating, Kranski says. Calls are coming in from doctors, lawyers, businessmen — "you name it," he says.
"Rich people like Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey, Glenn Beck — you don't think those people all have somewhere else to go?" Kranski says. "This is a place for the rest of us." S