man and woman standing in front of a door with a cactus

Starting an inn is never easy, especially in the midst of a pandemic. As part of our Clean Republic Revolutionary series, Sara and Rich Combs told us all about their story, and how they navigated the pandemic through reopening. A few months after opening the doors to their new Tucson inn, COVID hit and they were forced to close again. Worried about the environmental and health impacts of harsh chemical cleaners, they did some research and discovered Clean Republic, which they said helped them "to keep ourselves, our guests, and our planet safe simultaneously." 

CR: Can you walk us through your story?

JTH: We’re Sara and Rich Combs—designers, entrepreneurs, authors, and the owners of The Joshua Tree House. After living and working on the road while we searched for a place to call home, we’ve spent the past five years living in Joshua Tree while working on creative projects together and growing The JTH.

As we’ve done so, we’ve fallen in love with creating spaces for people to reflect, reset, and create in. It began with individual homes in Joshua Tree, California and has now grown to also include a five suite inn in Tucson, Arizona. Our goal is to provide well designed spaces for people to stay that are immersed in nature and nearby national parks!

clean backyard pool with the mountain at the back

CR: What are you most proud of as a short term rental? What sets you apart from others?

JTH: The JTH is a place to reflect, reset, and create in awe inspiring natural locations. We currently host guests in individual homes in Joshua Tree, California near Joshua Tree National Park and at a small inn in Tucson, Arizona bordering Saguaro National Park.

Often as we’ve traveled we’ve found that we had to sacrifice either design or nature in our accommodations, so we’ve set out to create spaces that celebrate both. Our hope is that during a stay with us you'll feel at home, make new friends, and celebrate the ordinary moments as something truly special.

We're also proud of our environmentally friendly practices at our properties. We use refillable shampoo and conditioners (to reduce as much waste as possible), filtered water pitchers and reusable bottles (to avoid use of single use plastic water bottles), reusable Chemex filters, and eco friendly cleaning solutions and disinfectant from Clean Republic. It’s our hope that during a stay at one of our spaces our guests might cultivate and bring home some new environmentally friendly habits as well.

sanitized grilling area outdoors

CR: Has it been a smooth road? Any advice for other people?

JTH: This past year has been the most challenging we have yet to experience; we faced mental, physical, and financial exhaustion to open our inn in Tucson. As soon as we found the property we knew it was a project and place we would regret not having in our lives. We also knew it was incredibly important to us to have full ownership and freedom to run the inn as we wanted, so we tested our limits to make that happen without investment. We’ve shared openly that we spent every last penny we had to make this dream come true, borrowed from friends and family, and have been through an arduous process of turning a hard money loan into a small business loan.

As designers our strength is in creating spaces, though this project required us to be a bit of everything: marketers, business strategists, project managers, builders, cleaners, cooks, hosts… and the list goes on. Often our days of renovation and figuring out how to make this all work began at sunrise and went until we hit exhaustion, at which point we would go to sleep to start again the next day. It was a year of finding the strength and endurance to continue on, and about finding the resolve to continue standing up for our belief that this dream of ours (to open an inn near a national park) would come true. 

Our advice would simply be to take it all one day at a time, every little step forward adds up!

indoor dinning area cleaned and sanitized

CR: Can you tell us about your experience during this pandemic, and what it has taken to get back up and running?

JTH: It's definitely been a year of ups and downs. Our inn in Tucson had only been open for about six months when the pandemic hit, so it was pretty tough to have to close back up again after so much work to get up and running. 

March, April, and May were rough but we were able to get everything fully back up and running by June with some adjustments to our cleaning practices (incorporating Clean Republic's disinfectant was a big one!), and figuring out ways to aid social distancing. We of course now also require all guests to wear masks in common areas when others who are not in their group are present. 

We've been grateful to host people at our locations and offer space to reflect, reset, and create in during difficult times.

clean republic products on a counter

CR: How has Clean Republic helped your business?  

JTH: When the pandemic began, we were discouraged by the idea of using harsh chemicals and toxic fumes to sanitize and disinfect our JTH properties. As locations set out in nature, it is our goal and duty to protect our environment. Long term, harsh chemicals have a negative impact on both us and our planet. Knowing how incredibly important it is to keep everyone safe in this uncertain moment, we dove into some research to see if we could find an eco-friendly solution. 

Amidst that research, we found and fell in love with Clean Republic—their cleaning solutions and disinfectants are made with water, salt, and electricity (that’s it!). Their disinfectant is both hospital grade and EPA rated to kill 99.99% of bacteria and viruses, and is what we’re now using at all properties to keep everyone safe.

We use the all purpose cleaner to spray down and clean surfaces like countertops, our bathroom, our refrigerator etc. We love that it also deodorizes! Then, we mist the disinfectant on doorknobs, remotes, handles, and other highly touched surfaces.

We find it incredible that it's both environmentally friendly and strong enough to clean and disinfect! It allows us to keep ourselves, our guests, and our planet safe simultaneously.

clean kitchen with shiny wooden floors

CR: Who has inspired you in your life?

JTH: As a couple, we've always been inspired by Charles & Ray Eames. They create everything from furniture, architecture, and photography together. We love creating together, so always feel very inspired by other creative couples who were able to do more together than they ever could alone.

Photography by: Rich and Sara Combs, Kate Berry, and Tim Melideo