“It’s kind of a crazy story,” explains Lyon Porter, when asked about the origins of his five-bedroom Williamsburg, Brooklyn bed-and-breakfast, the Urban Cowboy BnB. While he has no idea how all of it happened, the accidental hotelier has been booked solid since practically opening day. The experience of making friends with people from all over the globe was so profound that Porter had to establish another one— this time in Nashville, Tennessee.
In the same “grey area” format that set his first business a part, the Woodland Street mansion will be a cross between an inn, home, and communal living space. Porter, a real estate broker and former professional hockey player, isn’t one for linear paths. The hard-working midwesterner trusts his gut to tell him whether something works or not. He’ll move a piece of furniture countless times until it feels right.
While he is now considered a design aficionado, before opening the Cowboy Porter had no clue he was creative. After living in hotels for years and realizing he needed an artistic outlet he announced to friends and family one day that he was opening a bed-and-breakfast. Next New York Magazine wrote a feature story and his Instagram account exploded with pretty people taking photos in his, now signature, claw foot bathtub. Ever since, Porter’s life has been more bananas than usual with the one-time hobby quickly transitioning into a second career.
Along with his girlfriend, general manager and partner-in-crime Jersey Banks, Porter cashed in his chips to replicate the concept. Ever since, the couple has withstood stress and insanity in order to do something special— establish bed and breakfasts as the number one place to connect, create and collaborate. In our non-stop, always plugged-in world they want to provide a place where one can live at a human pace.
Why did you choose Nashville as the Urban Cowboy BnB’s second location?
After opening our doors, we constantly heard about the city from our guests and New York friends. Next, a Travel & Leisure journalist who stays at the best hotels in the world said, “I really love what you’re doing. Keep opening them around the country and choose Nashville as your next location.” Jersey and I immediately flew here to stay with our friend Ruthie Lindsey who, like a true Southern belle, lent us her house complete with complimentary chocolate and whiskey. After drinking some beers at Dino’s we were guided by the bartender to a building on Woodland Street, which formerly functioned as a bed-and-breakfast. We knocked on the door, called the number listed and then walked across the street to Lockeland Table in hopes that we could get an impromptu tour. When we finally saw the inside, it was obvious we had found the next Cowboy. Ever since it’s been nothing but a completely magical experience.
I lived in Paris for six months and stayed at the same hostel for several weeks each time, which provided me with a connection I always craved. Where does your desire to always be around people stem from?
Creating relationships is my favorite thing in the world. I am an extrovert who gets my energy from others. My Brooklyn location has become a playground for artists, and being around those who are successfully living their dreams is so inspiring to me. The Cowboy is a community made up of strangers from all over the world as well as locals. We offer a sense of intimacy that people are starved for.
Why the cowboy theme?
In my mind, cowboys are equated with freedom, which means doing what you want when you want. While I was developing the first b&b I was going through a divorce. Even though I didn’t know what I was doing I put all of my energy into it. That business is my breakup album. Amazing work came out of a difficult period. Urban Cowboy is tongue-in-cheek because we try not to take ourselves too seriously.
What’s it like alternating between the b&b and your full-time career as a real estate broker?
One essentially feeds the other. Residential real estate in New York is like the Wild West. There are 30,000 brokers and the market is crazy competitive, which is perfect for my personality. I’ve been self-employed my entire career and while I’m very disciplined, there is no routine. My method to the madness is just to get shit done.
Being an entrepreneur can take a toll on you. How do you keep yourself sane in the midst of madness?
Jersey and I are in the process of writing a book called “The Lost Art of Bathing.” Showers are for when you’re in a rush. Baths just scream vacation to me and have become the only place in the world where you can just be. Ironically, living in both Nashville and New York allows me to have a balanced life and is incredibly inspiring. The Cowboy is my passion project and way of embodying my big kid at heart. If I’m not having fun why would I do it?
Learn more about the Urban Cowboy BnB here.
Lily Clayton Hansen is an author and professional conversationalist based in Nashville, Tennessee. Her superpower is extracting information from her interview subjects and writing multi-faceted portraits of creatives, entrepreneurs and small business owners. Hire Lily to write your bio here.