NIPTON, Calif. — Do you have $2.75 million to spare? You could become the owner of a tiny desert outpost in rural California.
The town of Nipton, California, is for sale after the idea to establish the community as a cannabis consumption destination went bust amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
On any given day, the number of trains passing by the Mojave desert town easily outnumbers the residents of Nipton.
Town dwellers ebb and flow around 25 people, some of whom work for nearby industries, including mining, solar power installation, and railroad.
Sometimes, curious passersby briefly hang their hats as well.
"I think the most important thing about Nipton is a lot of people come out, taking a couple of photos, taking a look at a small town's history, and we're still a town," said Stephen Sherin, one of the residents of Nipton.
Sherin, a long-time friend of the town's owner, Roxanne Lang, plays many roles since the town all but shut down due to the pandemic. Some days he's the unofficial historian and town tour guide, giving tours to visitors and telling them about how the town used to play host to movie stars and railroad magnates.
Sherin's most important role remains to help Nipton's owner sell for the right price and to the right buyer.
"$2.75 million is both the going, asking, and everything else price," Sherin said.
A look around the town of approximately 80 acres shows there's potential.
The town was slated to become a cannabis consumption destination for people looking to get away and to the dusty desert.
Sherin and the self-appointed Nipton Mayor, Jim Eslinger, says Arizona-based American Green ran out of money.
"I just don't see this being a marijuana cornucopia destination type place," Eslinger said.
In December 2019, Eslinger said he planned to embrace a marijuana ministry for followers to practice and consume in Nipton. Now, the town's future is a bit up in the air, and some of the residents are wondering what is coming next.
"I am grandfathered into the town, and I can be rented from time to time," Eslinger said.
The $2.75 million asking price includes several community buildings.
"What you get for [$2.75 million] is a general store, the outpost, the restaurant, the hotel which opened in 1905 — it's got five rooms," Sherin said. "Then there are five cabins, a container conversion, we have camping spots and the RV spaces across the road."
There's also more than 120 years of history dating back to the turn of the 19th century when steam engines chugged through the Ivanpah valley headed to Las Vegas and beyond.
"It's clear when you drive through town; it's not a ghost town. We have ghosts, but this is not a ghost town," Sherin said.
Torn teepees dot the field just behind Nipton, and tiny homes appear to be in near turn-key condition to welcome visitors who want to step into the wild west experience.
Art installations, including one artifact from the 2019 Burning Man Festival called "Perpetual Consumption," sprout from the desert floor.
"People come through here, and they go, 'we just had to come by and see it, we haven't been here in five years,'" Sherin said. "And so it's a little heartbreaking not to be able to turn out a Nipton burger, but Nipton's a town too tough to die, we'll be back."
Since the town has been back on the market in the latter part of 2020, there's been interest from approximately 30 buyers, according to Sherin.
"We're talking to a group off the East Coast," Sherin said. "Part of their family wants to see something going forward that is green, it's sustainable, it recognizes the past and embraces something we can do better for the future."
The town's current owner believes there is a bright future for Nipton, some 30 years after her late husband Jerry Freeman bought the near-ghost town with aspirations of reviving the town into a modern, green and sustainable community.
Lang says she hopes a new owner would attempt something similar.
This story was originally published by Joe Bartels on Scripps station KTNV in Las Vegas.