Tuesday, December 16, 2003
We started doing surveys and looking at properties and locations for the bakery, since the product end seems to be doing quite well.
Yes, we know it's early to be doing this. The landlords and salespeople are very unhappy that we are still 14-16 months from opening. They want us to be less than 3 months from opening. We feel that would kind of rush us, and we'd end up taking just any old place, instead of the best possible place we can afford.
OK, a plus for us is that the business building market is a bit depressed right now, so some really good places are on the market in really good locations. In some ways, it's a pity we aren't at the point to open in 3 months instead of 15, because these locations will probably not be available then.
On the other hand, they may still be.
See, there's this one place we've been considering for the last 3 years. It's been on the market all those years. What's wrong with it? Lots. But nothing that we feel would be insurmountable. The foundation is sound, the roof is good, the walls are solid, the plumbing is above par. The wiring will need to be re-done, but that may be true where-ever we go. It's got decent parking in a high traffic area, easy to access, and easy to see. There's room to make an outdoor area, a big plus for our eventual goals.
The downsides are: it's in a borderline area, hovering between older, established upper middle class and Section 8 housing in a mixed ethnicity area - lots of recent immigrants, mostly Asian and Hispanic. For most businesses, this could be a negative. For us, I think it would work as a plus, particularly the Hispanic population - they like having a good local bakery and we (not to brag or anything) are good. The Asians appreciate and support local businesses, and will love our version of bear claws, since they usually import something similar from California bakeries. They would probably like have a closer, fresher source. We're already familiar with their business owners, since we are partial to Asian foods and shop there often.
The building was once a church, which means it's large. Most of it has been blocked off and is not in use. The huge stained glass windows were removed and replaced with plywood. That will have to go, and replacing the windows as windows will be an expensive proposition, but worth it, we're sure.
The entire building has been spray painted a neutral medium gray and that will definitely have to change. Manager and I have been discussing color themes and signage. We have discovered a hidden talent in my youngest son - he is an outstanding graphic artist. It shouldn't have been a surprise, given his penchant and skill at drawing engineering diagrams. He's agreed to design the logo and advertising art (for money, of course), and is willing to help with the exterior design of the Cracked Cauldron.
Another downside is the interior. The last three businesses there were bars with a penchant for black walls. That is going to be expensive to re-do in the lighter style we have in mind. It's also filthy inside - sticky floors, thick cigarette smoke build-up, inadequate ventilation. And we'll have to put in the kitchen area from scratch.
Once we actually examine the property, I'm sure we'll find more wrong with it. What is wrong now almost outweighs the positives. What the landlord will ask may swing it out of our reach. On the other hand, it's been standing empty and costing him taxes for the last 3 years...
If it's still available when we're serious about renting/buying in a year, we'll take a better look at it.
Winter is a good time to look at properties, actually, because the worst problems usually appear during a thaw.