Friday, June 11, 2004

Location, Location 

Well, we spoke to the landlord for the old Spaghetti Factory place, and looked it over top to bottom. It's 3 floors, 22,000 square feet, and all the interior walls can be removed if desired. The floors are "food grade" concrete. There are employee showers on the third floor, and the restrooms are on the 1st floor.

The building had no utilities operating. We entered through a plate glass door into a hot, still cavern, dim sunlight filtering through the holes in the walls, allowing us to see the bits of broken counters and chairs and oddments scattered about. In the distance, water dripped in a cistern of some sort.

As we walked around a bent and reaching coatrack, a lone battery operated flashlight swung from a rope tied to some odd, twisted frame, augmenting the light from our flashlights.

As we carefully stepped over nail-laden boards, it was obvious the place was huge. You just can't comprehend how large 8,000 square feet are until you are standing in a dark, musty, cave of it.

Yes, I said it was 22,000 square feet, but the first floor is only 8,000 square feet.

We wandered slowly and carefully back to the kitchen area. The plumbing and wiring was set in comfortable locations, and it was wel lit by large windows, so we snapped off the flashlights to preserve the batteries for forays into the second floor and the dreaded, dripping basement.

We wandered through the labyrinthine back areas where food preparation and storage took place, peered anxiously into a free-standing walk-in freezer. S., the landlord, wasn't sure if it worked. There was an abandoned double stacked pizza oven that he offered us. If it worked, great, if not, we would be responsible for hauling it away. The oven and freezer had been idle for more than a decade - that's how long this building has been empty.

There were several smaller rooms along one wall, suitable for small meetings or parties, and there was a raised stage area, with wiring for a sound system that wasn't there.

After exploring the first floor, we ventured upstairs. Rickety was a kind word for those wooden stairs that sagged and groaned as we stepped on them. The small landing was wet from the recent rains - the window above it was missing - and it gave deeply and with a sucking sound as we gingerly stepped across it. Fortunately, the railings were firmly attached to the concrete walls.

The second floor was more open than the first, and the gaps in the roof allowed sunlight to brighten the entire place, so the flashlights weren't needed. The dripping sounded more ominous up here, as it echoed through the concrete room. S., the landlord, said he would put a new roof on if we rented it.

That was great, since the skylights weren't intentional.

This was the storage area for the old Spaghetti Factory, the loading dock was up here - a cement ramp allowed delivery trucks to drive right in. There were employee showers, a washer and dryer hook-up, and changing rooms up here, as well as rooms filled with shelves for food storage. I could see where this was once state-of-the art, but was now sadly out-dated.

We took our lives back into our hands to wander back downstairs, where we learned the stairs leading to the basement were filled with debris - enough that we weren't willing to risk them with only flashlights to guide our way down them.

After a brief discussion with S., we told him we'd contact him early next week on our decision to rent it.

The landlord was really very sweet. He really wanted us to buy it, but at the moment, our situation isn't such that we could do that - a $30,000.00 down payment was beyond us when we're facing over $100,000.00 in big equipment needs, and the remodeling costs. Renting it, upgrading as we go along, with a purchase option, is the best we could offer him, and at that, we have several other places to look at.

As spooky as the Spaghetti Factory was, it wasn't the worst place we'd seen.

Me, I'd like a chance to film a bete noir movie there before the clean-up and decorating. And maybe run a D&D live action game through it - talk about a dungeon guaranteed to scare those little tweenies!

The Plaza Court was in worse shape, broken windows, gas leaks, exposed wiring, walls that fluttered when you breathed on them - the Spaghetti Factory at least was solid (except the one staircase).

The price is fair enough at Spaghetti Warehouse, and if we get the remodeling grants from HUD, it will be well within our reach.

On the other hand, at twice the rent, there's this gorgeous 12,000 square foot building with bay windows and a nice patio area that needs virtually no remodeling to move-in. We probably have to get it re-zoned, but that doesn't look so hard. It's pretty, it's got a good dock, it has enough room to sub-lease to at least 2 other people, and if we take consignment art (something several artists we know through our Renaissance Faire connections have asked), that can alleviate the fact that they want $6,000.00 in rent. There's lots of good parking, it's traffic count exceeds all of the other places combined - it's easy to find, easy to get to, highly visible, and handsome, with it's stone face and bay windows and copper awnings and wood and glass and copper doors.

I have to say, seeing the bay window place immediately after the Spaghetti Factory, the contrast in ambience was striking.

So, now we crunch numbers, talk to HUD, see what help we can get over it, and what place will do us the best.

I'll take the camera out tomorrow and photograph them, as I didn't take my camera to work this morning.

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