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In last month's post, I announced that I put an official offer on Commercial Space C (below). And while I am sure you are dying to know the outcome, I mustn't get too far ahead of myself! I need to address some very important steps that I had to take before I was ever to sign papers.
Commercial Space C Exterior
You see, Commercial Space C did not have a built-in kitchen. In fact, it previously housed an Allstate Insurance office. So there was some work needed if I was going to serve food from within its walls. These steps were not only important for determining my own budget, but they also gave me something to present to the lessor, along with my business plan (see my first article), so he could visualize the upcoming changes that were about to take place on his property.
I know what you are thinking . . . "Why on earth did you not look at pre-existing kitchen spaces?!?" Well, because what I needed did not exist. All of the available buildings that were once restaurants were way too big. (Remember, I was going for small and quaint here.) Also, I simply could not afford the extra square footage. This building was ideal, however, because all that was needed was one wall knocked down, proper ventilation above the oven, FRP (Fiber-Reinforced Plastic) wall panels for easy kitchen maintenance, new paint, and carpet removed and concrete stained. Nothing major needed to be done to this space to make it work. Now it was time to call in a contractor to get some quotes. How many contractors should you call for a quote? As many as you want! And I highly recommend calling several - you will find out why in a minute.
Commercial Space C Interior - Some Changes to Make!
A word of advice: if you are willing and able to do some of the labor yourself, do it! Painting interior walls and ripping up carpet are not rocket science, so I knew between the husband and me, we could do these things ourselves and avoid paying someone else. My husband is also good with power tools and plumbing, so those were other expenses we could potentially avoid. But as I found out, not all contractors are too keen on the idea of outside help.
I wound up having three commercial contractors come out to give me quotes on my remodeling plans. One wouldn’t even give me a ballpark estimate until I had the health department’s code enforcer come out and approve the building. Another quoted me $35,000 for the remodeling, and the third quoted me $8,000. Um, what?! That is a large discrepancy! Both came highly recommended and were licensed and insured. Why the drastic difference?
Commercial Space C Front Entry - More Carpeting to Remove!
Remember when I said that, if you intend to do some of the labor yourself, some contractors may not be supportive of your plans to be physically involved? Well, that $27,000 difference between the two bids was the difference between the labor that my husband and I could chip in and letting the contractor do it all himself. The second contractor was not even willing to let us paint or rip up the carpet, so he stood firm on his $35,000 bid. The third contractor was not only in support of us helping, but even told us where to shop to find the best deals on concrete stain and paint. So make sure you find someone who is willing to work with you and, if you plan to do any of the work yourself, make sure you inform the contractor of your plans up front so there are no surprises.
Other items on my checklist included things like calling on the fire marshal so he could inspect the building and approve its use as a food establishment. We also needed to sit down and figure out my maximum occupancy load and if the internal walls were up to fire code. Health department approval was next on the list, so I called my local code enforcer. His job duties include monitoring ordinances and enforcing regulations related to zoning, health and safety, and water waste, as well as many other things.
Doing all of these steps and presenting my plan to the lessor before submitting an offer made my approach more professional, signaling to the landlord that I had done my homework and meant business.
As I was able to move down my list and check off the remaining to-dos, everything seemed to be working out in my favor. This was really going to happen! The only thing left was to put it all together in an official proposal and sign.
On September 11, 2014, I signed the proposal at the real estate office. It was a day like no other. I was feeling pretty lucky! Then, panic set in. It was the first time throughout all of this process that I was actually petrified. I knew what the risks were, but now they felt so real. What if the lessor counters my offer; what if he says "no". What if I fail?! Who am I letting down beside myself? My husband, children, mother, friends, community? So much more was at stake.
But I would never know if I didn’t try. Life is all about taking chances and pushing yourself past your limits. Without challenge, there is no growth. So I signed and eagerly waited for a response. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Yet another cliff-hanger! I guess we'll just have to wait 'til next time to know if Building C is a go. Stay tuned!]
Rebecca Litterell is owner of Litterelly Delicious Cakery. She started decorating cakes for family and friends in 2006 and eventually incorporated cookies into the mix in 2011. She is completely self-taught and passionate about teaching her skill and know-how to others, both online and in the cake and cookie classes that she hosts at her local community college. Before cakes and cookies, Rebecca spent most of her career in the medical field. She is a mother of three and a wife, and loves living in the country. When she’s not in the kitchen, she’s riding her horses.
Photo credit: Rebecca Litterell
Note: Storefront Diaries is a monthly Cookie Connection blog feature written by Rebecca Litterell that chronicles her journey of opening up a brick-and-mortar business after years of baking out of her home. Its content expresses the views of the author and not necessarily those of this site, its owners, its administrators, or its employees. Catch up on all of Rebecca's past Cookie Connection posts here.