Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Consultant, The Conti One Group & Coffee Shop Storefronts

We spent Monday with John Bunn a consultant from Elizabethton, TN. John owns and manages The Coffee Company and also does his own roasting. He's in his 12th year of business and has helped launch several other coffee shops. He understands coffee and ministry (until recently was also serving as the minister of music at First Bapt Church in Elizabethton.)

We took John on a whirlwind tour of our top remaining potential locations. And when all was said and done we narrowed it down to two before he left. The one on Grace Chapel road had already been ruled out on Friday. We'd discussed rezoning it with the local city planning person. He said it could possibly be approved for rezoning from residential to commercial but to increase the likelihood of that happening, we'd have to keep the natives happy by blocking off the current entryway on the residential street and get permission from the convenience store next door which faces Grace Chapel road to use their parking lot as an entrance to our lot. Well, the door slammed on that one when the owner of the convenience store said, "No..." leaving out the obvious "over my dead body" which he could have easily added.

The second of these four locations is a house on an acre and half of land that is stratigecally placed on N second street off of hwy 321. Prime piece of land on a busy street that crosses 321 and takes commuters into Hickory. Potential for a drive through, but it is the land that is the selling point and not the house. And after calculating cost of paving the front yard and adding pavement for drive through plus additional updates to very dated house with small rooms, it was just too much work and too expensive to sink money into.

So that left three standing. We looked at another nicely refurbished home zoned commercial in downtown area. Jeff had been very keen on this property but John broke the spell. He said he felt it would be too small for what we want to do with ministry. Then we jetted over to 127 to take one last gander at the one store front we had liked all along but hadn't put in the forefront of our options because of concerns about parking. It has about two spaces in front.

We had a nice surprise. That store front is still available but the one two doors down is now available. It has an upstairs and downstairs with a garage. It has the square footage we want AND it is easier to access and has additional parking. Both are very reasonable. So we shifted our focus from store A to store B on that one.

The final place that took us by surprise that John liked was on 321, a former Nature's Supermarket. Teena kept bringing this one up to Jeff but he said, "Woman, are you nuts? That doesn't inspire me at all." But on closer look with John he changed his mind. Who said women are fickle?

It has ample parking and one side inside is already walled in and is about the space we need. The rest is vacant.It also has the potential for a drive through which is a big plus. But after going inside with a realtor today and getting all excited because the price sounded right and the location looked good, he burst our bubble by telling us that he was sure that MDI, the owners would not sub-divide. We certainly don't need 7100 sq feet or to pay $4200 in rent per month. So, unless they change their mind or we find someone to go in on the space with us, that one looks like a pipe dream.

So, the last location standing is the surprise new availability on 127. It is a high traffic area and there are several coffee shops along that route. Seems like everyone gravitates to that location. John felt that an added plus was the fact that the shop sits between a caterer and a restaurant and they are both busy which will draw people in. We might benefit from this and may even be able to work out some collaborative work with them. Who knows?

Other news -- Just had a single group espresso machine, a Conti, shipped to us from CA so now we can practice making our specialty drinks.

Next big news. We meet with the Computel folks in Charlotte on Friday, a group that recycles computers and works with charitable organizations. We hope they will be able to help us with a computer recycling fundraiser to raise additional funds. It could be a substantial amount.

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