Wednesday, June 03, 2009

project hampden: And So It Begins...

With keys in hand, we venture forth.

After years of preparing, searching, missteps, failed attempts, stillborn starts and lengthy back and forths, I finally have keys in hand and a deal to build another coffee something.

Finding a good location and negotiating a deal is always the most difficult part of business for me. It's fraught with frustration, anxiety and heartache. What points are not that important? How much do you concede? What points do you hold firm? I'd rather run away and hide under my bed but it must be done and I don't have to like it, I just have to do it.

With the keys to the new space in hand, I opened the lock for the very first time. Finally, I'm feeling excited. Since we put the deal together last week, I'd been feeling ill. Buyers remorse? Or just that ill feeling that rears its' head when you've really pushed yourself beyond your comfort zone? That nagging wonder in your head asking if you're worthy enough, if you've got the balls and brains to do this - if you have enough financing lined up.

A look from the inside.

Even my staff noticed. Over the weekend, I heard from one of our customers that my baristas said that we got the deal but that I looked more stressed than she'd ever seen me in nearly three years - and she was right. I was more stressed than I had ever been. The new shop is also in a new city: Baltimore City. For ten years, I've done business in Baltimore County. I'm used to the system there, I know the people who I need to review our plans, I know the rules. A new city and a new jurisdiction means that I don't know anyone in the system. Everything is new and, therefore, everything is unknown and it's the unknown that makes one queasy.

But move forward we must. As the latch released and the door swung open, I stepped into the space that will be an evolution of what The Spro is doing in Towson. We're going to take the lessons we've learned over the past three years and push them even further. We're going to refine our methods and our service and take it up a notch. More hardcore while exploring greater hospitality in a comforting and refined, yet casual setting.

Millwork notes on the wall.

However, greater ambition also means more pieces to the puzzle. Architects, draftsmen, general contractors, plumbers, electricians, millwork and design-build houses will play into the mix this time. Gone are the days of drafting everything on Macromedia FreeHand and shopping at Ikea. For weeks, I've been wading through design books, product sheets, samples and details on reclaimed and natural materials.

First day visitors included Mom, who seemed to like the space. Our millwork guy, Erik from Artisan Interiors came in to see the space and discuss what we're planning, and our new designer Dai, who's going to be reworking our website in the coming months.

The backyard. Might be nice paved with bluestone, chairs and a gas heater for cool weather seating.

Tomorrow there will be more inspections, discussions and planning, but I will be chronicling the adventure of building this new shop here, under the label "Project Hampden."