September 25, 2008
Making a logo for the store was a part of that process that I was very excited about, oh, back in July. Since then, I have learned that making a logo is not something you should try at home. I thought I had a good visual sense and I made many attempts to create a design for the store but none seemed to fit right. I wanted some thing that looked Italian; not too snobby, not too old, not too contemporary, not too boring but something clean and crisp. Here were some early ideas:
these were too old-fashioned, and slightly too Greek-looking so we tried:
While this was clear and clean, there wasn’t much Italian spirit happening. That’s when we hired a professional. And guess what, immediately she had a great idea: add color. Duh! Why didn’t we think of that? And that is why we’re not graphic designers. Here’s what the talented Glee Berthiaume came up with:
I think everyone is happy now.
September 23, 2008
Let’s go back a few weeks because I’d like to explain to you how we picked a general contractor. In a nutshell, it wasn’t a simple process, although it seems like it should have been. You know, when something looks easy it never is, especially when it comes to construction.
I didn’t know who to call, I was new in town. I looked online for contractors and eventually found two in the immediate area who did commercial projects. I got a recommendation for the third and the fourth contractor found me. I made appointments to meet each of them on site on Friday, August 21st.
I thought, okay, I’ll walk the contractors through the space, describe our project, they can take a set of plans, they will meet the architect, ask questions, they will call their subcontractors, make estimates, and we will pick from those three prices. I met with each of them and I told them that we were shooting for a very fast build-out. Each seemed confident that they could meet the deadline I set and they each seemed helpful…then things kind of fizzled out. This is what happened that day:
Contractor One immediately seized on the project, he wanted to take the plans with him, he arrived with a couple subcontractors, and he asked me a lot of questions.
Contractor Two took a long look at the plans, walked through the building with me and told me that he would come back with his subcontractors to get an estimate.
Contractor Three didn’t want to see the plans, he said he had built the renovations in that space himself a few years ago and knew the site very well. Three stated that he didn’t give estimates but he could get numbers from his subs.
Contractor Four didn’t want to see the plans because they weren’t final, I described to him the two changes that would be on the next plans but he didn’t want to take a copy of the plans. Also, he told me I needed to make a list of all the work that needed to be done for the project.
Friday August 29th the contractors met with the architect individually.
Tuesday September 2nd contractor One asked me to open the store for him so he could show his subs the job. When I arrived, contractor Two was on his way out with his subs. Two had called the shopping center’s caretaker directly to allow him access to the space. While I was there with One, he asked me questions about the design that were clearly marked in the plans. One told me that I needed to rethink the ceiling material and I needed to change the plans. I heard nothing from Three or Four that week.
Tuesday Sept 9th contractor Two came forward with a reasonable estimate for the project and called us and the architect to find out if it was okay to suggest lower-priced lighting. He submitted a quote for the project including the alternative fixtures on Wednesday.
I called number One to find out if he had an estimate for us. He read me the details his plumber had sent him. Then he asked me if I had asked the architect to change our plans for the ceiling material. I said no, I hadn’t. I didn’t mention that his suggestion for ceiling tiles with perforations to absorb sound would violate Maryland state health code. I asked him if he had other estimates and he said no, not yet.
I called number Three to ask him how he was doing. He reminded me that he couldn’t make an estimate himself, could he get into the space next week to show his subs around? I told him not to bother.
I called number Four and told him that I already had an estimate from someone else. Four sounded surprised, he asked me how he could come up with an estimate if he didn’t have the final plans and I said he figured it out.
Friday the 12th I called number One to ask him if he had a complete estimate yet. He told me he didn’t. I apologized and told him that we were going to hire another contractor for the job. He was shocked. He asked how the other guy could come up with an estimate that quickly and insinuated that he had lied to us and made up numbers. I told him that we had been going into the details of his estimate since he faxed it to us on Tuesday. He hissed that he hoped whom ever we picked does a good job. An hour later he faxed us a final estimate.
I can’t believe these guys! One was the guy who made all these assurances that we would meet our deadline but he lagged behind, tried to make all these unnecessary changes to our design and never really looked at the plans! And then he was nasty to me when I told him that he hadn’t done what he had promised!!! Four told me that I had to make a list of all the things that needed to be done for construction. What did he think I was hiring him to do??? I don’t know anything about construction! He’s the one who wouldn’t even look at the plans!! I guess Three was just not really clear on how we were trying structure this estimate thing, I don’t know…I think he’s more of a house contractor. Two was the only guy who came off as responsible, efficient and helpful.
This turned out to be a race where one guy wins by default because all the other runners get disqualified. Just to be fair, the guy we picked, number Two, is a really good contractor and a nice guy. We’re happy we found him.
Just to be sure I hadn’t made any crazy demands from these guys I looked up what a general contractor’s roles and responsibilites are. Being a general contractor is “a difficult role that requires real skill, expert knowledge and lots of time on on-site.” You can decide if these guys fufill that role.
September 18, 2008
September 18, 2008
The latest snag in our building process concerns the grease trap. Until this week I have never heard of a grease trap. The Bedford Cheese Shop didn’t have one. I don’t think. No one ever talked about having to clean one or check on one or fixing one so we must not have had one because everything else broke at least once.
In any case, our architect included one in our plans because he knows about these things. On Tuesday I got a call from Amy who is reviewing our plans at the County Office of Environmental Health about item P-10, the grease trap. She informed me that we needed to alert Mr. Talbot Bone that we planned to install a grease trap in our store because he will know which type we need to get. Mr. Bone works for the Easton’s public wastewater facility and so our waste will be passing through his system. This morning I learned that Mr. Bone also does consulting with the Town Building Inspector and he is the final authority on whether or not our grease trap is approved.
Phew, okay, so what I needed to find out was what he was looking for but because I don’t know anything about grease traps, this was confusing. He told me “20 minute retention time” and “baffles” but those specifications kind of went in one ear and out the other. He told me to ask my plumber but I don’t know who my plumber is. My restaurant equipment dealer, Sandy Wyatt came to the rescue. She pulled up a GRD, that’s a grease recovery device, and this morning, after figuring out that Amy isn’t the one who gives the ultimate thumbs up, I sent the specs over to Talbot who said:
September 18, 2008
Needless to say, starting a business requires a lot of permits. In the end, the approval feels like validation from the community. In the interim, it is confusing and annoying. I had a hard time figuring out exactly which forms we needed to complete and I am still running into trouble with the forms I have completed. There are websites that list forms state by state but they are general lists and they don’t include the town permits. Luckily everyone I ran into was so nice that I just asked them a whole lot of questions to figure stuff out. Just in case: here is the website of the Small Business Administration for permits and licenses.
Federal Employer Identification Number
County Business License (obtained at the County Courthouse) and maybe $50? I can’t remember now.
Commercial Building Permit (obtained at the Town Office) which was submitted along with 2 sets of plans with a state architect’s official seal and $200. If we were planning to change the exterior of the building we would need to submit an additional 2 sets of plans. They’re looking for town issues, are you going to make the town ugly, is there handicap access, are there enough bathrooms, are all your pipes in the right places, etc.
County Department of Environmental Health approval which was submitted along with one set of plans, a menu, a HACCP analysis based on the menu and $150. They look at the plans and make sure all the equipment is NSF certified and make sure you have the right amount of sinks in the right amount of places and that your cabinets and ceilings don’t have perforations in them where bugs could hide.
State Fire Marshall’s approval, he needed one set of plans. Makes sure that there are two exits and that there are either sprinklers (there are none) or that the building was built before those laws were passed. That’s us. Knock on wood for no fires.
we also were required to get Worker’s Compensation Insurnace
and Unemployment Insurance
we are still waiting for a State Trader’s License which should come with our State Tax Registration. This was supposed to be applied for by our payroll company representative but he hasn’t done it yet…
September 4, 2008
When I quit my job working for someone else (the Bedford Cheese Shop) and started working on this store full time I focused on choosing the equipment for the store. For this kind of store that includes display refrigerators and storage refrigerators, sinks and their drains. I was looking for things that were sturdy and looked pretty because aesthetics are hugely important in a specialty store.
I started with the display refrigerators. I knew that the Arneg brand from Italy was gorgeous but they break a lot. At Bedford, ours leaked water repeatedly, the coils froze, the supports collapsed, and they didn’t keep the temperature very even. I found the Federal brand’s market series to be in line with my aesthetic and I asked the fish guy at Grand Central how his have held up for him. He said that he has had no trouble in ten years. Sounds great but I knew that they were not the best. Our architect recommended that I check out the Southern Fixtures brand from Alabama. They make custom “store fixtures” which was a new term to me. Hugh told me that the Grand Central Murray’s uses that brand. Here it is:
The front glass is flat and it seems sturdy. We’re going to go for them. We are getting one 8 ft. case and one corner case.
The other refrigeration units we need:
A single unit glass door refrigerator (for drinks and butters),
A matching single unit glass door freezer (for frozen sauces, pastas and gelati),
A single unit under counter glass door refrigerator (for meats and cheese storage in the front of the house),
A 27″ wide sandwich prep unit (where you keep your toppings for sandwiches),
A two unit solid door refrigerator, back of house,
A single unit solid door freezer, back of house (backstock frozen food plus par-baked breads).
All of this equipment we are getting from the TR series made by True. I looked at the Hoshizaki refrigerators for the sales area because they are more beautiful than the True models. But the TR series is the top line from True and they are one of the biggest producers in the business. Read: repairmen should know how to fix them. I liked the Hoshizaki equipment but they don’t make freezers with glass doors so I didn’t end up ordering them. Apparently they are really durable and very reliable, I was told that Burger King uses them. When I was at a Cinnabon on the New Jersey Turnpike the other day, I noticed that they had Hoshizaki equipment in the back! Maybe it’s good that we picked something different…
The other equipment we need:
Two scales with calculators and printers,
Two heavy-duty slicers (Univex was recommended to me as a machine powerful enough for slicing cheese),
A half size convection oven for finishing par-baked bread (there aren’t many European style bakers around here!),
One panini press with two pressing grills,
Two hand sinks,
One three basin sink,
One mop sink,
One food processor (for making our own spreads out of olives or pre-roasted vegetables).
Yesterday I called Sandy from Restaurant Equipment in Cambridge, MD to let her know that we need to order the Southern Fixtures ASAP. The Southern cases take about 8-10 weeks to be built which is about how long our construction is going to take. The True stuff should take about 4-6 weeks to arrive and the sinks and scales can be ready in one or two weeks.
September 4, 2008
Before construction begins, I wanted to show you all what the place looks like right now. This is a picture of the space as seen from the front door:
Okay, keep this image in mind, a lot will change over the next couple months!
And here’s the upstairs, viewed from the stairs:
And here is the upstairs from the back corner, looking towards the stairs:
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