Ah, another loose end wrapped up.  Our hanging lights have been installed.  Believe it or not, these little guys cause a lot of heartaches; mom didn’t like them, they were expensive, everyone thought that someone else had ordered them, and then they took 6 weeks to fabricate so we had to open without them.  But here they are and they work beautifully.  They illuminate the the front of our deli case, the top of the case and the scale because each light can be pointed in any direction.  Hugh picked them out from the 3G company.





Sometimes things don’t go as planned.  No, let’s say that when you need things to go smoothly, crazy things happen.  Yesterday I arrived at the store to find Mike Gardner, his crew, and the shopping center maintenance crew all running around under this waterfall that had formed in our storage room.  Everyone was wet along with everything in that room, the floor in the next room and the ceiling in the room below.  It was bad.  Today this first picture makes it seem better than I remember.  My memory includes a trash can full of dirty water and soggy drywall, waiting in the dark for 40 minutes while Ryan from DC Electric dried each breaker on the electric panel, and carrying lots of wet cardboard.  It was not what I wanted to do that morning.  I immediately set to work trying to rescue products from their soggy boxes and, luckily, almost everything was still dry inside.


The drain pipe from the roof broke at a joint right behind our storage room walls.  What’s terrible is that we knew about the leak on Monday and didn’t fix it.  It formed a bubble of water underneath the paint on the wall near the ceiling . I moved the boxes away from that immediate area but they remained in the same room.  When it started raining on Wednesday night I didn’t think for a second about that bubble on the wall.  That night of heavy rain just blew open the connection between two pieces of pipe and the water began to soak our ceiling.  The water pooled on top of the ceiling long enough to trickle down the outside of the walls before dissolving a hole in the center.  This picture is from outside the storage room.


 Actually, most of the water drained straight down our back wall into the basement tenant’s space.  I didn’t go down there but I know it must have been a disaster zone.  

We had a pretty bad situation ourselves, the hole from the first picture is just the part that collapsed on its own, the whole ceiling in the storage room was wet.  The panels were removed yesterday and this morning new dry wall panels were installed and patched.  

As of yesterday morning our final building inspection was scheduled for that afternoon making this bump in the road seem like a road block!  In order to receive our certificate of occupancy we were supposed to prove that construction has finished and here we are with a newly installed ceiling, joints barely patched, floorboards that need replacing and a couple other recently patched holes.  



We had to reschedule the final inspection for this afternoon and WE PASSED!  The Town office was very understanding and they treated the leak and its repairs as an incident separate from our renovation of the space.  Even though the light fixture in the storage room had to be removed leaving just the cables dangling…  it will be repaired on Monday!  We are fit for business!  Actually, I have a lot of work to do before we are really ready to open the doors.  It is all up to me now, no more excuses about the construction!


Let’s review some other hiccups from the last couple weeks:


both True freezers arrived broken (repaired Monday and today under warranty)

the poinsettias that we bought for decoration stained the marble counters

the other marble counter got scratched

the grease trap was misbehaving and flooded the whole prep room

the slicer didn’t fit on the countertops

the Southern case doesn’t have a real work surface

we didn’t pull enough cables for internet and phone in the right places to make a good network


Some good things from the last couple weeks:


the hanging lights arrived today (they took ~4 weeks)

the building inspector was understanding about our leak situation

I found a source for parmesan knives

the food arrived ok

the internet will work

the POS system seems easy to understand (I hope I don’t jinx it) 

we will open before Christmas (unless the whole roof comes crashing down on us)

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.