I am hugely frustrated.
For awhile now I have had this idea in my head that I would like to have a workspace of some sort that is live and in-person. Right now I run Milo and Molly out of a small bedroom in the upstairs of our house, across the hall from Greta and down the hall from Gus. This makes potential custom-order client meetings awkward because my studio is in my house and not separated off. I also really love the idea of bringing handmade goodness into my community in the form of a small shop, while also offering classes or workshops or workspace for others like me. I have called several empty spaces and have even gone to look at a few to no avail.
Overwhelmingly the stumbling block is money. I am not running a huge businesses and therefore don't have bucket of cash flowing in, nor do I have a benefactor ready to help us out, and there is no way I'd take out a loan on such an endeavor. However, even places that could possibly be okay are either weirdly set-up spaces with no place to go to the bathroom, or they're falling apart and/or dirty, or no one is going to be able to park there. In my town there is a main drag along which there are many, many chain establishments, and in between are small independently-owned buildings. I have called over a dozen places and most people are very friendly and are interested in the concept, but then they lay out the rent and lease agreements and I realize just how not interested these landlords are in getting small local businesses into their buildings. And therefore, I can drive up and down this strip and tick off over a dozen empty buildings.
Yesterday I had a phone call with a pipe-dream building. A beautiful brick building with black detail and lovely landscaping now sits empty because a national chain moved out. The building is 4500 square feet with back rooms and storage spaces and bathrooms. It's an enormous and well-cared for space and I understood before even calling that there wasn't going to be any way I'd be able to take on this space, but I really wanted to know how much it was going to cost just for kicks. And as I was speaking with the very nice real estate gentleman, he inquired about out concept for the building, and then he flatly informed me that his clients would never rent to someone like me having had two national chains in the building so far. That a starter business like mine would need an "incubation space" from which to grow and establish itself. To try spaces in this place or that, which are actually the small, weird, and dirty ones. I felt as though I was getting a "little lady" speech, though he really wasn't being condescending to me- he was just telling me the way it is.
And the way it is sucks. I know people whom I could pool crafty resources with and we could make an amazing space out of a building like that, or any building on the strip, but they're all too expensive, and rather than see something productive and interesting for the community be put into those spaces, the landlords are more concerned with the amount of rent they think they should be getting. They don't seem to consider the fact that a small, start-up business won't be able to take on several thousand dollars every month and commit to three years in a space when you don't know how the first month will go. (I did think about Kickstarter, but I don't think anyone would pledge $120,000 for a co-op shop.) It's frustrating to know that there are empty spaces perfectly suitable and they're still out of reach. There has to be a way for small business to make some headway in the mainstream marketplace- people are becoming more and more interested in purchasing handmade and local goods, but the overall business community isn't set up to support it.
So the pipe dream will remain a pipe dream for awhile, which is fine- it's still exciting to think about and maybe one day it will come to be. And for now I will work out of my cozy little bedroom space and design dream offices in my head.
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In case you missed it: what could be and office space!