One of the toughest things about owning a farmers' market business is the fact that it's so hard to keep good people when I can only offer them seasonal work. As this season began drawing to a close I started thinking about ways that I could keep some of my employees employed during the off season. It's been a good year, and I felt I wanted to make a small investment in a new venture, ideally something where I could make back most of that capital outlay in a relatively short period of time.
I started browsing Craigslist for opportunities. I called about a food cart, but winter is the wrong time of year for a food cart business, and besides, Seattle still hasn't changed the regulation that forbids selling anything other than hot dogs out of a cart. I could have looked into a full fledged truck, but that involved more of an investment than I was willing to make.
Then I saw an ad for a fully furnished coffeeshop, with the equipment included. I called and went to see it, and I was thoroughly charmed. The building owner had furnished it and tried to make a go of it, but she had no experience in the coffee business. She leased it to someone else who kept it open for a few months, but didn't want to make any investment in keeping it open longer.
The shop is on 23rd and Madison, across from Crush. There isn't a lot of parking, but there are quite a few condos and bus stops in a three block radius, and no coffee in either direction for 4 or 5 blocks. I went ahead and signed a lease.
We're going to serve soups, salads, stuffed breads and coffee. Everything will be homemade. (There's not much kitchen space, but it's half a mile from my big, underused commercial kitchen.) We'll use plenty of local and organic ingredients, including sustainable meat.
It's going to be a tricky location, but certainly not an impossible one. Because it's fully equipped, I'll be able to invest in things I could never afford before, like advertising, signage and decor.
When I signed the lease I didn't have a good feeling or a queasy feeling, I just felt that this venture was inevitable. I've made plenty of mistakes at the storefronts I tried to open in the past. I like to think that I've learned a thing or two from those mistakes, lessons that will serve me well this time around.