Signing the Lease…

Madame Chocolat’s Blog:

My Beloved Chocophiles,

I wanted to share with you a smidge of the drama and intrigue that was involved in finding my perfect space, 805 Pearl Street. Suffice to say, I had to trip over a lot of educational toads to find my Prince of a space.

805 Pearl Street… what a gem to behold! Even though, at the very moment I am writing this, huge piles of rubble lay a shambles on my floor from all the demolition that has needed to happen first – the de-struction before the con-struction. But it is my lovely rubble, my beautiful dust, and I am savoring every particle of it! (tear, sniff!…. cough!).

Before I found PL&C’s perfect home, I had been looking at various downtown spaces for over 15 months. The first real prospect was 1909 9thStreet just after the Todd Dickerson Gallery had vacated it. I would sit on the RTD bench just outside and, as chocolate covered sugarplum fairies danced within my head, I would count cars and passing pedestrians. I imagined cute little bistro tables adorned with checkered cloths and small vases of flowers under the bright red awnings. I dreamed of sitting on the back porch, my beautiful Flatirons to the west and The St. Julien Hotel and Spa (a previous employer) to the east as a backdrop, as I consulted with clients about wedding cakes while we sipped iced cacao… (big sigh) In dreams, all things are possible.

In reality, without a business plan and a good commercial real-estate broker as part of my business team, the lease I might have signed at that time would have been the noose around my oh-so-naive-neck! After Nomad Beads signed the space (they actually knew how to do this kind of a thing -I did not) and changed the bright red awnings to green, I decided to get serious and create a business plan and find a broker. SCORE was able to help me with the business plan, but I was on my own finding a broker. I had been talking with different candidates, but they all seemed very scary to me and I found it difficult to trust someone who might have such a powerful influence on the future of my business – you know the quote, “Location, Location! Location!”

Having not yet made a decision on a broker, the second space that I seriously considered was 1015 Pearl Street – the old Bart’s CD Cellar. But it was HUGE at 3,000 sq ft and in need of a lot of expensive “ti’s” (tenant improvements). Thankfully, Tom Moore one of my beloved SCORE advisers had armed me with the tool and knowledge of how to calculate projections and weigh them against start-up costs.

1015 Peal was, indeed, tempting! The initial verbal negotiations that were dangled about were blow-my-mind crazy good… until I actually ran the numbers. But the real truth was that space just wasn’t right – too big, too expensive! It didn’t feeeeel right for a chocolate shop… It does, however fit an entertainment venue that serves rock’em, knock’em out of their socks coffee. You go, OZO! I love you guys!

 In a round about way, through a business adviser, I was introduced to T. Michael Ruiz of Coldwell Commercial Real Estate, The Hart Team. Michael is unconventional, warm, friendly and way-too-genuine; it wasn’t long before I let my guard down and allowed myself to trust Michael a little (and, eventually a lot!). He did require me to sign a 6-month exclusivity contract – that was scary, but I took the plunge. But in doing so, ironically, I got his commitment to me and my business. Michael was the only one up to that point that had told me it would take some time, maybe a long time, to find just the right space – not what I wanted to hear, but what I knew was probably right. Everyone else had told me to hurry, hurry, hurry up!

We made such a great team, Michael and I. He took the time to really listen to my rants and ravings in order to deduce exactly what I would need for the perfect space. There were times when he must have thought I was completely crazy! In that, there was a unique synergy that was quite effective. I’ll be honest, there were times when I questioned the whole process – and I won’t ever regret that! I kept Michael on his toes and I stayed in tune with my intuition. Never ignore your own inner voice – don’t ever do that!

Having figured out just what I would need for square footage (I employed a little graph paper and all of my equipment specifications – I cannot stress the importance of this step enough!), Michael and I decided 1600 sq-ft would be just about right for my needs and budget. And from that point, we would no longer wasted time and energy on spaces that were either too big or too small.

We looked at many, many spaces and seriously negotiated on over 6 together (I am counting one that we worked on twice). I will admit, my first LOI, aka Letter of Intent, that Michael and I submitted together was very scary and I was a truly basket case. But eventually, my negotiating skills improved. The key, I am sure, is that you need to be able to turn and walk-away at any moment. When you get emotionally tied to such a thing, it will really hurt your ability to be objective. That’s really a hard thing to do.

However, I will admit, although I eventually was able to turn and walk away, there wasn’t a space that I didn’t get emotionally tied to in some way or another. One way I coped was to always have a “Plan B” space in the works. Always knowing, after labor, this lease obligation would be my biggest expense to my business helped a lot.

Things got really whacky-crazy at times with various landowners. Sometimes it felt like a whole otherworld and I was living in a silly mixed up land. I began referring to Michael as my “Dearest Mad Hatter” and I was his “Alice”. Each space became a basket and every bout of negotiations were eggs placed in or removed from our basket – a dozen eggs equating a signed lease. We’d joke with one another, “I’m thinking we are at 8 eggs” or, “Do you think we just lost a couple of eggs”. Most landowners made no “eggs” about it – to them, I was a vile little “start-up” and many bemoaned the risk I was asking them to take on me. True, I suppose, but one has got to start somewhere; I became comfortable being the underdog in the chocolate-brown business suit.

Make no mistake, finding, negotiating and signing a space was as exciting as it was scary for me. It was kind of a yikes!/yea! thing.

When Michael and I found 805 Pearl Street, we both knew it was perfect. It was formerly the quaint and beautiful Bayleaf gift shop that has since moved to 1222 Pearl Street across from The Peppercorn.

805 looks like a chocolate shop. It feels like a chocolate shop. It is an older building with a funky and unique character. I loved it moment I set my eyes on her… and, she was available.

Negotiations took over 2 ½ months – back-and-forth just like a passionate romance. One minute the deal seemed all buttoned up, and the next, the whole thing was off. But all the other spaces that we had to go through prepared us for this one. We knew what to push for and what to let go of. A lease is similar in many ways to a marriage and Michael was my matchmaker.

With all that I went through, I wouldn’t change a

…my dearest Mad Hatter

 thing! My beloved PL&C has found the perfect home and I am quite happy with my landlord and our settlements. Not only do I feel like I could become a commercial real-estate consultant in my next life (ha!), but also, I made a very good friend in Michael Ruiz.

Lesson learned: When it comes to commercial real estate, hire a professional! Who knows? You might just make a friend, too!

Thanks for letting me share, my friends…

Warmest, Sarah beloved rubble!


2 comments on “Signing the Lease…

  1. Great! A guide for us who may have started writing a business plan, but have not finished. Your barriers you knocked down are impressive. To step out on faith is REAL. Imaging what it is you want works.. I am a firm believer in listening to your inner voice. It will never steer you wrong. It is the controlling, invincible, divine ‘Third Eye”, that allows us to be a victor. Congratulations. Peace & Love

  2. Félicitations! on your new chocolaterie! My husband and I are part-time Boulderites and look forward to visiting your shop very soon. I must say that I was sad to hear that my little French inspired Bayleaf changed locales but am thrilled to hear that a sweet spot has taken its place. Bienvenu à Pearl Street PLC!

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