Sunday, March 28, 2010

Commercial Real Estate

We had an Open House yesterday in Gardiner to showcase the commercial real estate available. There are a few treasures and some big commitments of time and money. It was interesting to bring together the State Fire Marshal, Maine Historic Preservation, Realtors and business owners. I came away much more knowledgeable about what it will take to get some of these spaces utilized.

One of the buildings that would be among the larger challenges is also an amazing space- tin celings, wainscoting, and a grand staircase. Oddly the upper floors have not been touched since the 1950's. In fact there were newspapers up there dating from 1953. While it is selling for $160,000 for 4350 sf, it would take at least $100,000 just to bring electrical and plumbing up to date (not to mention putting in a sprinkler system). All of that work would qualify for historic preservation tax credits but it still means having the money to put in up front. It will require a buyer with vision. I imagine it becoming a boutique hotel. Anyone out there with a vision...and deep pockets?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Here we go!

I'm super excited about opening my business. I started the day having coffee with Mark McKelvey. Mark lost his furniture business in an arson fire. He has created an organization to promote the quality craftsmanship in Maine and Maine's woodworking history. We are working together to create show in August. I have big plans and can't wait to get started and help his organization. Next on my agenda was Skyping with artist Michael Sprouse. It is sounding like Monkitree will open with the full range of what Michael has to offer (and while he is in Maine for the opening he can research his Maine roots). Then it was off to see baby goats! Man, are baby goats cute. I got to hold a week old goat and Bo got to run around with two other Boxers (and chase some chickens). And to top off this excellent day, I got my EIN number so I am official.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What Will Gardiner Become

My vision of Gardiner becoming a destination for arts and culture isn't just a pipe dream. Sitting right in the middle of our downtown is Johnson Hall, an Italianate brick structure built in 1864. In its heyday it held 1200 people for dances and entertainment of all sorts. It was converted to a theatre when the talkies came along in 1929. It fell into disrepair in the 1950's and in 1987 is was purchased by a group looking to restore it.

Johnson Hall has been working to design the restoration that will turn Johnson Hall back into a hall that would house a 400 seats performance space and business and community meeting space. I have toured the space several times and when it is renovated the space will be incredible. With a 400 seat auditorium, Gardiner will be able to attract a wide variety of music, theatre and film. Of course they still need to raise a great deal of money to be able to move forward. They will qualify for tax credits for historic renovation and that will help. I am hoping it will only be a couple of years before construction begins.

I am imagining a very lively downtown with thriving businesses (including my own). We need more people with vision to invest in the downtown. There are great historic buildings available. Sure they need some work but the prices are reasonable ... compared to what they will be when we are drawing 400 people to town for performances!

Gardiner Main Street has organized a Commercial Real Estate Open House for this Saturday 11-3 to show off the great properties we have here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Snail Mail

I received a note and an article cut out of the New York Times from my mom today. Her note was short, "Just another article I thought you might like to read!" She was right, I did like it. It was about a "Bloggy Boot Camp" for female bloggers. Huh? This is new to me so I find it fascinating that everyone out there seems to be blogging about something. Many of the woman at the boot camp were "mommy bloggers" and some where making their living blogging.

I'm interested in building a brand. I want people to see my logo and have an idea of what that might mean. I am beginning to build relationships with people whether in person, through blogging or on Facebook. But it will be the art and merchandise I offer and the service I provide that will create the connection with the brand. Blogging for me is a tool to keep people updated on progress and eventually let people know about art openings and new products...but I may drop a note in mail as well.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Happy Spring!

It is a beautiful first day of Spring. I was able to spend most of the day outside. I was working on sanding and waxing the metal beds we are turning into display units. Bo helped (he didn't actually help...he tried to lick the wax off the metal). We had a visit from neighbors with their dachshund on their way to grab coffee. I snapped a picture during one of the rare moments when Bo wasn't terrorizing her.

I have hopes of turning Bo into a shop dog. I don't know how successful I will be. It was encouraging that he was able to hang out on the deck while I was working. Maybe that will be his spot.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Inside Out and Backwards

I have been so focused on the space that I haven't put much time into what will actually be in my gallery once it opens. I have put much thought into it but thinking doesn't result in objects in my space. I was encouraged yesterday when I went to a meeting for the Gardiner Farmers' Market. They were reviewing new vendor applications and the new vendors were there to explain what they will bring to the market. Well, several were brand new farms just getting started...some living in yurts and they will be bringing their vegetables to market. They have no product to show for their work yet...but they will and it will be wonderful.

I'm sure evertything will come together in the end. I am making contacts within the arts community in Maine. I went to the Center for Maine Craft yesterday and this morning I met with Artery: Visual Arts Along the Kennebec. I haven't begun lining up artists or buying any merchandise. I have no product to show for my work yet...but I will and it will be wonderful!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Visiting My Display Case

I stopped into Corniche today and was introduced to artist Robert Saunders. Mary had a book of art that included a portrait of Robert. He explained that while he lived in Washington, D.C. he posed for portraits. What a coincidence! We talked about what part of the city we lived in. Mary asked me if I missed D.C. I don't really. I miss people. But D.C. is still there and I can visit whenever I want.

So while at Corniche I took the opportunity to visit the antique display case that I put a deposit on. It is gorgeous. Mary finds wonderful things and she will try to find just what you are looking for which is an amazing service she provides. I have already started to think of unusual things that might be useful as display cases...but for now the 9ft long antique display case will do.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Doing What Makes You Happy

Art has such an important role in "place." When we first started looking for a building it was an important consideration...were there art galleries, performing art venues, etc... I'm not sure everyone thinks about this when they are moving but I certainly did. For me being surrounded by beautiful things is important. As I sit writing this I can see a piece of art created for me by my dear friend Michael Sprouse. It is a portrait of my great grandfather. This piece brings me joy. I also have mugs that bring me joy. I know who made them, if not personally then by name. I feel a greater connection to these objects because someone made them.

For 15 years, I worked for Appalachian Spring, one of the top retailers of American Craft in the country. In fact, we were placed into a hall of fame, otherwise we may have kept on winning. There were some key elements that make the company successful- they selected great quality, they were committed to providing excellent customer service and they paid people on time. David and Polly Brooks are wonderful people and were very careful to cultivate relationships in every direction- with artists, with customers, with service providers, and with employees. I am very lucky to have learned from them. Over 15 years I have had a variety of roles within the company but I always loved working in the stores and helping people find the objects that made them happy or would make someone they love happy.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Space Is Clear

Today was garbage day. Not just any garbage day...the day we cleared the 1st floor space in preparation for putting in flooring. When we bought the building the first floor was a maze of office spaces. Just having it clear is exciting. It is far easier to imagine what the space will become without piles of old carpet laying around. It is now hard to imagine that both of the images are the same space.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Small Town Living

When I first moved here I thought I'd take it slow. Get to know people gradually. Take my time figuring out the lay of the land, who was who...movers and shakers and trouble makers. Did I mention it is a small town? Well I didn't exactly take it slow. I ran for city council and lost but almost immediately began my stint as the President of the Board of Gardiner Main Street, an organization working toward the revitalization and preservation of the historic downtown.

In D.C. if you were having trouble getting a heavy desk down a flight of stairs, no one would stop to help. Here they do...and lend tool, teapots, and air purifiers. We support each others businesses. We check in to see how things are going. We chat about American Idol, our dogs, the fishing, music theory, goats, and moustaches. We get involved. Jump in when we have something to offer. On Monday morning I'm taking the new City Manager on a tour of downtown...our downtown...our home. I'm ready to get things started here. My business included!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

This Renovation Sponsored by...

While part of our dream was to have Peter working less and enjoying life more, there is no denying that without his job we would never have been able to make this move. So while I'm ripping things apart and sometimes putting them back together, Peter is sitting at his desk putting in far too many hours. Lately he has been joining me and Bo on our morning walk. It has been a strange winter with little snow and the morning walks are a great start to the day. Then for Peter it is back to his desk and the daily grind that manages to flow right into a nightly grind as well.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How Messy is She?

Clare is so messy that she dropped the spready tool thingy (I believe that is the technical term) full of drywall mud not once, not twice, but three times from the top of the ladder. OK so I am a mess. I spill things. Not sure this is what one looks for in renovator. And you should have seen me with the fire rated spray foam. That stuff is sticky...and orange! I had gloves on and still managed to get it all over my hands (and Peter's sweatshirt I was wearing).

I would say my greatest skill is in demolition. I like demolition. There isn't too much you can mess up there. Messing things up is the point. Right up my alley. My mother used to think it would embarrass me to have people see my messy room...not so much. There is a picture of me in high school sitting on the floor of my room surrounded by clothes, overturned laundry baskets, papers and books. I look as happy as a clam sitting amongst my mess. But with renovation you have to clean up the mess. You also have to be sure you don't create a new sticky orange foam removal.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Move to Maine

So why Maine? I lived in Washington, D.C. for 20 years. I love D.C. but in Washington I would always be a renter. We couldn't afford to buy in a decent neighborhood. And what we could afford would have been tiny! When we started searching for the commercial property we could call home, it was the buildings in Maine that spoke to us. What were they saying? Two things, "I can be something if someone would just take care of me" and "I am reasonably priced." It was an excellent combination.

Now, we thought that we would buy the building and within six months have someone renting our second floor office space. Almost two years later and we have no one in the second floor and I still haven't opened a gallery. We do have a sprinkler system. I've removed drop ceilings, painted, etc... so now we are close. And we better be! Because and income preoperty with no income is just a money pit. We have some more money to spend before we can call the 1st floor space a gallery. Not sure where that money is coming from but my new mantra is "we will get there."

Monday, March 8, 2010

Big Dreams

For several years, Peter and I wandered around Washington, D.C. talking about our dreams. Some were fairly simple, like finding a place to live large enough for his kids to spend time with us in the summer (one visit was all we needed to realize four of us in a one bedroom apartment wasn't going to cut it). Other dreams were a bit larger and more complicated to figure out, like how to get Peter to work less and enjoy life more. During our wanderings we hit on one thing we both were keen on- buying and living in a commercial building. Not everyone's dream, I know, but surprisingly a dream we wanted to share.

In the summer of 2008, we bought our building. The very building we had tracked online for two years. When the price dropped, we jumped (a bit faster than we were prepared to). And now we own, what his kids call "Dad's disaster house."