By the end of April, we've been seriously looking for locations for a couple of months and though there have been a few hopefuls that we've gotten excited about, in the end nothing meets all of our criteria and we go back to the drawing board.
On my way home one day at the end of April, I pass a corner location in our neighborhood that's been vacant for a while. It's in the north end of the neighborhood about four or five blocks up from the more central pedestrian area, though it's an area with a couple great businesses and a lot of potential. We'd been under the impression that our own neighborhood, although we adore it, would not be able to provide the kind of morning sales volume that we would need to build a strong business, as the closest 'el' (train) stop is a good 8-10 minute walk. We'd always assumed we'd need to be by the el. Rather than shrug it off though, we start to do more research along the same lines we've been doing in other areas and we're happily surprised by what we discover. So while we keep looking elsewhere, we check out the interior of space.
It needs A LOT of work, and we're still not sure. We continue looking for other locations but start trying to figure out if, and how, we could make this neighborhood location work... what walls are structural (we get a structural engineer in), how much space can we get (we get feedback from the owner's agent), what kind of rent could we afford to pay for this location (we crunch the numbers)...
Within the next month, we decide to go for it and by early June we've put together our Letter of Intent (LOI) for the landlord communication the terms of our offer. The feedback is pretty good. We (through our agent) begin negotiating with the landlord's agent to determine the agreed terms for the "final" LOI that will be the basis for the lease.
We find out that we're also going to need an architect to help us get our building permits (Add that to the budget!) and set up some meetings. We update the business plan with the tentative location and make the formal application to the bank for the loan. Things are moving! We continue working on the development of the interior layout and take care of a ton of little things, like learning about City Sidewalk Cafe Applications and applying for life insurance (a requirement for the loan from the bank)!
At the end of June I go in to meet with the the team from the bank, and this time the underwriter too. The meeting goes really well... he says they'll have an answer for us within a few days and it looks pretty good and here's what will happen next, what they're going to need from us, when we'll be able to close, etc. (YAY!!!!!) We breathe a big sigh of relief and go away for a long weekend (picture at left from a bike ride in north-central Illinois).
Next up, rollercoasters...