The Story behind art and coffee...
The Long Journey To Here.
In 2012 I decided to open an art studio in Hudson, the town I live in, inside of the mill where other artists had studios (great place www.blueskystudios.com ). I figured, I have this big art degree that I don't use, I have done various jobs, where I still didn't use said degree, so I started teaching classes, BYOB paint nights etc., then I learned that the town actually didn't allow them. Actually an officer arrived at the studio to 'let me know' that they weren't allowed (heheh, oops) long story short, I found a new place (July 2013) in a really excellent location just one town over and rented it. I looked and looked, called businesses and tried to find something cheap, but that doesn't really exist in my area....
I had no idea if I could make the rent or how I was going to pull any of this off, but (figurative) doors opened for me, and I walked through them. I went from spending $150 a month to over 1k, and here I am this many years later still standing. (sort of). To this day I don't know the how or why I walked through those doors with hopes I could do it, I just did.
In that time, I got a divorce, almost lost everything I have, got my heart unbelievably shattered and I've started a new adventure: I'm opening a coffeehouse. Inside of the art studio. Yes, I'm crazy. I know one thing: I know it would be easier to move mountains than to open another business by myself if I close, so I have to fight to keep it opened, I don't want to look back and think that I didn't do everything I could do to keep what I love. So I cashed in my 401k, I used my saving accounts, and essentially I have risked everything.
SO...First I asked the Board of Health if I could do this, she came to my space and said yes all you need is this, this and this. SO (after I asked permissions from the town and the landlord etc) I started collecting equipment used off of craigslist.... coolers, refrigerators, sinks etc., I collected furniture off the side of the road and painted it (dresser in this photo, which I dragged into and out of my pickup alone)..... bartered that cooler down to $300!!! They are $1500 or more new, this guy was also getting a divorce LOL.... he hugged me 3 times (look buddy, I'm not dating yet I just got my heart trampled on...but maybe next year I'll be back!) and yes the Keurig in photo is not hanging around for the coffee shop to open. Can you imagine? Here's your coffee, which brand do you like Starbucks or Dunkin? ;)....
One of the first items on my list to buy was a used cappuccino machine, these run anywhere from $10-15k new!!! Everyday I looked until I found one on craigslist, it looks amazing, I talk him down in price.... he says it's newly cleaned and working, stored properly etc., I have him sign a document guaranteeing that it works. The problem with this is it needs special electricity and a special plumbing hose, so...meanwhile art classes still continue while I build and create this coffeehouse empire in my spare time, as well as children, homework and life...
It takes me a while to get the machine hooked up and working. Once I do, it doesn't work. Of course not. The guy promises me it does, he comes in to try and clean it, and make it work.... first attempt fail. Also there is a leaky gauge inside. He swears it works, replaces the gauge. I think you see where this is going. Not long before he tells me I will never be happy (ummm right, because the machine I paid you a lot of money for, money I do not have, is NOT working, and it is sort of THE MAIN PIECE TO HAVING A COFFEE SHOP without it would be like having a pizza place with no pizza oven). FF to today, we have a court date. He is a man in a $600,000 house in Northborough, who drives nice cars and even has 3 little kids who screwed me over. I'm learning. This is business and people are not nice, even when they seem nice.
This is my ice machine I spent a few hours driving to get. THEY ARE NOT CHEAP! lol. HOWEVER, IT DOES WORK!!!! for the WIN! lol. and only $300 as well! That must be my lucky number, I should offer that for everything I buy....
Meanwhile it's summer, I have 2 kids home all summer, I'm painting my house, working at the studio, raising these boys and trying to enjoy life as much as possible! (Yes, I painted my house gray, trim white, this summer)... why? because I was home... because it needed it and I don't sit still well.... LOL.
So after I gather up all of my equipment and start looking into a way to plumb this 3 bay sink I supposedly need (BOH: (board of health) oh all you need is a 3-bay sink!) BOH now: oh, but a 3-bay sink needs a grease trap! me: a WHAT? WHY? because it does sweetie. me: well I'm not cooking. BOH: It doesn't matter.... you didn't say that a while back. no? oh... I'm sorry.
WELL a grease trap is a BIG DEAL... want to know what else is a big deal in MA.? PLUMBING... as in if it's commercial it NEEDS to be all copper. Yes, we are one of the last states to change this law. 🙁 not helping. Now I need to pay a plumber 10k. you heard me.... and that is with ME cutting open the concrete with a saw and digging out the sand. You heard me. (also note: no I have no idea how to do this, but my dad is coming to visit soon to help! also note: sigh. Yes, this really happened. Actually what really happened was my dad was here, I rented the saw and I had a breakfast first date on the day of the cutting.
He was a construction project manager, and we really liked one another! SO he volunteered to spend the day with me and my father cutting concrete! YES YOU CANNOT MAKE THIS STUFF UP. No, it did not work out with breakfast date number two... but he did help me out a lot. Thanks BD2. AND super thanks to Lee, my good friend (and coffee date number 5) who loaned me his jackhammer!
Look at all of those copper pipes! it's like a submarine in here! lol. SO I'll FF through the fights with my landlord and the neighboring deli (but note that this has been a long hard battle to get to this point.... the finishing point....)
My son had a great time in the studio with all of that sand piled up waiting to go back into the floor: (no I'm not sure it's sanitary).
My friend Ralph (coffee date number 9) helps me to try to FIX the cappuccino machine, he is amazing with mechanics, we clean it and try try try. He also shows me the proper way to mix concrete (his family had a business in concrete) and how to fill in all of the holes in the floor.
So I spend a few days learning about concrete, cutting my hands up and filling in these holes on hot summer days, instead of taking the kids to the beach (insert sobbing emoji).
Oh and my cappuccino machine, I found one for a good price that is probably 6 out of 10 stars, but hopefully it will get me through the first year.... or at least until profits happen.
Where am I? I have the floor done and the coffee bar built over the summer, I have all of my equipment... I have tried every coffee house cappuccino I can get to for the last year. (I also forget to save receipts for all of my recon missions, lol, but I find what I like and don't like.) I like a coffee place called Red Barn Coffee, I meet the owner- and he is ex Air Force like me! wow 🙂 he is also SUPER nice and very much into coffee, has for many years. I found my beans then.
I build tables and bars for around the studio so I have good seating, purchase my wifi setup... I start revisiting the BOH department to find out what else I need, I'll skip the story about how I have a total break down in their office. Surely I'm not the first. (surely). Now I've added in fire extinguishers and signs they need and ceiling tiles and whatever else that my landlord has not intention of paying for >:( lol. or not. I'm there. I'm ready to open up this coffee house. Except that this week of 1/12 I find out the BOH person quit, I need to pay for a building fire alarm inspection and get a vicars license (did that a few days ago, I am officially a vicar) what else is next? sigh. I'm waiting for my BOH inspection on 1/18 to hopefully open, only I need to buy food and beans now. Now in my final stretch. UUGGHHH how did this take so long? I have to look into signage I need for the bathroom and what I have to post, food handling books that you cannot just buy online WTH? lol.
I haven't talked about food yet: I have the ice machine of course, so I have iced cold brew coffee, by the way... you cannot just refrigerate brewed coffee anymore, cold brewed coffee is the new thing and it does not involve hot water at all. This is way more complicated than I thought. I got a blender for frappes, and fancy drinks. Also this VERY EXPENSIVE grease trap, I guess I'm in the clear to actually make some food now! SO: I'm starting with smoothies, super easy. And cookies.
I will offer muffins and pastries and simple cookies/pastries for now, the problem being I'm more into healthy foods and those just aren't easy to offer if you don't have a grill at hand 🙁
I built this place. From scratch, by my hand and ingenuity, I had a few friends lend a hand to me in the end, which I appreciate more than anyone can know! But here I am, starting a new business. coffee. I love coffee: why not! lol.
Join me on this journey. I'm going to try to start VLOGGING. lol. this should be a trip.