Thursday, January 19, 2012

The View from the Command Center

Subtitle:  Why no one outside of the immediate family is allowed in the master bedroom

You know those people whose offices look horribly disorganized but if you ask them to find a document they can locate it in five seconds?  Yeah - I'm not that person.  I'm just horribly disorganized.  All the important stuff is here, and given enough time I can put my hands on it.  But, if I need to find it quickly, it better be a document I can pull up on the computer.

This lack of organizational skill wasn't too much of an issue when I was practicing law.  In that situation, organization is forced upon you and the system is in place when you start.  Even with that system in place, it was a darn good thing that I had an assistant.  She kept my calendar in order, reminded me of meetings and court appearances, placed high priority files on my desk, maintained the files, and generally kept me in line.  I appreciated it then but would give my left arm for an assistant now!

Time has been speeding up recently with regard to the restaurant.  The lease is the priority right now and I spend my entire day sitting in front of the computer, either reviewing lease language, emailing attorneys and the landlord, or talking on the phone.  Brendan laughs whenever he comes home because he says he can always find me in the "command center."  This term is pretty apt - from this vantage point, I can control the phone, the computer, the printer, my cell phone, and piles of paperwork.  In addition, I can hear all the children as they play (or fight) with each other in their bedrooms or the playroom.  I have them come into the room to do their homework and can give directions to put on pajamas or brush teeth without leaving my chair.

This is where I live:

Messy as it is, it has everything I need.  The red blanket in the corner is for my lap when I get chilly, a hairbrush to tidy up the children for school, a huge bottle of ibuprofen for me and a small bottle of liquid tylenol for the children.  My cell phone and the land line, the printer and my godsend - the MAC.  The checkbook and a pack of AA batteries for the wireless keyboard and mouse.  Piles of paper on the floor - each stack a different version of the lease.  A large stack of papers on top of the printer - bills, government documents and to be filed important personal papers.  The TV, currently tuned in to the CIA movie, "The Farm", and the most important item of all - my Diet Coke.

More randomly, there's a crystal sugar bowl that I plan to use for Charlotte's upcoming 7th birthday party - a Fancy Nancy Tea Party.  A chicken feather that was a gift from Evan, a phone book that I borrowed from a neighbor but forgot to return, and a roll of Happy Birthday wrapping paper (because there's always an upcoming child's birthday party).  I'm not sure why there is a clown hat on the floor by the wrapping paper but that seems about right.

It's a mess but it's functional and this is the only glimpse you'll see.  My bedroom door stays closed.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Devil is in the Details

Things continue to crawl forward, albeit at a snail's pace, for the restaurant.  The past few months have been a huge lesson in patience for me.  And, given that we have the permitting process and construction ahead of us, this new year promises to teach us an entirely new level of patience as we deal with living on the timeline of someone else.

Where are we?

We have incorporated our business and opened business bank accounts.  We have engaged a real estate agent, a kitchen designer, an architect, an engineer, and an attorney.  We have interviewed three contractors and believe we have settled on our guy.  We have met with graphic designers and artists, hood system companies and designers of grease collection systems.  We've gotten estimates for kitchen equipment and visited restaurants to talk to owners about their build out experience.  We've had innumerable conferences with our real estate agent regarding lease negotiations.  We continually revise our business plan to reflect our most updated knowledge.

Our kitchen floorplan changed three times and the equipment layout changed five times but we are finally settled on a plan that both meets health department requirements and is an efficient working space (a combination that is more difficult to achieve than you would think).  It's funny, after all of Brendan's complaints about cramped DC kitchens, he'd kill for one now.  North Carolina requires tons of open space between equipment which results in kitchens much larger than are actually necessary.  And don't even get us started on how the health code makes it easier for restaurants to use frozen and canned food rather than freshly prepared dishes.

On the list of awesome things we've done - visiting a local sawmill that reclaims antique heart pine lumber and repurposes it for new applications.  When an old building must come down, they salvage the floors, walls and beams and make gorgeous floors, counters and tables.  Our tables will be custom made by the fantastic guys at and we couldn't be happier.

Our plans are making the trip from our architect to the engineer this week.  Once engineered plans are finalized and stamped, we can begin applying for permits from the Town of Pittsboro.  We will be applying for a plumbing variance, so who knows how long that will take?

This is not our first experience with construction.  We lived in our Alexandria condo during a kitchen renovation which was insane, by the way.  And, in one six month period, we renovated and sold one condo, renovated and rented out another condo, and bought a house and renovated it.  So, we're not complete novices.  But, the number of details involved in this project is ridiculous.

I received the specification sheets for our kitchen equipment today.  There are more than 90 pages.  I also received more than 20 pages of information about grease trap testing for submission to the public utility in support of our variance application.  I couldn't even understand most of it - going on blind faith in our people here.

Tonight, when Brendan arrives home at 11pm, we'll be sitting down to mark our desired outlets on the floorplan - all 3 gazillion of them.  We'll also be marking all the locations for lighting (every single pendant, sconce, bar light, art light, up-light, kitchen light, under counter light, bathroom light, etc.).  Doesn't that sound like fun?

Over the course of the next four weeks, we are hoping to finalize our lease, distribute our revised investor proposal, get our engineered plans finalized, hire a contractor, and pull permits.  If we are extremely lucky we may be able to begin work by February 1.  This is a VERY ambitious timeline.