Archive for February, 2012

Drywall going up

February 28th, 2012 | Mike

Drywalling stage of retail project.

Here’s a picture of the drywall going up on the storeroom in the store. Things are now really starting to move which is a good thing.

Spouse met with an expert yesterday and selected the color scheme for the rooms. We’ve decided that the theme for one room is “explore” and that the theme for the other room is “create” – hopefully, we can infuse “fun” coupled with “buy” ;-) throughout the entire store!

The painting is progressing on the exterior now as well bringing the building into harmony with the other tenant too. If only we could convince the owner of the lot next door to clean things up a bit, it would help with the overall ambiance of the space. One thing at a time I guess.

Ode to a Box Joint

February 24th, 2012 | Mike

Basic box joint.

I’m working on a prototype for a product we’ll carry in the store. Nope, not ready to talk about the store concept or this particular product. Let’s just say that I needed to assemble a wooden box frame to help support the main components of the prototype.

Now, strictly speaking, I didn’t need to use a box joint. I could have used a butt joint or half-lap and it would have worked just fine. Look at the picture, it’s a pretty joint! It became a point of pride that I learn how to make box joints in some reasonable and repeatable way.

I tried the first time free hand at the table saw with a single blade. That didn’t work so well.

I tried the second time by sketching out the joint on the wood then using a hand saw and chisel to do the work. Not only did it take a long time, the joint looked horrible, though it did work.

Finally I broke down and purchased a stacked dado for my table saw and built a box joint jig. It worked!

There is something deeply satisfying about creating something tangible; it hits both the mental and the physical aspects of innovation. I look forward to the next time I need to make a box joint now that I know how to do it.

Framing Complete

February 23rd, 2012 | Mike

Framing Complete

Spent time in the store this afternoon chatting with the electrician and a potential painter. The framing is now complete. Most of the vent work for the furnace has been installed and that work is nearly completed. The electrician has a bit more to go having re-wired the entire space adding needed grounding and a new electrical service.

Still have a little IT related wiring to get finished this week and the sheet rock guys may be able to get in as early as Friday, which would be divine. Once we get the rock on the wall, we’ll get some painting to happen in both rooms and have the floors to go. Couple of more weeks and we’ll be ready to take possession of the space and start outfitting the store and that’s pretty exciting!

The layout looks just like what we envisioned. It’s progressing very nicely. I’m particularly impressed with the building owner’s approach to all of this – it’s going to be a good working relationship I think. I’ll write another update when there’s something more to share.

Ring it up!

February 15th, 2012 | Mike

Is this our old cash register? We'll see later today...

Headed out later today to determine if this (picture right) is our cash register. We’ll be using a modern point of sale system with inventory control for our transactions as a matter of course. There’s something about an old brass National Cash Register (NCR) machine that adds a little something to any store.

Couple that with the fact that it came from Dayton, Ohio – close to the old country for us. It’s something of a connection across distance and time that is nice to contemplate. Clearly there will be some restoration work required and that could be fun too.

If it’s not this one, we’ll find another. But it’s certainly worth a look and the price is “right.”

Quick Store Update

February 13th, 2012 | Mike

Example of furniture we're considering for the store

We managed a little time inside the shop over the weekend. The remodel is going well with the framing nearly finished in advance of putting up the dry wall. We needed to get the top areas of the space enclosed due to the nature of the building to make the space possible to heat. When talking with the owner, it appears this was an organically grown building starting as an office for a lumber yard and then getting bits and bobs added on over time.

The store next door is essentially a box built inside the building which works for them (high end furniture.) We like the high ceilings and want to preserve that loftiness while making the space weather tight. It’s an interesting set of tradeoffs and the owner has been fabulous in working with us to shape the space as we envision.

On the product front, we now have 5 products that we are developing (prototypes at this point.) We have sources established for most of the other products we’d like to carry as well, though the variation is great in suppliers. We’re hoping the San Francisco Gift Fair this coming weekend will help us establish more stable relationships with a number of those suppliers and provide some additional ideas.

On the fixture front, we’ve got one cabinet that is being sanded and refinished in the garage right now. There are a few other pieces we’re working through with a local collector. We hope to outfit the balance of the store with a local artisan who creates distinct pieces from salvaged material.

It’s going to be a busy week!

The new test tubes are here!

February 11th, 2012 | Mike

Test Tubes for my Evil Experiment

I felt like Navin R. Johnson when he shouted “The new phone book’s here! The new phone book’s here!” when I saw the package of test tubes yesterday.

But seriously, we’re in the midst of some experimentation for the products for the store as well as getting the physical plant up to snuff. Thus, I came home to 1,000 12x75mm borosilicate test tubes.

Right now, we’re planning up to 6 products that we design and produce for sale in the new venture (along with many others we procure and resell.) Given that we’re aiming for a May/June opening, product development needs to be progressing at a healthy pace. So, we’re putting a few ideas together and testing them out to see if they work with our target markets.

It’s very exciting having innovation manifest in a physical medium. I’ve lived so much of my career in my head, that it constitutes a refreshing change for the better. As we progress a little further, I’m looking forward to sharing the core concept, the name, and the links to the online components of the project.

Stay tuned.

Remodel underway

February 8th, 2012 | Mike

Just a quick pic of the in-process work on the space. A wall has been knocked out, some of the floor work is underway. We still have a long way to go!

Store undergoing remodel

Outfitting the store

February 7th, 2012 | Mike

Terra Amico Table in San Pedro Square Market, San Jose

We’ve already established that we’re crazy for opening a bricks and mortar retail store just when everything is shifting to online en masse. So let’s let that decision go for the moment.

It turns out that it is significantly more challenging to create a distinct physical space (or as I like to call it “meat space”) and concept than one might think.

The components aren’t tough individually: find an appropriate space, retrofit the space for your concept, acquire and install fixtures and ambiance, select, test, source, and display products, install the right backend systems to operate your business, don’t forget the various business licenses and ordinances (Half Moon Bay has a 28 page ordinance pertaining just to signs for instance), acquire the right branding inclusive of domains, Twitter handles, Facebook space etc., select, hire, and train staff. Establish the right inventory controls and visibility. The list goes on.

We haven’t even started with the promotion and community involvement to give the store the right lift at take-off.

We’re ticking these things off the list one by one, and working them all in parallel. It’s a fascinating and exhilarating experience. The meat space location is coming along nicely. We’re now in fixture and product land. Had a great meeting yesterday with a local woodworking artist we would like to work with on the store, you can see his stuff in the remodeled San Pedro Square project in downtown San Jose. One of his works is in the picture top right.

Over the weekend I made a trip to Martinez, California to meet with a collector of interesting stuff. It was an old library card catalog that caught my eye but it turned out there were many other treasures to behold and consider. Between this collector and the local woodworking artist, I think we will be able to outfit the store with the right fixtures. Not just correct, but very interesting in character and supportive of the overall concept. That’s pretty exciting!

The thing that has been most interesting is in sharing our concept with people as we work to complete these tasks. The feedback has been surprisingly positive and we’ve had a reaction of “that’s the kind of store I would like to visit.” Can’t wait to complete some more of the punch list and share more progress with you along the way.

Stealth Project – Retail Style

February 1st, 2012 | Mike

Mike, are you crazy? Don’t you know this online store thing coupled with the “WalMarting” of America makes retail one of the least profitable, most risky, prone to fail business segments on the planet?

Yep.

Now that we’ve got the objections on the table about why one shouldn’t touch retail with a 10 foot pole, I’ll provide a different perspective. The proper mix of bricks and mortar with online hasn’t really been achieved and sustained. I believe that buying is a fundamentally local activity and the key is to differentiate the experience such that people WANT to visit your bricks and mortar location first.

That being said, here’s the pre-remodel of our retail space. We have some work to do…


Montara Ventures Stealth Retail Project space pre-remodel

Montara Ventures Stealth Retail Project space pre-remodel

Montara Ventures Stealth Retail Project space pre-remodel

Montara Ventures Stealth Retail Project space pre-remodel


Stay tuned, I’ll post updates about the project periodically.