Peep Show II

It's cold outside and Spring in Portland is announcing Her presence with a flurry of combative weather patterns. When we awoke it was sunny, causing me to look outside of our bedroom window down to our newly planted succulent garden and sigh with a smile, knowing today will be another prime gardening day. After the collapse of our last lease proposal we have been distracting ourselves with tending to our garden. Nonexistent before we have happily occupied ourselves for the past three days with selecting various grasses, succulents, and yuccas for both our front and back yards and this early morning the sunshine has me inspired. But by the time the tea kettle boils dark clouds begin to roll in and carpet the sunshine in dimness so uninviting even the outdoors seem claustrophobic. Defeated, I remove my gardening clogs, steep my peppermint tea, and sit down at the computer to check our email. I am pleased to discover our 3 o’clock appointment cancelled on us, which allows me to write an email to Anne, the owner of the SE 12th space and make an appointment. We settle on 4 pm and Evan and I begin our day. I’m craving eggs benedict and convince Evan we should go to Milo’s City Café for brunch. A one time regular spot for our families for mid-day breakfasts, birthday parties, and salmon hash and hot chocolate cravings, I realize it’s been over a year since we’ve last been there.
Ev devours: A hot portabella sandwich with roasted bell pepper, provolone, and pesto mayo, grilled on sourdough with a cup of creamy Hungarian mushroom soup.
I feed my belly: Eggs Florentine prepared with plenty of perfectly cooked spinach, beautiful tomatoes, Spring’s best green onions and I make the decision to splurge for avocado. One word: D-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s.

Three hours and a long nap (otherwise known as a food coma) later we are on our way to meet Anne Hughes, the former owner and operator of Anne Hughes’ Kitchen Table Café. Anne informs us that while she loved her coffee shop in Portland’s famous Powell’s Bookstore as well as her café, she dreams of moving to France. Consequently, she used her cafe as bait on Craigslist and waits to see what her line will catch. The inside of the space we like almost as much as the outside. Warmly stained walls, existing plumbing and electrical, unique architectural features, and a built-in counter are some of the highlights. Naturally, there are some drawbacks: the floor is a soft brick color, a laminate that unfortunately has some dark black stains, presumably from the wear and tear of former tables; built in the 1800’s the space suffers from a considerable draft, immediately making us concerned about insulation and potential inflated heating bills; the one ADA bathroom is a bit outdated and runs the possibility that we would have to install another one given the square footage of the front of house; the basement, while available for storage is only accessible by a questionable staircase. Given the existing extravagant cost per sq. ft. of the space and our budget all of these “flaws” register as dollar signs in our minds, forcing us to consider what the true cost of this space may be. We are disappointed to learn that Anne is reluctant to make any Tenant Improvements despite the fact that she is the only landlord we’ve met thus far who has declined. She is adamant that the space could easily be transformed into an office without a hitch and that any TIs would be the responsibility of the lessee.

Upon seeing the space we know it would be a good fit. We love the colorful history of the building, its accessibility, and its proximity to a great up and coming neighborhood. The build-out would be minimal, and a move-in would require little more than a good dusting, and a little TLC. However, the fact of the matter is that the space given its needed renovations, its potential costly utility bills, and the cost per sq. ft. is out of our price range. Nonetheless, we are tempted and are crunching the numbers to see if there is any way we could make this work. Aware that timing is of the essence in situations such as this, as old historic buildings are some of the most desired commercial listings, we plan on making up another proposal, but fully conscious that what we can offer will be far below the asking price.
We’ve found this part of the process unnatural and a little awkward. We realize we are playing on an unfamiliar teeter-totter, aiming to find balance between selling ourselves, our knowledge, and our craft while simultaneously asking for a stranger to invest in our dreams and share our vision with a similar compassion and enthusiasm. I must admit that there have been a few times during these developments where I have felt defeated and exhausted, missing the simplicity of being able to do what I want to do, how I want to do it, when I want to do it. I miss being able to work outside at the Farmers Market, I miss serving up big wedges of piping hot bread puddings, and I miss the rush of delivering custom crafted salads to a power business meeting. But…(and there is ALWAYS a but)…I know this will all come full circle. We will eventually have our space where I can freely spread lemon pesto on crusty bread, a space filled with fresh picked flowers from the Market, a space where our local community gathers to discuss everything from what they’re composting to that new film they just saw, a space where sunlight gathers in pools across the floors, and a space that we can affectionately call our second home. Until then we make appointments to see spaces, make proposals, hold our breaths, and wait…


Unknown said...

Your writing never ceases to amaze me - you have a gift for conjuring images. Thank you for sharing this gift with those of us with leaden tongues and less than nimble paws.

Ali and Evan said...

We live to tell...:)

Tim D. Roth said...

It seems as though this entire process is quite stressful and I wanted to congratulate you on handling it so well. I really hope you find the space that will allow you to do what you do best. I missed your food at farmer's market on Saturday, as I got a last minute call to come work. However, Perfect Day are still there to hold my hunger in check with their delicious breakfast burritos. But still, it's not Green and Green. I'm hoping you find your space soon not only for your sanity and fulfillment of your dreams, but also so I can sample more of your eclectic, scrumptious wares.

Anonymous said...

Whoa! Talk about 'full disclosure! Well, how else are we gonna know the impact of your experiences. Thanks for another delightful post.

We ALL want to eat in your restaurant, enjoy a space of your creation and share the warmth that your 'comfort food' will spread, bye-and-bye.