Breaking ground for new shop!

This has been a long time in the making, but we are excited to finally announce that work has begun on our new shop in NC. This is a process that began in the summer of 2019 with the purchase of 2 acres in the Appalachian foothills and now nearly a year and a half later is finally taking shape.

So, as promised, here are some of the major details that brought us to this point. Delays, some of them our fault for not being more familiar with the construction process and some of them, such as restrictions throughout the year do to; hate to even type out the word…COVID, have long delayed progress, but I digress, we are on the other side of these and moving ahead. This post will summarize the major issues and processes and will discuss more in depth points in separate post to be published later. So without delay here are the major topics and a summary of each.

Site location and zoning:

The location of the shop is colocated with where we will be living so this for us was primarily based on where we wanted to live as opposed to a function of the business. For many starting a business, where you live more than likely will predict where you conduct business. Considering online sales will be a large part of our business, and we are not entirely isolated from major towns, where the business would be physically located was not a major issue for us. What we did consider was zoning and taxes. We were lucky to find property that was “unrestricted” or “un-zoned”, neither commercial nor residential zoning restrictions applied. Being from NJ where every inch of property is zoned in some fashion this was a foreign concept for us, but we quickly accepted this and were happy to have found the location that could serve both as a shop and a home.

Financial frugality and dream home design:

As tough as this was to do, being financially frugal meant sometimes our dream design had to be reigned in. This didn’t necessarily mean we had to suffer in anyway (she still gets the walk in closet), but had to find alternatives in design or finishes to make the design fit the budget as opposed to hoping for a budget to fit the design. The two of these cannot be discussed separately in any fashion and we highly recommend you do not attempt to separate the two at any time throughout the process. From the beginning of this we tried desperately to account for every dollar spent and plan for what income we will, or will not, have when one of us stops working and goes full time into the business. Falling into an alternate reality when designing our dream home and workshop was seamless and unnoticeable until; you received the price per square foot of that dream and realized we have to essentially start over. This is definitely an area we could have streamlined saving time and money. We went into this with sketches and pictures of what we wanted thinking it would be no problem, how much could it possibly cost? A few weeks later, after an uncomfortable phone call with our architect, we decide to downsize….a lot.

With that, picking an architect who you are comfortable with and is willing to work with you, both as a designer and a sort of financial advisor, I would say is a must more than a convenience. We were lucky enough to find one in the area we are building who along the way kept us in check financially. He sent us basic numbers to work with such as estimated cost per square foot for finished spaces and unfinished, estimate for upscale finishes vs. generic builder grade, and even provided financial feedback for HVAC work. As we got closer to finalized plans he also provided recommendations for builders he has worked with along with banks willing to do construction loans (another item we knew nothing about as not all financial institutions do these types of loans). I’m not one to take recommendations likely and am a bit of a skeptic when receiving them, but this was not just one recommendation but a list for both banks and builders. After doing our research on our own we basically saw what names matched from our list and the list provided. Leading to….

Finding a builder:

This was another place where we could have streamlined and this is also the time COVID shutdowns started which made this really fun.

For the contracting process we took many trips to NC meeting builders at our lot. Each builder we had previously emailed and called multiple times to try and narrow the list the best we could as traveling wasn’t bad enough without the COVID restrictions we wanted to get the most out of each trip. Every one of the builders we met had there different ways of approaching the build, some very organized and some more apt to go with the flow. All presenting a good set of skills and traits we appreciated. For us, in the end, it was the idea of working with someone that could be flexible and change on the fly if need be. Organized to the extent we trust and know that we won’t be left out in the cold wondering what happened, but someone who can adjust with us when we decide we want to install our own flooring and paint to save money and if we decide to use reclaimed doors and light fixtures it doesn’t throw them into a fit because of the budget or subcontracting delays.

We ultimately found a builder who has been remarkable thus far. Even though we are in NJ and he is in NC he has remained in constant contact since we met this past summer, even though construction has just begun. He was not the first, or even the second builder we chose. In fact, if not for the first two builders choosing not to take on our project for one reason or another we may not have even reached out to him, but very thankful that we did and he chose to work with us.

This is a very personal process and we have found there are numerous options for both financing, builders, architects and am sure other decisions to be made as we move forward. What has worked for us is priority one; knowing our budget and where we are comfortable, not just right now, but a year, two years, five years from now. We have even planned out our retirement income and when we plan to retire to make sure this build won’t put us in a situation where we cannot live the life we planned and instead have to live the life our financial situation dictates. All other things aside speaking openly with each person we have worked with has saved us costly mistakes, unfortunately it has also lead to some delays, but those delays are minimal compared to the alternative. So patience, thorough and honest planning, and open communication have lead from what was a doodle in a notepad now becoming reality.

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