Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Tale of Two Spaces

By far the most challenging task in opening a yarn store is finding a suitable space: one that is affordable, in a good location, and obviously, available.

From day one I wanted to locate my yarn shop in downtown San Rafael, which is a vibrant, thriving area filled with offices, restaurants and shops. It's only five miles from my home (gee, what a treat that will be, compared to driving 50 miles round trip to San Francisco every day as I've done for 2.5 years). The area has a diverse, funky feel that I like.

Early in my research phase, I began investigating the costs of renting a storefront. My first discovery was a wonderful space right in the heart of downtown, where all the action is. Brand-new building, large space, and oh yes, quite expensive. No thanks. My second discovery was much better: a spot on Fifth Avenue, which is one block from the main drag, Fourth Street. The prevalent line of thought is that you don't need to locate a yarn shop in a prime retail location because you don't need the foot traffic and high-visibility; yarn addicts - I mean knitters -find out where you are regardless of your location. Yarn shops are considered destination-type business. They don't rely on foot traffic. Therefore, this space on Fifth Avenue seemed perfect: one block off the main drag and it was VERY inexpensive. It's part of a bank building that the current tenants do not want to use - it used to be a walk-in ATM room. It was about 550 square feet with very high ceilings and tall windows. The disadvantage: very small and no room to grow. Oh, there was another disadvantage: the city won't allow retail in that location.

Doh!! Then why advertise it as 'office/retail space for lease'?? No one ever checked with the city until I came along. When I called the city to find out about a business license, I was informed that retail businesses are not allowed on that street. Ugh, back to the drawing board.

Fortunately things were working in my favor, because in the meantime, the owners of the first space on Fourth Street lowered their rents dramatically in order to get the vacant spaces filled. The building was built in 2002 as part of a revitalization project for San Rafael, and probably due to high rents, several of the spaces remain vacant to this day. Four space are vacant, one of which located at the back of a large courtyard. The location is great and the rent is low for that type of space. I had a hard time decided to go for it because the cost just barely fit in my budget. I felt that the foot traffic and exposure justified the greater expense, so I went for it. More to come...

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