Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The opening process

Well as I stated in the previous post things didn't go quite as planned.

This building in parts are nearly 100 years old, there hasn't been a whole lot of maint. done on the place throughout the years. The owners just never deemed it necessary. As I started to dig further into it the worse it got. The grocery department was where we started. I had a dumpster placed outside one of the back doors and we filled carts with out of date products, old products and products I wasn't going to sell. Well by the time we were done with that we found we didn't have much of a grocery department to speak of. Three aisles of nothing is what we had. The oldest item we found that won our little contest was a package of Pie Crust Sticks by Betty Crocker. While there was no real expiration date there was a coupon on the back with an expiration date of 1980, yeah, our jaws were dropped and I managed to hang onto the package. I'm thinking of putting it into a shadow box to hang on the wall, it will be interesting.

My sister-in-law (God bless her heart) took on my deli as her project. The 12 foot long case, the floor, the walls, the cooler door, and the counter top, and the slicer. She scrubbed from top to bottom for over a week everyday and when she was done it was like a whole new space. Everything was shinny and nearly looked new if it hadn't been for the peeling and bubling linolium. She got the case to look as if it had never been used, with the exception of the rusted metal racks that she couldn't do much about. But it never looked better. We hauled out an old dishwasher they were using as a counter top and storage for towels as it hadn't worked for some time.

The grocery department got a much needed cleaning, it took us three days to get the layers of dust removed as well as removed an entire aisle. There was a very large cooler behind the groceries that no one could ever see, with the removing of one of the aisles it opened it up and showcased the cooler. We also had to put bulbs in six of the lights which really lit the place up. The remaining lights required balast replaced and after much searching we found them at a nice price and replaced several of the ballasts to get the lights to light up again. We cleaned the carpet and had to do some major cleaning and glass replacement on the cooler in that department, but all said and done, with the truck load of stock I purchased it looked like a grocery department again. We purposly left shelves empty with signs "What would you like to see here" It was our clever way of not running out of money for stock while being productive on finding out what customers wanted.

The front room for years had housed ceramic gift items, household appliances, sewing items, kitchenware, and major appliances. We had to sort through all of it and fill boxes of clearance items (some of which I still have) and things to donate, things to keep, and things for ebay. It was a nightmare. By this time we realized we were running out of space quickly. We decided we would baricade the back half of the store and use it for storage at the moment so we could keep moving forward and get the store opened. We set up our hardware clearance department up there. We moved all the hold hardware up to the front room (with 8 new light bulbs mind you) and set it all up and priced it to move.

The hardware was another hair pulling experience. SOOOOO MUCH INVENTORY!!!!!!! It was all brand new, it was just 20 years old. We created a donation pile to donate to organization wanting donations for the first year. The rest we set up as regular stock and the rest clearance. It took a few weeks to get through that, and actually we are in the middle of doing it again.

Both of the front walk-in coolers were required to have floor tile installed to make it mopable (as if smooth concrete can't be mopped). We had to dismantle all shelving and thaw them out to get the concrete up to room temperature and install new floor tile. My friend Scott did all that, he had fun, so I let him do it. He did one hell of a job. The dairy cooler needed to be kilzed (oil based stinky primer) Scott and I did that together and boy did we get high. It's to be used in a well ventilated area, but a cooler is not really ventilated, so we took our chances. It was fun at the end, we were so high we didn't care what was happening. Then we had to reassemble all shelving and place new shelves in the dairy cooler as the other set was not up to par with the health Department.

You're probably asking yourself, what didn't go according to plan? Well the answer was this: The county health department. The conditions of the store were not acceptable anymore with a new owner and I spent many of meetings with the sanitation expert to work out the details of all the aspects of my store. It got heated, it got ugly, but it calmed down and we were able to work together. I think they were just seeing how far they could push me. The deli was approved, the coolers were finally approved, but when it came to the kitchen, we had our battles.

My plans for the kitchen were to rebuild it completely. That meant new walls (because there weren't really any to begin with) and new everything. What was meant to be an easy $1000 project turned quickly into a $3000 project, thanks to the health department. This is where the story takes a turn, but I'll get into the turn after the kitchen.

The original kitchen was a space in the back of the hardware department where several boards were placed up on end between some shelves and tables to create this "wall". There was a walk-in-cooler, a 3 bay sink, a meat saw, and a grinder. The place was filthy and it scared me from first thought. My plan was to remove everything, build the new wall, new floor application, and move the stoves and some new tables back there. Well the new wall was required to have a certain kind of finish, so we had to buy special boards, the water heater and furnace needed to be enclosed, so we had to build new walls and buy more special boards. The plumbing barely worked and we had no hand washing sink. so we had to rip the sink off and replumb the entire thing, as well as add an additional sink special for hand washing. Not to mention the furnace back there had an exhaust tube that ran to the outside wall that was not even there, it had rusted through. Lets not talk about the years of carbon monoxide poisoning that was happening there! So we had to rerun that line, we had to run all new gas lines to the furnace as well as the new stoves (that were moved back there from up front). Once we got that all completed, we used a special finish on the concrete floor to make it mopable, and had to replace the 4 foot wooden door with a 3 foot steel door. New wiring, and had to service the walk-in cooler. When that was all done the health department told me there wasn't suffient light for the space so I had to go out and buy three new fixtures and install those as well. Then I had to buy plastic tubes to cover the bulbs in case of breakage. When it was all said and done the kitchen was beautiful. At this stage in the game, it was the most beautiful room I had ever set eyes on. A COMPLETE transformation. Even the previous owners couldn't believe the amount of work that was done to that space. It was functional and clean. The health department was besides themselves with happiness.

Well with all this going on in the kitchen and the rest of the store (I didn't mention the "hardware hallway" or the office, the house, or the two restrooms in the store) I should mention the lack of help I had. All through the research part of this project everyone said how happy they would be to help out. When it came down to it here was the list: My mother, my father, my brother, my sis-in-law, my friend Scott, my then girlfriend, and my uncle marv. There were a couple of other people that were here for a day or two, but not a constant thing. I can't forget to mention my grandmother, that woman at 79 was here everyday doing whatever she could to help me, I love her to death! All while I was still full filling potato salad orders, serving random customers who wandered in through the papered glass doors, and were oblivious to it being close (hey, money is money, especially when the govermnet doesn't know about it!), and I was still working at the pizza place four nights a week. I was running myself into the grave and the deadline of two weeks slipped further and further away from me.

I made peace after we missed the two week deadline, but I was getting nervous as my first mortgage payment was due at the end of the month, and I wanted an income to pay it with. Well we settled on three weeks, then the health department called. "You can still open next week but you won't be able to serve food. We have to wait one more week before we can release any new licences, it's just bad timing" I was pissed. I distinctly remember the day. I was walking towards the back to try and calm down and I kicked a box of plastic junction boxes across the room. I just kept going, walked out back and just broke down. It seemed everytime I turned around there was something else going wrong, and I had enough. For the first time in my life my father came out after me and talked to me. He talked me back into the building and it was probably one of the most defining moments in our relationship. I thank God everyday for that moment with my father.

Well we took the extra week and finished getting the house together. The last week was a mess with Thanksgiving and the buckeye game. My family forced me to take the day off from cleaning and organizing to go to a party to watch the game. From what I can remember it was a good game, I slept alot. I was just sooo tired!!! I decided that Thanksgiving would be my day to move into the hosue. Previous years we were too busy with Dad's side of the family at noon and Mom's in the evening. But Grandma had passed we no longer spoke to Dad's side of the family so we figured it would be a good time to move.

Everytime I move it seems I've aquired so much more stuff. Year to year at college the trips were bigger and were more of them. When I finally moved to Michigan full time they packed a pull behind u-haul trailor from top to bottom, and I do mean top to bottom. When I moved to a different place in Michigan it took 6 trips in my car, 2 pick-ups and a 10 foot u-haul truck. Then when I moved from Michigan to Ohio we wanted everything in one truck, in one trip. Well I had planned on a 14 foot truck, but due to some bad planning on thier part I ended up with a 21 foot commercial moving truck. It was the biggest I could drive without a CDL. We ended up filling it. Yeah I know, it's sad that a single man has soo much stuff. But we packed all that stuff into a storage unit and now it was time to unpack it. Of course that was the thanksgiving we had a HORRIBLE ice storm. When we gathered in the morning to go get my stuff, it was 5 degrees and the roads were covered in ice. We had four trucks caravaning the 15 minutes out to my storage unit (which happened to be right next to the place where my dad's family was getting together for thanksgiving, it makes me laugh) and took six trips with the trucks and very tetris like packing to get my stuff moved into my house.

I spent the next three days unpacking and setting up my house as well as working on the store, which lucky for me were in the same building! All this led up to my opening date. Finally I opened the store on December 1rst. 2005. My first day was NOT a $12 day like Eldors it was a kind of day I was hoping for. It gave me high hopes, it was good. I had so much fun meeting all these people and hearing the stories and my favorite was listening to the people gasp at the changes. That made my day. My first customer was my mother, I knew it would be, it was 6 in the morning, and she had to have a cup of coffee. She stayed and visited a while before she left for work.

Since that day there have been many ups, many downs, and everything in between. The rest of the story I can break up into true blogs. Employees, customers, stories, neighbors, etc... it's going to be fun. It has now been 21 months and tomorrow I go to my final bankruptsy hearing. I'm hoping they don't take my store away from me, I did this to save the store and save myself. If all goes well Friday will begin a new chapter in Mohring's history, it's called the future. I'm crossing my fingers that it goes well.

I think that's it for this entry. I'm sure there will be some background stories as we go along, so until then!

1 comment:

  1. What a story!!!

    I am praying that all goes well today. :o)

    ReplyDelete