Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Bought the Building!

We own it! Welcome to the Urban Depot!

Headquarters of our Urban Grill Food Truck business and 
will serve as the Depot for the truck.
This will also become the future location of our commissary 
and who knows what other plans we may make for this space! 
Always stayed tuned!

Urban Depot - emphasis on Urban? :) We own that building next door also, to the left. Landlords!

The building was built in 1900. Great history in our City.

The brickwork inside and out is beautiful!

But like all things, it took a while and there's a story! A few stories in fact. The first story could be entitled:

How to protect the investment you're making in your food truck business?
Park inside. What if the truck is too tall for the building?

Get a different building?
Buy it if necessary?
Invest in the city which is to be the home base of our business?
Invest in the business in a more permanent way?
We did all of the above.

Urban Grill Food Truck (ugft llc.) did just that, all of the above! We felt it was important for us to park our truck indoors and sought to meet that goal almost as soon as we purchased the (stripped down gutter) truck. That led us to today. Why park inside?

We are investing in a really nice poly-vinyl wrap for the truck exterior, as most all food trucks do. It should last us a number of years. It will last years longer kept out of harsh weather whenever possible- sun/sleet/hail/ all of the above.

Next we have three (3) refrigerators on the truck. At night they'll need to be plugged in. There would be nothing stopping someone from unplugging our truck during the night in some of the outdoor locations we were first seeking. And nothing preventing someone from swiping those cords. And what happens to the food we had prepared for that day? And the people counting on us to serve them? No, too risky to rely on someone not kicking the plug out. Indoors please.

Our morning start up routine is going to be easier and more reliable if starting from a non-frozen state when the weather turns cold again next year. Being inside will keep the truck, the engine, and all the kitchen components at a more even and reliable state, all the time. 

Security. Right now the truck is our full commissary, which is great. It's set up to be that. But rather than being parked outside somewhere and working late on the truck to prep for the next day's meal, being inside your own building is a nicer 'home base' from which to work. We can't cook on our truck in the building, but can prep for the next day and that's a lot.

It's our offices for planning events and future operations and who knows what else....

Plus, did I mention? It's a damn fine building.

But, story two. What led us to find it?

This is what to do when your partner doesn't measure all the parameters 
and you're too nice to yell at her. 
Find a new building.

It starts with an exhaust fan that is just too (curse word) big, but is the right specs for the number of BTU's we are capable of generating on our full service food truck. But that exhaust fan on the top of our truck makes us a little or a lot too tall for some of the places we wanted to rent for a 'Depot' for our truck.

We had secured a great (indoor) spot to store our truck and I was working with the couple who managed this space. The nicest couple! I really wanted to work with them. The truck fit into the door per the dimensions given me. When we eventually brought our truck back to Cincinnati, after having it partially fabricated out of town and went to pull into the space.....it fit in through the doors, but NOT UNDER THE SPRINKLER SYSTEM which was completely unavoidable and was definitely lower than the door height. We were just the first vehicle to 'test the limit' and even the extremely nice building owner was not aware of the disparity. OOPS! We parked outside and punted.

But shortly thereafter there's my partner sending me links to properties. And where are the properties? They are in the downtown area, near ground central of where we plan to conduct at least some of our business. And these weren't rental properties, they are for purchase. Uh oh!

As my husband now rather famously said,, "Shouldn't you at least sell a sandwich or two before you invest again in your business?"

Um, prolly. But no, we went to check it out. We sat awhile and had some of the best pizza around at Pizza Bomba in Covington and made the decision. (Try the Brussels Sprout pizza, the best.) It only made sense to buy, not rent. And it only made sense to be so close to where things occur,  rather than outside the 275 beltway. Our originally intended space was beyond the I275 loop and especially if doing two events in one day, would be a bit of a trek if we needed to go back and forth. With a conveniently located downtown  Depot to regroup within, well that changes things! A lot. We were sold!
But wait, I haven't told you the most amazing part.....

Well first this, also my partner never yelled at me for buying such a hideously tall exhaust fan either. And he should have. It is ugly. But we've mitigated it's appearance somewhat or are working on that. But it is tall. So um, thanks Randy. Just cause we had to buy our own whole building to accommodate that, no big deal, right?

Okay, I'm showing you this photo because by now you know the truck will NOT be THIS UGLY! but the exhaust fan is this ugly. This is not where we were going to store it, this is where Randy is finishing the fabrication. The wheels had to be completely deflated, about 1,000 lbs of concrete blocks and three guys rode on the back to get it under the doorframe. I repeat the truck is NOT YELLOW in real life:

But it did fit. Oh, Randy built those lockers on the back for our propane tanks!

It's a really small world, after all!

Here's what happened. I hadn't yet mentioned to Dick that we looked at the building because of that 'sell a sandwich' comment mentioned above. It was New Years Eve and Dick and I went to dinner with our closest friends. Until the last few years we've always spent New Years with them, so this was a reunion of sorts...and I casually let it drop at dinner that Randy and I looked at a building to store our truck indoors. (I see Dick giving me 'the look' out of the corner of my eye.) And the friends ask where the buildiing is located. I gave them the street name, not a big a street. She drops her fork, he says, "no way, that's our building." And I did something I never do when dining with Bruce and Tina, I picked up my phone mid-meal and sent a text.  To Randy! I didn't know what it meant that we were dining with the owners of the building we had just determined we had to own, but I knew it meant something!

Okay, let's be clear. Most of you know me. You are wondering how I got to dinner NOT KNOWING they owned it. If I'm looking at a building I certainly know who owns it, how much they paid, what the taxes are and every other possible detail before I walk up to the front of the thing. And the answer is, this is the last piece of property of an LLC relationship they were ending and their specific name wasn't listed.

Well it turns out we had an advocate from within the selling LLC to our little purchasing LLC, and we appreciate the help, the friendship, the advice and we LOVE THE BUILDING and the NEW HOME of our little company that we can't wait to get off the ground!

It's happening soon. Randy is working night and day to finish it out. Really. It's coming.
Thanks to all of our supporters and friends and readers of this little blog. We appreciate your patience.

Thank you Bruce and Tina. Thanks Bruce for cancelling two (2) meetings in Columbus to be at the closing today, even though you didn't have to be there! You knew how important this is to us. We love you!

And all the previous mentions of Architects and architecture, are related to needing to build a rather complicated ramp system into the bulding to allow our truck to drive inside. Waiting for the city to decide they like that idea, that it meets zoning requirements, and that it is structured properly etc. was a contingency we had on our purchase agreement. (There was no point buying the building if we couldn't drive our truck into it.) We went through the whole permit process prior to closing on the property, that kept us all on our toes!!!

Thanks to the very professional Structural Engineer Bill Judd, Principal at THP Ltd. for his work toward this effort along with Dwayne Boso. We called in the big dogs and got it done.

Make the most of today, it's the only one of which any of us are guaranteed!

ugft llc.
Co-owner of Urban Grill Food Truck and Urban Depot
Along with extraordinary partner, Randy "the fabricator/welder/plumber/engineer" Reichelderfer

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

One Year Ago....

 One Year Ago....and a long way away.

So my post from last evening got me thinking about where I was exactly one year ago, because it's been quite a journey. And what I was deeply entrenched in prepared me, as it always does even when we have no idea what is coming, for what is to be.

So if you didn't read the post from yesterday:

One year ago, I was finishing up one of the most rewarding and satisfying volunteer projects I've been blessed to undertake. It was the complete demolition (walls in) and rebuild of the Sanctuary of our church. Some very fine and wise people had laid the ground work and I came onto the project about 4 months before 'D' day and saw it through for the 14 week construction period! It was a whirlwind. It included completely destructed, refinished and rebuilt pews; new paint, carpet, curtains and light fixtures; but also new wiring and new light dimmer system; additional sound and A/V capabilities; and TV monitoring capabilities from other areas of the church and a new pipe organ! One of the larger pipe organs in the Cincinnati area.

This was the third of a three phase project which when completed would makeover almost our entire church in one aspect or another. I was tangentially involved in other aspects of the other phases, particularly phase one, but for this phase I was the chair person and acting as the General Contractor. This was my second big construction project at the church. I chaired the committee when we had a major addition to our church in the late 90's early 2000. But the Sanctuary was one of those right projects at the right time things and Boom! Well you see the pictures there at the bottom of the page...seriously, what is not to like?

So what does that have to do with today? It has to do with the Building Department and people who stand by you and Dwayne Boso. One year ago, we, our church, were nearing the completion of the project. The members of the congregation who worshiped in the traditional style were displaced to Anderson High School for worship during construction. Our thanks to Anderson High School. This was not ideal, but worked. It is NOT the ideal location for Easter Services however, and as they say, "Easter is coming." (come to church if that's not familiar to you, she said gently.) We also have contemporary services which meet at our church and those met as per usual in a different part of the building. (The part built in that earlier building project.)

The project was coming to a close ON TIME and ON BUDGET for our phase, and it was time to get the inspector in there to get our Certificate of Occupancy. Since all three phases were on one permit, he had the right, the duty and as it happened, the inclination, to check out all three phases or areas. Except guess what? Those other phases had been finished for a long time, per the plan. So the people who oversaw those areas had moved on to other endeavors, as we say. My friend Roger Stone who was the project electrician, and I were there to walk the job with the very detailed inspector, answering questions and providing documentation for parts of the project in which neither of us had any involvement. "What, Mr. Inspector? You want to do a pressure test on the gas line installed in Fellowship Hall?" Hmm, was there a gas line installed in FH? (Yes, there was. We squeaked past the test.) Etc, etc, there were three things like that, we'll spare you the details. Just don't say the words "sprinkler system" to me. Yes, we had some fun. Thanks again, Roger.

And then the inspector decided he wanted something different on our phase, as in - something not on the plan. Something he is sure the Plan Examiner meant to require us to do, something which would have been ridiculous and would have stood out like a ....(I hate cliches, you know I was going to say 'sore thumb') would have stood out like putting a hand rail in the middle of our beautiful ceremonial steps in front of our chancel area, because that's what he wanted.

(this is a lot of words)
There are photos coming...

That doesn't sound so crazy but it just would have looked awful and would get in the way. (we have steps with handrails along the sides of the chancel area.) But we/he couldn't ask the Plan Examiner her intentions because she only works part time and she is off until next Monday, and guess what week we are into now? The week before Easter.

So if we have to get handrails they must
  • be designed
  • the design would have to be approved by the Plan Examiner (who works part-time)
  • rails built (or purchased)
  • installed
  • inspected (and the inspector was going out of town, because alas!, it's spring break)
  • then the certificate of occupancy approved!
Oh! Did I mention, that if we didn't get our certificate of occupancy, the temporary one expired? Then NOBODY could worship in the building, traditional or contemporary! Whoa. Did I mention Easter is coming?  And we have an accredited Pre-school on site and they lose their accreditation without the Certificate of Occupancy, because the temporary expires. No Pressure.
A person who is there when needed.
But then, you have people who stand by you.  This photo will look familiar if you read the previous blog post. We got through the rigamarole. We successfully talked our way through not needing the handrail at our ceremonial steps. Really, I made the calls, with Dwayne coaching me at every juncture. He was ready to step in, but we decided to let the process unfold naturally, the outcome was important not just for our church but for other churches MSA was working on also. We worked through the Building Inspector with whom I had a good relationship and eventually in the 11th hour, got the word we did not need that hand rail!!! Amen!

And in the 11th hour it was that guy, photo on the right, Dwayne Boso RA, who after talking me through the whole handrail process, stayed on the phone with me as I drove downtown minutes before the county Building Department closed to make sure I got there, got a parking spot and I made it into the office to pick up that certificate of occupancy!

Most at church don't know how close we were to having (actually Palm Sunday) services back in the High School where they were sure they were finished worshiping. We'd moved our furniture out of the school and started moving back into the church. But Dwayne sweated that process out with me and cheered with me as I rode back down the elevator, hard fought COO in hand! My prize possession. With the help of a good friend!

AHUMC Sanctuary, my most rewarding project. Photos before, during and after:
We call this "Methodist Blue" I hope not to ever see it again...
Obviously 'during' and still blue....
A transformation is beginning. Ahhh! The newly refinished pews are being reinstalled!

The finished product minus the piano and organ console, chairs and other chancel adornments!

This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday, making one year of worship services, a few too many funeral services and some beautiful weddings in the newly renovated Sanctuary!

Thanks to all who participated.
Here are a few who stood out in addition to the aforementioned architect!
Here's that electrician who stood by during two really really intense inspections, plus the fine electrical work...:

Roger Stone - you are the best!
The best woodworker/furniture restorer in Ohio! He and his crew made our pews look brand new again, plus many other projects throughout..paint, ceilings and a great sound booth to name a few:
Pat Blank, Ridgeton Restoration

JFed. Church Admin. Came over to the project daily for the express purpose of making me laugh. He literally saved me last March! Thanks Jerry!
Editor Add-in:
I'd be remiss (rather, I was remiss) in omitting our ringleader who oversaw all of the building project. I don't have a photo from the project, but here's one from when some of us went to Europe the summer prior:
Chris Gremban, ringleader. On train going up into Swiss Alps!

And as I said previously, we move on.
But it's a nice trip down memory lane. Those antics with the Building Department came in handy this week and the last few weeks. I'm no longer unfamiliar with procedure and the ins and outs of the offices of the civil servants downtown. Maybe all that was in prep for this? No doubt. More later.

Make the most of today, you never know what it's preparing you for tomorrow, and nothing is guaranteed. (Changed it on ya!)

Peace to you!
ugft llc.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


...it can be so interesting!
Photo credit: Stuart Hyde Photography
I really enjoy this pattern of bricks on this building built in 1900. 
Don't you find it beautiful and well maintained for a building
which was built over 110 years ago?

  The pattern repeats all the way around the building.
The inside of this building is completely lined with glazed brick. Wow! 
They just don't build buildings like that these days...

While we are appreciating architecture we should take a
moment and appreciate architects, right? 
Randy and I would like to sincerely thank Dwayne Boso, from MSA, 
The best architect from the best architectural firm in Cincinnati, 
Without whom we would not be having our quiet celebration before making any big announcements. 
So Dwayne thanks for coming through in a big way. 
We appreciate you!!

We appreciate all the other professionals with whom we've worked recently who certainly know their stuff and make doing business in this city a much easier and more pleasant endeavor.

Seriously, we'll get around to explaining why we are appreciating architecture and this particular architect. But for now, just enjoy the pretty brick patterns.....

And remember, make the most of today, it's the only one of which you, and I, are guaranteed. Seriously.

ugft, llc.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Sisters come in many forms....

...And sometimes when or where you least expect?
(Disclaimer: NOT a food truck blog post)

I wasn't looking for a sister. I have three. Three great sisters. Thank you. I have a few "best friends" also. And I have a fairly busy life, that's why I needed some help around my house.

I met her through Debbie, who may have met her through Lynne, maybe. We just know that Debbie, Lynne and I have, among other things in common, we have knowing her in common.

But somehow Sheila seemed to have a special place in my heart and home and was still helping out in my household up until...

Well it started like this. Sheila came to work for me, and she did okay at what she did. Here is where she excelled. Sheila brought sunshine, light and energy with her every other Friday when her beat up old car chugged it's way into our driveway, barely making it up the hill and seemingly having almost as much difficulty getting down the hill at the end of the day. But in the meantime, we had some fun. We shared some laughs, caught each other up on our lives, exchanged thoughts on some current events and we shared more than a few confidences. We laughed together and cried a little too over the years.

Sheila was only supposed to be in my home temporarily. But when it came time for her to leave and the original person to come back, I couldn't do it. We wanted Sheila to be in our home, she had made a place in our hearts and we didn't want to change it. We asked her to stay. She said yes.

I've had some ups and downs over the last couple of years, and Sheila wouldn't let me gloss over any one of them. She wanted to stand with me through it all. She was my defender, listening ear, sounding board, and she knows a few secrets too. Sheila's got the goods on me. I knew I could trust her with that. She didn't just listen and forget either, two weeks later she'd want to know how whatever I was working on, talking about, or about to do, went. Sometimes she'd call me in between her visits just to find out how something was going.

When I shared about my family she'd go to my office and get my photos of my sisters and tie the story back to which sister it was or to which sister my niece or nephew belonged. She cared about my family, my trials and my life.

She called me 'sis.' I love her just like a sister, too.

And she never left my home without a hug and kiss goodbye, for each of us! She loved our family, showing interest in all of us and doted on Eliot, always! She exuded warmth, love and enthusiasm, for us, for life, for fun! She had a good heart. All the time.

You've picked up on the past tense, right? I don't know what set of circumstances brought us to where we are today. I'm not going to speculate or take a stab at explaining. I just know that Friday two weeks ago, Sheila didn't come and I knew that was a problem. I mean yes, it could be a car problem, but something told me it wasn't. I didn't find out until the next day where to find her....

Some chain of events occurred which rendered our Sheila unresponsive and a life squad was called. She was taken to the ER.,  eventually Intensive Care. Her real, life-long, loving sister Donna, who lives in Indianapolis had to get that call which no loved one ever wants to get. Donna drove down here with no answers and still lacks some answers, but has been by Sheila's side, or close by, since getting the terrible news.

We are taking solace today that Donna has had a chance to spend time with Sheila, though still unconscious, before Sheila is no longer with us. I've gotten to know Donna and she, me. Before we'd only heard about one another and now we know what Sheila says is true, we really are a lot alike. The sister she pretended was her sister, and the one who really is. And we are united, as are others who are visiting, supporting and encouraging Donna, we just want the best for Sheila in this transition. Nobody wants to see her suffer.

As far as unanswered questions, because we are a lot alike, my guess is Donna will seek to get a few answers. But then I pray she lets it go and holds on to memories of the Sheila who brought sunshine and love into many households, not just mine, and holds onto the happier memories of Sheila.

And above all, I hope Donna remembers that she did the very best any loving family member would and could do. She stood by Sheila making the very best decisions possible with the information available, and showed graciousness and kindness to all, but only made decisions which were the right ones for their family. That is a tough job for anyone to do, Donna shouldered it almost alone. She'll say she had support, and she did have some. But the mantle rested on Donna's shoulders. She can hold her head up knowing she stood by her sister and didn't waiver in her loyalty or her care for her, ever. I'm grateful Sheila has a sister like Donna.

Sheila passed this evening, as I was writing this post.

Much love to my 'sister' Sheila, and to her natural sister, Donna.

My traditional blog ending is never more apt:
Make the most of today, it is the ONLY one of which you, and I, are guaranteed!