Sunday, April 6, 2008

Not Building A Bakery (Yet), On The Road Again

It's been about six weeks since I arrived in Texas City. My stay was a bit longer than I had anticipated. Much of my stay was focused on my sister's bakery. The plan was to convert my sister's garage into a cake and cookie bakery. During the first half of my stay I was getting up every day, going to work at my sister's place, and returning to my mom's at the day's end. The first big task was to build a shed and move the stuff in the garage into it. Next big task was gutting the garage interior. Work progressed faster than I had thought it would.

Once the garage was gutted we were ready to start on the utilities work. The electrical system for the house needed an upgrade so it could handle the additional power requirements of the bakery. It was then that we got some bad news. The city's electrical inspector would not issue a permit for the work that was needed. My sister had spoken to the government officials some time back about the project. The person she had talked to, who was in the health department (and is now retired), had given a verbal okay for the project. Turns out he shouldn't have given the approval. The electrical inspector wouldn't permit the work on the grounds of zoning laws. After a brief meeting with the city officials they gave us a unanimous "no."

We moved from denial to acceptance in record time, then began looking for commercial properties which would be in compliance with the zoning laws. We found an ideal building that's pretty much ready to go. All we'd have to do is move in the capital equipment. The seller also seems to be eager to get rid of the property. A financial analysis, however, showed that the operating costs would be significantly higher at the commercial property than they would have been had we kept to the original plan. At current sales volumes we'd have a difficult time covering the operating costs. So, our focus moved towards increasing sales through marketing. The marketing effort seems to be paying off, but it's clear that it will take greater sales (about 50% more) to hit the point where the business will be self sustaining at the commercial location. For now, the bakery continues to operate out of my sister's kitchen, and the commercial property remains available.

If nothing else, the bakery project has been a good learning experience. No doubt we would do some things differently if we were starting the project all over again. Like riding a bike, it seems you have to fall a few times before you figure it out. The injuries could have been worse, as we hadn't taken deliveries on the construction materials or the capital equipment and we were able to cancel the orders. Hopefully I'll be returning soon to acquire the commercial property. My sister is certainly determined. Stubbornness seems to run in the family. I think given our financial resources we've made a good marketing effort (more learnings there also), but it will take some time to see if the sales consistently come in.

Other than the bakery, I've spent time with Ann (she dropped in for a long weekend shortly after my arrival), my sister's kids and some old high school friends. Towards the end of March TO, one of my old high school buddies, came down from Colorado for a long weekend. I hooked up with him and Elmo at a beach house for one night. It felt like the past 20 years had suddenly been erased. The reunion reminded me of why it's probably best both for ourselves and the local population that we remain separated by a few thousand miles. I don't know what aspects of our individual personalities causes it, but when the three of us get together it's typically lead to trouble. Even now our parents tell us to "Be careful" when they know we're going to be together. Thankfully, it was only one night. Had it been a whole week the Buffalo would now be a diving wreck in the Gulf of Mexico, a nice house would be ruined, and a boat that belongs to none of us would never have been seen again.

Towards the end of my stay I entered some photos from my trip in a local art festival. A photo from the North Cascades won first prize, so I stayed a little longer than I'd been planning in order to attend opening night of the festival (and collect the prize money). The festival's still going on, but I've been living the civilized life for too long. The Buffalo beckons. Time to saddle up again and continue El Viaje. I'll be heading back into Mexico. I'm planning on visiting relatives in Monterrey and Mexico City, and hope to get some backpacking and climbing in as well.

I'll miss my family and friends in Texas City. I've spent more time with my mom than I have since my summer vacations during my college days. I've always admired my mom's attitude towards life, and that admiration only grew during my stay. I've slowly realized over the years how much of that attitude has been transferred to me.

The photo at the top is from a bike ride I went on with my niece and nephew. During our ride we encountered the trail hazard seen in the bottom left of the photo. I was tempted to bunny hop it, but poked it with a stick instead. We beat a rapid retreat when it snarled at us.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Yo Vic. Just thought I'd leave a comment to let you know us working stiffs are reading your blog.

Let me know when you're back in the Pac NW. Let's hit Mt Rainier!


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