If you live in Eden, chances are you saw change happening on Washington Street during the past year. Vacant buildings that you drove past, sporting faded "For Sale" signs in their windows, became a common view. I too drove past these buildings for four years on the way to my first studio never once considering them to be my future home. It's funny how things have a tendency to work out and when they received a coat of paint, the lightbulb finally went off.
While I loved my first studio, I yearned for a place that was mine. One that I owned instead of rented. That I could invest in, and grow with. I had been looking at properties for sale since 2015 but when viewing in person, nothing seemed to "fit." Being a small business, in a small town, it was challenging to find the space I needed, with a doable price incorporating the sale of the properties and any construction that I would need to do to make it accommodate my business.
In the summer of 2016, I requested to meet with the current owners of 617, 619 and 621 Washington Street and view these three properties on Washington Street. I will never forget the feeling that I had when I walked into this space. I knew in my heart this was it. Looking back at the drop ceiling, uneven concrete floors, and the rotting wood, I must have been like the mother who thinks her child is the prettiest baby to have ever been born because I looked past every flaw, and every challenge, and knew this was going to be my new home.
The benefit of working on vacant buildings, was that they were essentially wide open space, divided only by two interior walls that ran their length. I made my list of "must-haves" that I needed in the studio, and the dimensions that I was use to from my current studio, and met with a construction company to draw out plans for the space.
Being a highly visual, hands on person, I studied these drawings for WEEKS. I took them everywhere I went. I pulled them out on the bed at night and opened them up in the buildings and walked every square foot of the unfinished space trying to determine if this was right for me. These crinkled papers still have a place in my storage room in the new studio. One day I hope to print them nicer and frame them, but there's also a bit a memories linked to the crinkled pages which make them a little more special. We made changes, some minor, some major, such as adding a salon halfway through construction. Never doubt those ideas that pop in your mind at 3am and keep you awake for hours!
Seeing the walls go up was definitely one of the most memorable moments of this process. My ideas, my layout, my studio moved from paper to real life. No matter how stressed I was with continuing to run my business, pulling financial statements for business loans to cover this process, managing a home with three small children (thank goodness for a husband who doesn't mind helping any way possible), and running construction, I could walk down the street and into these doors and immediately find peace. It was happening. And then devastation hit.
I'm sure people who do major renovation projects all of the time are use to snags along the way. However, when I walked into the properties midway through construction and saw standing water from the back of the buildings almost to the front door my heart dropped. I knew water was an issue in these buildings from the beginning, but we had sealed the exterior wall where we thought water was entering. My first thought was, how do we stop this water, and my second thought was, how much of this construction will have to be redone due to the water damage. I went back to the buildings at night with my cell phone flashlight to walk through again to see if I could get any clarity. In complete honesty, I walked away from those buildings that night convinced that the studio was not going to come to fruition. There was too much damage, there was no way to stop this from happening every time it rained, there was just too much work to be done, too costly. The negative thoughts would not stop and I went to sleep devastated.
Anyone that knows me fairly well, knows that I do not take "no" lightly. I'm a "fixer", a problem-solver, and I woke with more ambition than I think I have ever had for anything in my entire life. I was determined not to give up on these buildings and in turn my studio. Long story short, the buildings were flooding due to ground water. A complete interior french drain system had to be installed within the foundation of the building. It was costly, it slowed construction down, and things had to be redone, but it was fixed.
With the water issue resolved, interior construction was able to move forward and we began focusing on the exterior of the buildings and what we wanted to do. I decided that a wooden facade built out across all three buildings would tie the properties together and make for a more cohesive look. It was also time to decide on color!
I had been a little superstitious about the new studio from the beginning. I didn't talk to many people about the fact that we would likely be moving within the year. There was no celebration when construction started. I didn't buy ANYTHING for the new space or design room layouts, etc. If you have a perfectionist in your circle, you know the fear of failure is real. After the flood, I wanted to make sure this was 100% going to happen before I made it public. This in turn meant, the day before we moved in, I rented a cargo van, drove two hours away in Charlotte, and spent over 12 hours shopping for storage and or other items that we needed.
I decided to jump in with both feet and on September 30th, with the help of family and friends, we loaded my entire studio and moved to 619 Washington Street and opened our doors on October 1, 2017. We scheduled shoots and proofing appointments while we unpacked and are so appreciative for all of the clients who had to "pardon our mess." We worked for a little over 1 month getting the studio ready before our ribbon cutting and open house on November 16th and 17th. Fall and Christmas are defined at our studio as "Crazy Season", and for good reason, so it was a miracle we all survived the last three months of 2017.
I still have a list of to-dos. I ordered more display frames and portraits this morning to fill some of the remaining blank walls, and my husband even made a little stop in Charlotte today for a few additional lighting elements that were needed in The Salon. I'm sure there will always be work to be done, but at least we have a beautiful space to do it in.
If you haven't had a chance to tour the studio in person, feel free to stop in anytime. I'm still that proud mama who loves to show off her new "baby."