A look at our construction schedule, and when we will open

April 16, 2010

image While the school of hard knocks is still in session, but before I forget much of what it took to get to our opening date, I wanted to share a few of the speed bumps weíve travelled across, in getting very, very close to opening the doors.

When I first decided that I really wanted to open a coffee shop last summer, the first date I worked toward was January 1, 2010.† As late as mid-October, I thought this date was possible, because I had identified the location for Echo Coffee, was negotiating the lease in earnest, started discussions with my architect, and had selected my general contractor.† The contractor said he could get it done in 60 days, and the landlord and I were largely in agreement over the terms of the lease.† However, I needed to get some approvals/clearances from the city of Scottsdale regarding the roaster, parking, and maximum square footage for the dining room.† By the time I had all of these city items squared away it was actually late November.

The next sets of delays were as a result of the holidays and getting plans ready for the city to review.† I had a fully approved and signed lease on December 20, but from mid-December to mid-January essentially no work was completed by the architect and his engineers.† I had worked with commercial architects in the past, but never on anything as complicated as this coffee shop (significantly bigger projects by square footage, but office space is comparatively easy).† Unfortunately, there were many delays caused by miscommunications between myself, the architect, and his engineers, and all of those miscommunications cost time, money, or both.

It wasnít until mid-February before we had a fully approved plan from the city of Scottsdale.† The city planners themselves were very efficient, and if I might say, enjoyable to work with.† It is obvious to me that they care about small business success, and while they donít just approve anything that lands on their desk, change requests were based on safety and city codes, and all communicated very quickly.† In working with the city, they actually helped me to clarify some of my operational business decisions.† Once again, the delays with getting the plan approved had to do with my architect and his engineers, which always seemed to take a week to get their attention.

Construction started in late February.† At the time construction started, I communicated that I needed to be open on April 9.† For me, this was a drop dead date, as I had committed to provided coffee for RE BarCamp Phoenix 2010 on April 9.† With an estimated 500 attendees, I knew I would need commercial brewing equipment in order to meet the obligation, which meant I had to have the shop operation.† My contractor said the schedule was tight, but possible, and I began publicly reporting that the shop would be open on April 10.

As April 1 arrived, it became apparent that while I had done everything I could to get the shop open by April 10, it wasnít going to happen.† Southwest Gas needed to tear into Thomas Road to connect gas to the building, and though we had completed a meeting between SWG and the City of Scottsdale, we could not get a status from them when that construction project would occur.† The landlord also needed to provide a few items, which I was having some difficulty acquiring.† Tenant Improvements for the shop were progressing at a maddening pace, but a significant snag in the way the espresso bar was set to be wired caused a 4 day slip, as the electrical drawings had to be redrawn by the engineer for the electrical contractor to proceed.

As I write this, It is now April 16, and while we are close to being able to open, I donít have a clear date when we will certainly be open to the public.† Despite evidence to the contrary, I was able to make coffee for RE BarCamp, but it took some finagling by the electricians to get me temporary power setup just for April 9.

Among the latest delays to occur just in the last 2 days:

  • APS arrived yesterday at 2:30pm, and refused to set the power meters, because a circuit break was not labeled.† I personally spoke with an APS rep over the phone about the requirements for setting the power meters.† I was told the suite door had to be labeled (it is), and that the power meter locations needed to be labeled (they are).† No mention was made of the circuit break spot.† Of course, my electrical contractor should probably know this, but itís annoying that I wasnít told by the APS rep, as if I had known I would have ensured it was done.† So power for the shop† is delayed at least a day over a label.
  • City of Scottsdale was supposed to inspect our gas line and provide a Green tag.† They havenít been seen, and we donít have a green tag.† Therefore we cannot get our gas meter, so no gas for hot water or coffee roasting.† At this time, I don’t have an ETA for that green tag.
  • Certificate of Occupancy requires the power, gas, and AC balancing (which can’t happen until the power is turned on).† We had planned to request CofO on April 19, but at best case that is now April 20.† A lot of carefully planned items are now out of plan, due to the power and gas meters not being installed on schedule.† Getting CofO on April 20 is very much in doubt.
  • A health department inspector came by today and informed my chef that we need a prep sink.† Strangely enough, we have a prep sink.† The prep sink was approved by a previous health inspector and by their plan review department.† I wasnít there at the time of the inspection, so I donít understand the issue with the prep sink.† Sadly, this type of delay has happened frequently when I canít be there at a critical decision point.† Iím sure we will work passed this problem, but it means additional effort, which translates into time, which in all likelihood translates into a further delay.

Before it looks like Iím blaming everyone else for delays, as if I were somehow perfect, I should enumerate mistakes that I know I personally made that caused delays:

  • I initially allowed the plans to locate the water heater within the kitchen.† As the kitchen was being framed I kept trying to find a way to get the water heater out of the kitchen.† It takes up 9 square feet, and given the kitchen is only 150 square feet, thatís a significant footprint within a small space.† I finally found a way to get it out of the kitchen, but it cost me a $1000 change order from the plumber, along with several days in schedule slippage.
  • I didnít provide for any place to plug in either a commercial mixer or Panini grill in the kitchen.† These items require 220 volt power, on their own circuit, requiring them to be on the plan from the engineer for the electrician to wire, for the inspector to approve.
  • Although there were numerous mistakes in the electrical drawing for the espresso bar, I never reviewed the drawing in detail myself, prior to construction.† It is so much easier to fix things on paper than it is in the field.† I watched all of the rough-ins by the electrician as the walls were framed, and all appeared to be perfect.† Then they started pulling wire, and thatís when it became evident several things were amiss.
  • The ceiling design originally included a ďcloudĒ treatment from the architect.† I didnít actually want this design element but the architect felt it was important so it was on the plan.† I told the contractor not to build it, but didnít realize all of the other things the cloud design impacted.† Notably, the way the AC ducting was noted to be installed very, very tight to the ceiling.† I wanted to the AC ducting to be suspended from the ceiling, which caused a full day of rework for the AC guy.
  • In early March I completely changed the lighting plan from the original design the architect had draw.† Reworking the lighting design took nearly two weeks.† Until the design was done, the fixtures could not be ordered, and accordingly arrived late.† Most of the light fixtures were finally installed until yesterday (April 15).† There are still a few we are waiting on (though these wonít impact our ability to get CofO).

Iím sure the list is longer, but hopefully this conveys the point.† Echo Coffee is personally my brain child.† Every aspect of how the shop looks, operates, succeeds and/or fails, will start and end with me.† Every day I relish the opportunity to have an amazingly successful day, and for the most part, Iím running around with great personal joy, as I accomplish so much with so little.† Occasionally my fallibility shows.† Sometimes in spectacular ways.

In conclusion, I donít know for sure when Echo Coffee will be open.† The phone literally just rang, and I told the lady on the line that we are working very hard to be open Wednesday, April 21.† Maybe it will be Thursday.† Maybe it will be Friday.† I really, really, really donít want it to be later than Friday.† We have 7 new employees starting work on Monday.† Two more are slated for Wednesday.† The after party for The Scottsdale Camp is scheduled to be held at Echo Coffee Friday evening.† I canít quite say ďno matter whatĒ, as the health department isnít under my control, but somehow I expect we will be open by Friday, April 24.

For those that have expressed a desire to come to the shop when we open, thanks for your patience.† Itís soonÖvery soon.

Photo Credit: wwarby


3 Responses to “A look at our construction schedule, and when we will open”

  1. Tristan Booth on April 17th, 2010 2:36 pm

    Yet another reminder of one of the many reasons I have chosen a career in academia rather than in the business world. Yikes. In any case, thanks for the detailed update. I’m one of those people who have been checking this site everyday and driving by the store now and then.

  2. Lizzy on April 20th, 2010 10:33 pm

    I can’t wait until you guys open! I live right down the street and am really excited to have a coffee shop so close by! Don’t worry about the opening date guys, it looks great so far keep up the good work ūüôā

  3. tysoncrosbie on April 21st, 2010 10:58 pm


    You’re doing a wonderful job and I’m so excited to see your shop come together!

    Just one last little bit here and then it will be production time. And I can tell you’ll be quite successful, you have the passion and the vision to make it work.