Petersburg is all about opportunity right now. The city brims with potential. All over town, airguns and hammers and drills drum a steady cacophony of progress. There are at least ten buildings I can think of off the top of my head whose owners are pouring ideas, money and sweat equity into them in the hopes of renting the bottom floor to a business and the top two or three to residents and, ultimately, creating the kind of urban vibe that makes people excited to come here.
So now I'm in that mix (as if I weren't already). I've been introduced to an opportunity to move my store from its current back alley into the commercial corridor of Sycamore Street. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it's actually kind of a tough decision. On one hand, I get approximately zero walk-up customers and no impulse shoppers at my current location. It's a full five minute discussion to explain to someone how to get to me. Sometimes, it takes multiple phone calls. There is nothing particularly special about the building, except that it does have a warm, open feel and, maybe most importantly, it's MINE. I own the building and all the sweat blood and tears I and many of my friends have poured into it. I've thrown my back out there, right there in the front flower bed. I've dug up spark plugs and light bulbs and manifolds. Beth and I painted the floor its current Ronald McDonald red.
Flip side: the guy I'd be working with to renovate the proposed Sycamore Street location TO SUIT has already been featured on HGTV's "What You Get For the Money." His sense of style and aesthetic are impeccable. And he's excited about putting together an ultra-hip book store/coffee shop/neighborhood hangout in the space. The kind of place people go to because it's cool to be seen there. The space itself is located on Sycamore Street in the Uptown section. So it's not exactly "there" yet, but it, like so much else in Petersburg, has a lot of potential. It's a few blocks removed from the bulk of the existing businesses and the Friday For the Arts crowds, but one of the city's best galleries will move there in the summer and another is projected to open next year as well. The new ice cream and snack shop just opened, a full service spa is already there, and another beautifully redone historic building waits for the right tenant in the next block.
Flop side: the parking situ is less than optimal. There is minimal onstreet parking, usually full, and only one city lot in the back to service increasing numbers of residential and commercial properties. Although my potential landlord says he's never had a problem finding parking, I have...several times. And, as far as walk-up customers, it may be jumping from the freezer to the ice tray. There is little pedestrian traffic in the area right now, partly due to limited parking and partly due to limited business to attract it. There is the pain factor and expense of moving, not to mention the minor problem of needing to sell the building I'm in first. In this economy, that may be the long pole in the tent. So I'm torn. On one hand, I see it as a great opportunity. On the other hand, I see it as yet another leap of faith. I've made so many of those in the past year, I'm starting to worry that not having a net is going to catch up to me.