Proofing Stage

Placemaking in the Era of Ghost Kitchens

January 17, 2024 Joan Kanner, Michelle Bond, Amanda Schwarz Season 1 Episode 5
Proofing Stage
Placemaking in the Era of Ghost Kitchens
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

It's 2019 and Bottoms Up Bagels (BUB) is feeling the pinch of increased overhead while working with a limited business model - relying on pop ups, catering and wholesale without everyday direct-to-customer sales opportunities. The wheels are set in motion though, and the dream of production meeting retail in BUB's first brick and mortar is on its way to being realized. 

At this, our halfway point of Season 1, Amanda follows Joan and Michelle through the early stages of locating a space for the future home of their business, and digs into the balance between finding fertile ground, making space in your community for beautiful things to happen, and what it takes to even get to the starting line. 


Episode 5 also breaks down some terms we've been tossing around:

  • Land Banking
  • BUB Roadshow
  • BUB Hub beta

We then get into the nitty gritty of:

  • Moving from a shared kitchen to a shop of our own
  • What it takes to find a space: the timeline is no joke
  • We answer the "Why Harwood?" question
  • ADA compliance and the importance of making spaces accessible
  • National Main Streets programs
  • Open production: theatrical yet transparent
  • How yesterday's bagels are simply not. a. thing.
  • Building the Proofing Stage community - we want to hear from you!

CW: Adult language

Links:

Main Street America
Placemaking in the Era of Ghost Kitchens, BBGA Fall 2021


Theme music by Thorn Haze
Artwork by Lisa Orye

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Amanda: The views and opinions expressed on this podcast are our own. The pod also contains explicit language and occasional references to mature content and themes. To review our full notice and disclaimer, please visit our website at proofingstage. com. I'm Amanda Schwarz. 

Joan: I'm Joan Kanner. 

Michelle: I'm Michelle Bond.

Amanda: And this is Proofing Stage.

Michelle: Episode Five, Placemaking in the Era of Ghost Kitchens.

Amanda: To get things started, as an audience member myself, I realized there are a couple of terms you've been kicking around that some of us here may not be familiar with. The three that come to mind are Land Banking, BUB Hub Beta, and Roadshow. Can you tell us more? Let's start with land banking. 

Joan: Land banking is something I only learned when I moved to Baltimore.

Granted, I've been in Baltimore now for nearly 20 years. So, there we go. It is when a person or a company will purchase a number of properties and sit on them. That's more of like a colorful definition to it or adding some color to what usually happens. You'll sit on them. Michelle and I have been around, uh, property developers and other folks who are land bankers who will say that they are waiting for the quote unquote right customer or that they have a vision for an area.

And yet they do not do things to improve said spaces that may make them attractive for people to rent. And I will say purchase, although it is highly unlikely that they want to give up those properties to purchase. We have also, uh, mentioned on the pod that there's, um, for example, there's like one person who owns a bunch of properties in the Waverly neighborhood of Baltimore, which is where Michelle and I live and spend a lot of time.

And it was only recently that thanks to some basically city- esque development places that have money for small business that a business owner was able to purchase a property and extract it from one of these land bankers who did not improve it, the property. So he, he still won, right? I mean, he made a bunch of money for not doing anything, for just sitting on a property.

I think there's a whole other conversation that may not belong on this podcast about vacants and the associated fines when it comes to vacants that kind of push landlords to - or land bankers in this case - to update those properties and get them to improve neighborhoods. And that's something that, uh, our council persons were working on, uh, in depth in the city and other people are trying to shake loose some of these properties.

But generally, I think a land bank is just, I buy up a bunch of shit, I sit on the properties, and wait for my time to capitalize on renters, most likely having the renters build out the space. But, I, I'm quite sure there's also a definition of land banking that's more neutral, of just like, You buy the land. It's an investment. It's more than one. But I can only associate with the negative connotation that I just talked about. 

Michelle: It happens everywhere. Having done work with Habitat for Humanity and, and, uh, in upstate New York and other places. I mean, it's not, this is, again, very common, uh, in that, you know, buying property, sitting on it, not making improvements, uh, having tenants make those improvements.

Um, so that you can obviously keep more of your money. I mean, that's, that's the way it works. And in some cases, that, like, if the timing is right and, and there's a working relationship, I think it can be a win win for neighborhoods and for these property owners. But most type, most times, um, there's just, they're just sitting without any impetus for improvement.

Um, and. Thereby also, uh, clogging up, you know, what's, what's available for people who are actually ready to move and make something happen. Um, that's one of the things that also happened in our case. It's like we ended up a little bit farther south than we were going to be to begin with, because there were no properties that were available, um, by the time that we were ready to make that move, so.

Amanda: You talk a lot about BUB Hub beta. Um, I was wondering, first of all, what is, well, what is BUB Hub beta? And then what would you consider BUB Hub alpha if there's a beta? 

Joan: Oh, I don't even know if there was like an alpha. It's certainly not me personality wise. Oh, you mean the space? That's for sure. I'm just passive, passive, passive, compliant, compliant. I think that actually may be on my shirt too. 

Amanda: Let's see. "Nasty, uppity, radical, angry, and noncompliant." That's delightful. That just sounds like you're a delight. I have a shirt that says, "as far as I know, I'm delightful," and it just seems like it goes right with your shirt. 

Joan: Totally. It's like, until you try to debunk that, and even then I substitute your reality with my own.

Amanda: All that matters. 

Joan: So when it comes to, and like, having like, done the whole app creation thing with Fugue, that's where I'm using things like beta, and I understand like, you're using alpha for the same reasons, given your experience, but we were in different spaces, as folks may know at this point in our story, and then we were in the shared kitchen, and then we wanted to have, um, a space in which, like, with the initial BUB Hubs, in other words, like a a place where we produce and sell.

And B. U. B., Bottoms Up Bagels, great acronym to have B. U. B. and then "Hub" where our sales go out of, where production happens, where delivery happens out of BUB and Hub. seem to make sense for us. And we definitely wanted to call it beta because we just saw as being like the first of many, as like a prototype, as like one way of having the shop look.

I'm asking Michelle - am I missing anything? 

Michelle: No, yeah, so when we refer to BUB Hub Beta, it's, it's the BUB Hub, which is, was our shop on Greenmount Avenue for a few years and essentially the first of an open production space where retail meets open production was always the vision for Bottoms Up Bagels, brick and mortar.

And so BUB Hubs, that's what we call them and BUB Hub Beta was the first of those. 

Joan: And our vision for that certainly drove which structures that we were looking for and how we envisioned build out. 

Michelle: Yeah. 100%. 

Amanda: When you talk about the Roadshow, I'm interested in what the roadshow is and also how it relates to BUB Hub Beta.

Joan: It precedes it by a bit of time, actually. And I did sneak in a video about the roadshow in the show notes for episode three because we, uh, reference it there. So this may not be new to people but our vision for market expansion was never going to be looking at some of the static data that major chains look at when it comes to places either purchase or to rent or set up a new I'll just use these examples like a Popeye's chicken or an In N Out burger or a McDonald's or Wendy's like you name it Dunkin Donuts, in which case you do care about how many cars per minute - or how many cars per day, I should say - drive past the place.

And there's other economic drivers that you may have in mind based on the trim or how your restaurant or concept is. You're looking at different data points. And we want to have a different way of approaching things, which we will definitely unpack even further in the Roadshow- specific episode, but we thought it would make a lot of an intro... in very short:

For us, it makes more sense to grow over planted, but also first go where you're wanted. Which we'll be saying a lot and explaining more what that means and looking at market expansion. And learning about different communities from a different, very different lens than typically is done in the corporate landscape.

So our data includes how active communities are, um, when we meet with stakeholders, both private, city, and otherwise. Do they see a niche for what we do? Do they see a place for us? What are the ways that they help bring in businesses? What do they hope for the business? Do they care about their community?

Is there an investment in green spaces? Is it walkable? All these different things that uh, would make it easier also for us - it's not giving away too much - is for staff. I mean, what if you can, like, walk to work? What if transit was easier to get to? Do you have a saturation of big old businesses? Does it matter?

You know, sometimes the places that we end up going to didn't have that many places. Sometimes they did, and they were like corporate chains. With BUB, we never expect to feed and please everyone, that's not a problem for us. So every different, it's very different, um, every community is like where we, why we may fit in or not.

But we decided to, versus just doing the data and saying, "Hey, can we rent a place? Can we build some place out?" We would prefer to go there, not do a food truck, which is what people always assume that we have or would need. But you can't prep in a food truck, to the extent that we would need to. You can't have - I have no idea how many speed racks full of dough - that you're boiling and baking on a food truck. It would be massive. 

There's a physical barrier to interacting with the customers in a food truck, and you'd be very much isolated. That can work for the circus. That's totally cool. That's a great subculture. Fascinated by it. That's not us. 

Michelle: Yeah, so Bottoms Up Bagels Roadshow is literally taking our whole operation on the road to test our concept in different cities, or towns, really, across the country. And doing it in a different way, doing it in partnership with local organizations, businesses, nonprofits, and having more of a, an opportunity to interact with people on a deeper level. Uh, certainly short term, but not just a chance to sell our product, but a chance to see if it's a good fit for a future location for the business.

Joan: Because with the corporate places, it's like they decide where they want to go without really asking the community what they may want or need. And per our Karmic Messenger concept, listeners may already know that like we also care about being bidirectional in terms of what you want and need and like where our needs and wants can fit in with that.

And can we bridge something and make something different. And that also, I feel like, helps with the longevity of something.

Amanda: Well, first, thank you. Now that we've got that covered, let's work back to your experience finding the right place for your first brick and mortar location, Bottoms Up Bagels' BUB Hub Beta. 

Joan: Through this whole process, we were producing and selling the whole time. So just keep in mind, we had staff, we had orders, we had events that we were doing, we were still in that shared kitchen, we were still getting up early, we were still making the business decisions in the day to day for the business, and we were still looking for space.

Amanda: When you're, if you were to break that up into percentages, I mean, just vaguely, vaguely. And it's probably, I probably.  Asking such, I mean, I'm asking for conceptually. I'm sure, Joan is taking this literally instantly, um, but if you could give, rounding numbers is fine, um, if you could say percentage of your effort going into finding the space versus what you're doing.

And I guess, how about this, we split it up to, there, there are two. There's the physical actually doing the thing and the mental load. That's gonna be probably two different percentages, right? 

Michelle: Yeah. I mean, in retrospect, this is one of those things, even when we got into the shop, we were just like, how the hell were we doing this?

Because I mean, we were still in this pop-up-based model because we didn't have retail. So we were also trying to find places to sell in addition to, you know, we were regularly at farm. At this point, we were doing two farmers markets on Saturday, two farmers markets on Sunday. So we had two teams going out each of those days.

And then we had a sprinkling of, I think, maybe another two to three during the week. I think I've said before, but, um, so a brick and mortar for Bottoms Up Bagels was always the dream. Like some people start with a concept, kind of see where it goes, are open to different models. Uh, but for us, we really, from the time that we did that first event under the tent, And we're rolling out the menu like we were in a shop.

We, you know, so that was always the vision. So because that was the case, we started looking for space even before we were ready, like long before we were ready. So to answer the percentage question. So in the beginning, it wasn't too much like in, I would say like 2017 into 2018, it was probably 20 percent of our time, 15, 20%.

And then as we got into actually zeroing in on places and meeting with people and testing places out. There's even places that we, you know, thought we might open where we did pop ups that, um, you know, [we] decided in the end didn't make sense for us. But, and I'd say it probably got as high as like 50, 60%. Um, even though everything else was happening, because there, we did have a good team at this time, like, so there were some things that were as close to being on autopilot as they could be for the model that we were working in, which, um, thank God. Because, you know, that's not, um, it couldn't have happened without them.

Joan: I just see them in like, in days. I mean, the, I think 2017 and 2018 is probably like a half day here, like a half day there. Because you're also getting bizarre emails from, again, the food halls that we said no to, or just, you know, or realtors or other people. And those, those really aren't like, true leads after you ask them a question or two.

And then when it came to, I think, was it, you think as early as 2018 or 2019 where you went like a full day a week? 

Michelle: Um, well we signed our lease in 20 I'm sorry, no, we located the space in 2018. That's right. So we were already, even though we didn't have the lease signed yet, we were pretty zeroed in on a particular location.

And so then, I think it started to pick up. Uh, especially because being a food-based business, most of our actual selling was happening towards the latter part of the week. So, often, it was like Monday, Tuesday, were for these kinds of things. And, um, and we had a sense of neighborhoods we wanted to be in.

We had a sense of what we were looking for, but it just took a long time to find it. And a lot of that had to do with the vision that we had for how the layout would be in terms of this open production space. So being in a city like Baltimore, where there are a lot of row houses and in businesses out of that, that townhouse style, uh, it made it really hard to make that work, even if there were second generation places available, which there were very few of, um, because I mean, that's the goal, right? That you don't, you hope you don't have to invest to build a whole place out yourself, that you can get something that you can renovate slightly, but that the guts of it are, are there.

And so we, we looked for a long time trying to find places like that. Um, to mixed results, but in the end, uh, there was a building itself that seemed perfect in terms of the actual layout, uh, for what we wanted, but it needed to be renovated, it needed to be built from completely gutted and, and rebuilt. 

Amanda: When you were thinking about the neighborhoods, what were you considering in terms of what would be a good neighborhood fit? I mean, I know we just talked about the, the roadshow and being, you know, going where you're wanted. But you're in, also in a city where you live and you're already planted, right? So what was it in particular about certain neighborhoods that made you say this would be a good place to put a bagel shop?

Joan: We always knew because of our product, well products, and how good they are, that we were gonna be a draw. So we preferred to be invested in a community that maybe could use some more positive activity. I don't want to use the word love because it's like you need to like really operationally define...

Michelle: ...operationally define love. 

Joan: Love, you know, in that case. 

Amanda: Yeah, that should be in the glossary. 

Joan: You know?

Joan: Um, so, um, a neighborhood like Harwood, that we chose to be the home of the BUB Hub Beta is south of Waverly. I mean, again, here's another factor, per Michelle's earlier point, with all the land banking going on in Waverly, which is a community, like, where we have lived in for many a year, it was just, I mean, to pull something out of that person...

We didn't want to rent to that person. We just knew it was all the red flags and let's not, let's not do this. So Harwood. Was on a, on a really major drag, Greenmount Avenue. There were a couple of different like bus lines on it. There are a lot of people who can walk or bike to where we were in the city.

Wasn't too far from 83 and, it could definitely use some additional traffic. I'm quite sure years before it was more of a metropolis in terms of shopping and everything, but a lot of people live adjacent to it. Like Charles Village, it has a little bit more means. Barclay, Abel, again like Waverly that we're from, and also points south.

That's one of the many reasons why we thought it would be a good place to go.

Michelle: Yeah, it was really important for us that we we set up in a part of town that didn't already have everything. I mean, in my words. You know, we had, there was a lot of demand. We had a lot of successful pop ups in different parts of the city, which we considered, um, which were either more affluent or better resourced or, or just had more amenities.

Um, but in the end we... It was important to me at least, that people were coming because they knew what we were about and they wanted our stuff. Um, than we were just something that they fell over because we were just on their way somewhere. You know, in retrospect, maybe you want to be someplace where people are going to fall over you because it's a steady source of revenue.

Um, but we were, we were focused on being kind of a destination, being an iconic, um, spot and, uh, had built our business starting in this part of the city. So it was also a natural extension that ideally we would be there first for, um, some of the champions who had followed us from the beginning and who had supported us from the beginning and uh, it could be a way to, to help, um, anchor some parts of the places that, you know, we already knew and loved well.

Amanda: I lived in Locust Point when I was in Baltimore City. I lived there for about 13 years. And I hadn't, I have never heard of Harwood up until right now. What other types of businesses are in Harwood? And if you saw any other businesses come there after you were there, or if things just kind of stayed status quo.

Joan: When we went there, and we'll get to the selection point soon, I feel like, in the conversation, there was a liquor store across the street, and there was a collision center that was run by a family for many years, um, that was the second, like, major building. Otherwise, there were some vacant houses, and...

Michelle: There had been a couple businesses that we were all excited to support, at this point, several years ago, that had opened um, even further south than we were, um, on Greenmount. There was a barbecue place and then there was a juice place and um - actually in the same location that had turned over a few different times. And over the time that we were there, there were some things that had started to creep in on the southern part of Greenmount Avenue.

Um, you know, some art, some art centers. Baltimore Safe Haven actually moved its center um, further south in the twenties of Greenmount Avenue as well. So there were, there were some things, but, um...

Joan: To me one of the jewels was across the street and we used it all the time. 

Michelle: Oh, right, of course. 

Joan: And that was the Harwood Community Garden.

Like, are you kidding me? I'm across the street from a motherfucking garden? I can compost all my stuff? You know how many eggs we go through, you know, at any event that we do? So like all the eggshells, like "you're welcome gardeners." Um, and on occasion I can like snag some herbs and stuff for what we were working on.

But that was just like a great thing to look across and see. And then like also if, um, cause it was, um, COVID the entire time and we had deep restrictions in Baltimore. So you didn't have people inside. So people could either eat outside by us with the different tables that we had, or they can go across the street and just hang out in the garden.

It's pretty rad. 

Amanda: That sounds like fertile ground, right? I mean, for, just, you know, there's, there's not too much, there's just enough, there are people around. Did the people who live in the area, did they feel, someone who could walk to your shop, um, did they seem like the type that would buy a nine dollar lox bagel, or, you know, were they just coming in for, you know, a dozen that they were taking home, or, you know, besides the people that you would draw, uh, the people who were around you, what kind of stuff were they buying?

Joan: Thankfully, some of the people who were already BUB customers who would walk to the farmer's market, which again, where we started, where we, it was only a few blocks away from the shop, they would come. But then we just saw community members come in and there, there's this one woman, God, I wish I remember her name.

And she would send her grandchild to get, I mean, forget about the lox, like she wanted to have her bacon, egg and cheese on a cinnamon raisin bagel, the Sweet and Savory. Yes. And then she would make sure that he got the right change, like, she would call it in. It's gonna be this much, right? Give him the money, send her teenage grandson.

On occasion, he'd bring a friend of his, and if they, if they need more money because they wanted to buy a second or a third sandwich because grandma changed her order to, like, give them something, the one kid would stay like he was collateral. I'm like, "dude, you don't have to stay here. Like, you know, like, I, I very much trust you", but also it's like, what, eight dollars?

Like, it's fine. Like, we're gonna be, we're gonna be okay. I mean, all that wholesomeness would happen. And people would just appreciate how colorful the storefront was. On occasion, I feel like we got people who parked in front a little too long because it's a really well lit, like we, we were literally a bright spot on Greenmount Avenue, so they would feel like it's a safer place.

We had the lights and like, because of who I am, like we had like all the cameras, so I feel like people thought it was just okay, a little bit safer, a little bit nicer. Uh, let me go ahead and like put my stuff here. 

Amanda: People often times say, "I'm gonna put a shop somewhere where there are lots of people who have lots of money and they're gonna come and buy all the time" and I, I only ask because of that whole idea of, you know, where you're planting yourself.

Your view of where you wanted to be for me is like inspiring and beautiful, right? Like you want to grow someplace with fertile ground and not necessarily, "I'm going to go to the strip mall down there that does not have fertile ground, but I know that someone's going to be shopping at an Anthropology next door and they might be hungry, and they've got money to burn, so they're gonna come over to our shop." Um, that's, that's kind of, I just wanted to frame why I was asking those questions. It wasn't so much that I was trying to dig into the demographics of the area or anything. It was just the idea of who's going to come in. And, you know, if you're making a good sandwich, people are gonna figure out how to make it work, right? That, it's wild. 

Joan: That's so true. And then we pulled from, like, customers came from different area codes in the city too, and it kind of forced them to come to a different part they wouldn't normally come to. But, but again, the product's not for everybody, you know, like people, some people don't want to have like a chewy bagel.

And like, that's not in any way an insult. I want to have the people who fit us really well. Like that grandma. God, what the hell was her name? Why is my memory failing me?

Michelle: Her grandson was Malcolm. 

Joan: Yeah. Malcolm for sure, I remember.

Michelle: Malcolm would be the one picking up, but I don't remember her. I don't know if we ever got her name, but… 

No, but I appreciate you pulling that out, Amanda, because that's part of why this has been tough is because that's been our, you know. I have a community development background. Joan is like, despite, uh, what, the first take, like, such a squishy person, you know, like, we, we, um, 

Joan: It's true. Like, literally, like, I'm full of guts.

Michelle: You're squishy. 

Joan: I'm also carbon-based. 

Michelle: No, we have, we have a real, um, we have a real justice streak, but we also have a real tenderness for, um, you know, human moments. And we really wanted to be a part of creating space where those could happen, that maybe they weren't happening as often or wouldn't otherwise have had a chance to happen.

And, you know, we've learned over the years, reconciling that with, I mean, we had a successful business, we were profitable doing that, but it's definitely counter to the dollars and cents of getting in some place for as little as possible, which I'm not criticizing. I mean, they're, that's a business model and right?

And that's why, you know, um, certain things work and certain things don't, but for us, it was like, there was no other way to do it, but to just go all in, which is a theme. Um, but also to do it in a, in a place that was again, near and dear to us. And maybe something... It was equally as important for us, I think, to bring people who didn't know that area, like you just said, like, "Oh, I've never heard of Harwood." Like for people to come there who never knew about it as it was to be something for people who had been there their whole lives and maybe had seen... Like we'd have people come in and be like, "Oh, I remember when this was this, that chicken place that," Oh, and I think that was probably at least 15 years prior to when we were there.

And I don't know what it most immediately was, but even that, like, "Oh, my, my, you know, grandfather's, uh, uncle used to come here," you know, that's for us, that's part of placemaking and that's, you know, just as important that we know that we're a part of a line of something as it is to, to, you know, everybody talks about like trailblazing and, um, pioneering.

And I think it is, it does take a certain person to go someplace that's not going to have the immediate hit, but, um, it's really not really what it's about. 

Amanda: Now, how nice that you're able to reopen that space for somebody to experience once again. Like there was a shop on the corner where near, near where I live that turned into an ice cream parlor and the neighbors were like, "Well, this used to be a deli and then it was this" and for them to be able to be physically in that space again.

And I think there was one neighbor who like her mother actually rang up orders in that space. So that was a big part of her growing up. And then she gets to be inside of that space again. Um, I think that's just so meaningful and it brings these. I mean, what's really cool about Baltimore in general is that you're living in spaces that have been owned by or occupied by so many generations.

And to think, you know, my house was born in, not born, my house was built in, um, 1875. 

Michelle: Oh, wow. 

Amanda: The one that we lived in. So being able to give my kids the context that "Yeah, you know, when, when this was happening in history, that was when your house was being built" and to think about, you know, the generations and the families that had lived there. Um, it's just so much more interesting than living in a cookie cutter townhome that I'm in right now in Ohio that, you know, they bulldozed a farm for and, you know, it's, there's something about that place making and being part of that history and what that means to a community to open those spaces back up and have business in those spaces.

It's so meaningful. 

Joan: Thank you. I feel like pioneer is also quite an assumption and I, I don't really care for that in many ways because per all of our points, stuff was there before you. You know, like I did not, there's no discovering of America. America was already populated. I didn't discover Harwood.

Amanda: They were doing fine. 

Michelle: They didn't need us to come mess it up. 

Joan: Right. We're just like adding to like the history, honoring the existing history, adding something different and not being tone deaf about it. That's all you can do.

We looked at different spaces that had different landlords that we met through different city connections and people that we know. And even to Michelle's point earlier, we did like some pop ups and then just to test them out. And we looked at different things, including ADA compliance, when it came to, not just, I mean, especially for customers, right?

But I think there is a bit of hubris in any human who does not have physical disabilities, in thinking like," I'm good." Me, well, I'm thinking like, "so, I can really get easily injured in a kitchen, or in my home, or slip on the ice," and all of a sudden, Joan's got crutches. So if Joan's got crutches, I can maybe still do front of house, but like, how am I getting up these steps now?

So any one of us can be temporarily, um, disabled or hurt in a way where that's important. So some of these places were really neat. 

Amanda: Good point. 

Joan: I think we had some good conversations. I really appreciated the one place in East Baltimore we had a pop up and talked with that land...

Michelle: in Highlandtown.

Joan: Thank you, Michelle. In Highlandtown and it was, it was a great pop up and it would be, I think it's like been a great, um, uh, landlord tenant relationship, but the structure did not make sense for bagel production and service. There were all these stairs. It was kind of like a split level and that was a bummer for us. So those were some of the, the missed cases, but I, I don't really regret having the value of accessibility when it came to the shop.

Michelle: Yeah. And a lot of it was, I mean, it was everything from looking at places that had, you know, "for lease" signs in the window and, um, talking to folks who were, this is the same way, actually, that when we, when we start to look at locations for the Roadshow, we always start with the Economic Development Office of a particular area because they are usually tied into um, property owners and developers and mom and pop.

They kind of run the gamut because they're there to support these businesses. And so we started with folks we had in that office and then it kind of branched out. So because of my background, I also knew a lot about National Main Streets, which are, um, traditionally historic districts of, you know, certain neighborhoods that have, um, extra incentives, but also, you know, that's just kind of like bringing back, uh, businesses to some of these main streets that have fallen on hard times.

And it's a national initiative and Baltimore has several. And so, you know, we met with main streets in different parts of the city and they, they're like a wealth of resources. They have, you know, all of the funding opportunities, all of the, the, the locations that are available, they have oftentimes relationships with those property owners and things like that.

So those were at least good starting places. And then like anything, you just keep talking to people and they say, "Oh, I know somebody who's here" or, "Oh, there's a new thing being built over there." So just lots of... much like looking for kitchens, right?... like lots of sleuthing, lots of... I mean, think about how you would go about buying a house, maybe, you know, or finding a job, it's a similar process.

Everything from cold classifieds to just networking and, uh, lots of meetings. Like Joan said, I mean, these were oftentimes, you know, okay, well, we would produce in the morning, especially in the days when we were earlier in the week, when it was less busy, we'd produce in the morning and then we'd have meetings in the afternoon, or we'd go look at different locations and see if they would work.

And then, you know, in parallel, try to figure out the funding pieces too, which, um, you know, you have to buy equipment, you have to know what you need. I mean, I will say that was the amazing thing about being in a shared space where we didn't have to outfit it from jump. Like that's why it is a good stepping stone because for us too, we also learned what we needed.

We learned, you know, "okay, we need this. We need this. We don't need that. That's nice, but it's not really a game changer." Like, you know, and then we also designed the space ourselves. I mean, we laid out the kitchen. We laid out the, what equipment was going to be where based on like what we knew [00:32:00] our process. I mean, we knew our process so well by that point that we knew exactly the equipment we needed and we knew exactly how to maximize efficiency, to the extent that by the time we actually moved into our shop we cut about two hours off of our production time in the mornings just because we had less ground to cover and everything was kind of exactly where we needed it to be so that's the benefit of building a place from scratch but obviously it takes a lot more time and money to do that.

Amanda: So would you say if somebody wanted to start a, a restaurant business right now, and they were in the same position that you were in, um, would you recommend that they do something like a commissary kitchen to get to know everything in advance? Or would you advise them to go straight to trying to figure out a storefront?

Because it sounds like you learned so much through every baby step, that one, like you were primed and ready to move in. 

Michelle: Yeah, I think it depends on the concept and it depends on your experience. Uh, for us as people who were not coming from the food world in, in a career sense, it was helpful. I mean, I know it also has to do with funding.

You know, some people have, if you have investment, and you can build it out and figure it out, um, when you go. But yeah, I think it's a great stepping stone, um, and why there was such a demand for those places, even before kind of ghost kitchens became a thing. You know, now you've got whole concepts being run out of places that will never have a storefront and don't, don't want them or need them, but it is a good place to kind of figure things out in that way.

Joan: And thinking about your customer, I mean, like we originally built it to have basically 85% percent production, 15 percent retail, and that quickly became space for like all of our delivery stuff because of COVID. It was very important for us to have very large windows, so then even when you're waiting outside, COVID or not, you'd be able to see what's going on inside. By having an open production space, you'd be able to reinforce the fact that things were being made for you right there. Like if you see a large 60 quart mixer and you see a kettle boiler, are you thinking, "Oh, did they bring these in off a truck?" You know, like you have a sense that's being made there. And also we really care about invisible labor and it happens so much in restaurants with front of house and back of house .So we just wanted to have it be "house," you know? So you can see everything at once and you can see people working and it gives you a sense of how important humans are in this whole process 

Amanda: When you talk about open production, what does that you know, for, for those who can close their eyes and imagine, um, what, what does that look like?

Um, can you describe that a little bit? 

Michelle: Yeah. I mean, we had this as part of our kind of origin story or I guess vision, but this whole. You know, when we grew up in Jersey, a lot of the, uh, there were, you know, straight bagel shops too, where they were just counters and, you know, food items and a menu and whatever, but, um, there were a lot of kind of like production spaces that were more factory-like where there's just this bustle of activity going on.

So there's a counter where you order, but you'll see trays, you know, you see racks of dough being rolled by you, or you see steam coming out of the, the boiler, you have, um, you know, the, the bagels right out of the oven being like slid into their, uh, baskets. You know, uh, that whole kind of theater of it all was always part of something that we wanted. So Joan talks about big windows, we want people to see that steam. But we also wanted that steam, like steam dripping from the windows, cause you know, something's going on in there. Like you can kinda, I don't know if you're not, um, if you haven't experienced that, I don't know if you can visualize it as well, but that was the idea.

It was kind of this, this performance and not to make it sound phony, but just this theater going on. Uh, so you've got the smell, you know, you've got onion and garlic, like. In the air, you've got the smell of baked bread. You've got, um, this, [00:36:00] this kind of dance of sheet trays being, you know, swung around and racks going back and forth and, uh, you know, lox being sliced over here and new batches being made over there.

So that was all viewable to our customer. Of course, in the grand scheme of the world, it was COVID. And so nobody came in. Um, but, you could at least get a glimpse through the, through the windows, as Joan was saying. 

Joan: It's also good, it's kind of like a theme park in that when you're waiting for the ride, you can build up anticipation.

So if you're smelling things like the smoked brisket or other things, there's some sort of staging aspect to it as well, anticipation that happens, and it makes time seem to go faster for the person who's waiting. 

Amanda: Yeah, absolutely. 

Michelle: I'm sure your, your husband could tell us about like, planned theater on the line for the ride.

Amanda: Oh. Oh, oh, yes, um, 

Michelle: Or you could, I mean, I mean, I mean, by proxy, right? 

Amanda: Right, so, yeah, um, for, for listeners who may not know, my husband's in the amusement industry, and I remember going to, uh, a state fair. I think it was, it might have been Texas State Fair, um, 'cause he was chasing carnivals at the time. And we were talking to the owner of this one particular group of rides, and regardless of how busy it was, he's like, you always want a tail.

You always need a tail and he was then what that means was you always wanted to have at least some line of people waiting for the ride. So you always not only did you want the ride to look spectacular on the Midway, but you want the optics of people waiting for it and wanting to be on it. You don't want too long of a tail, you don't want too short of a tail, but you want something because yeah the the experience of waiting for the ride... Hell, I went to, I was just at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park in London this past winter, and we were waiting for a haunted house, and there were props that the ride ops could drop on you while you were waiting in line, like severed heads and blowing air underneath, and I mean - startling.

I think the guys were from France. I think the ride was from France, but a little gory. But yeah, it got everybody's... And that was the longest line on the Midway. Everyone was waiting to, I mean, it took a long time to process it too. They were only releasing like two cars at a time. But there was certainly a line and people were excited.

It's, the theater of it...

Michelle: Yeah.

Amanda: ... is everything. 

Joan: Did you guys talk to each other? Cause like that was the thing for BUB Hub Beta, is that, or even other events we've done, that people talk to each other and are like...

Amanda: Oh yeah! 

Joan: "My favorite's this... Is it your first time? Well, let me show you the ropes."

Amanda: Mm hmm. Oh, yeah, absolutely. Um, and you get that. I have conversations with, you know, first time riders and enthusiasts alike. Always, you know, even when we're on the lift hill, "have you ridden this before?" We're screaming together. We're looking at each other. Yeah, that, that interaction of the shared experience. I think it's one of the reasons why, you know, for as nerdy as the enthusiast community is - and I apologize, um, because I have enthusiast friends who occasionally listen to my podcast -  um, that, that interconnectivity of shared experience is, is addictive. It's and it makes people want to come back and reconnect. It's, it's just a human thing, right?

Michelle: Yeah, 

Amanda: It's being human 

Michelle: The space that we settled on, which really was perfect for the way that we were thinking about things, was essentially just a rectangle. So it allowed us to design, as Joan said, about 85 percent production space. And then, um, the, the idea - without knowing about COVID - was that there would be counter seating and then window counter seating as well.

So there, there would be, you know, the majority of space was this production happening just right in front of you. And you had these big windows and you had two doors, one on either side, you can come in and come out. And so it made it really, it was like a blank canvas. So it made it very uh, appealing to be able to... There's also one story, so we could, we had to put in a hood system so it could be easily be vented, um, through there without having to go through other floors and it avoided that challenge with the townhouses where, you know, you'd have seating in the front and a kitchen in the back and not be able to have as immersive an experience.

Amanda: Was there anybody who worked there that didn't want to be watched all the time? 

Joan: Ha! People were so, honestly, most of the crew, uh, was, you know, not that many, I mean, new people did come on, in which case we were in progress, but for people who worked with us previously at the shared kitchen, we were selling at farmers markets, and I have way too many stories about people being up in your shit.

I mean, you're being watched, you're being criticized. And that's a, that's really something for a different time. I think maybe over drinks. I mean, the amount of stupidity I encountered...

Michelle: Suffice it to say, we were used to being watched. And they were used to being watched. 

Joan: Yeah, now it's like," it's our house, bitch. Now what?" 

Amanda: "Watch me all you want, but if you fuck around, you'll find out..."

Joan: Yeah, exactly. Like, just throw the sandwich at them. Bye.

Amanda: "By the way, it's yesterday's bagel. It's stale. You can't eat it. Fuck you." 

Joan: Oh, we would never do that. 

Amanda: This week's episode is sponsored by...

Joan: Passive Aggressive Farmers Market Masters. We know you're listening. 

Amanda: We have just finished recording, um, episodes five and six. We're planning on probably a couple more episodes to round out this first season, which really talks about the experience of ownership through the lens of BUB.

And we hope that people are enjoying it. If you are enjoying it, we would love for you to reach out to us. Um, there are a couple of ways you can do that. Find us at Instagram, @ProofingStage. Email us. It's proofingstagepod@gmail. com. Um, are there any other ways y'all would want to hear from people? 

Michelle: Yeah. And I just add that this is a community, you know, we're starting to build a little bit. This is, um, we're airing, we've just aired as of today, Episode Four. And so we're just getting really started. Um, a lot of the first few episodes have been laying the groundwork for, um, some of the, our, experience, pitfalls, wins, things like that.

And we hope to continue that conversation. Um, and we'd love for you to be a part of it. You know, are you a small business? Um, are you a startup entrepreneur? Are you a woman in a job working for someone else who has experienced these things? You know, we certainly want to bring audience experiences into this as we continue and I'd say if, if you think it's worthwhile, if you think what we're sharing, um, has some value, if you would leave us a review wherever you listen to pods as well, that would be really helpful. And make sure you follow the show so that we can, uh, hopefully as things continue, also get some relevant information or sponsorships that might be of value to our listeners. 

Joan: I feel like my auto dealership in this moment: "if you're going to give us anything less than five stars, contact us first so we can make it right."

Amanda: Okay. You heard it. You heard it. If you're anything less than five stars, reach out to Joan. 

Joan: And I will specifically. I will take people... I mean, I will make it right. 

Amanda: I'm not gonna make it right. Like, like, what's on the table's on the table. 

Joan: Or make it rain. Yeah,.

Amanda: I might, yeah, I don't know if I'm making it rain, but yeah, I'm not making it right.

Joan: Make it hail. 

Amanda: For additional information, including notice and disclaimer, music credits, episode notes, and more, check out our website, ProofingStage. com.

Defining Land Banking, BUB Hub Beta and the BUB Roadshow
Searching for Space; Deciding on a Neighborhood
Choosing Harwood as a Business Location
A space of one's own
The Concept of Open Production Spaces
Touching base with listeners