I felt like Wren taking on city council in Footloose… only, it wasn’t asking permission for a high school dance – I was asking to buy a building. A place to stake claim for the future home of Hillbilly Laser. A place to call my own.
This journey started this past April when I reached out to the city on some lots on the edge of town that are zoned residential - I felt they had potential to be a good building site for some storage units and shop space. After some discussion back and forth on other properties, I learned that city recently acquired the Senior Building and it was currently unused, other than Nutritional Services using the kitchen to prepare Meals on Wheels. This immediately got me excited. The building was big and open and overlooked one of the prettiest places in town, Veterans Park. I presented to the council the end of May to gauge their interest in selling the property. I was clear that I had no intention to evict the Meals on Wheels program from the kitchen. In fact, I had no plans to make any changes to that area of the building – we can certainly co-occupy the space easy enough.
There was, however, a hurdle immediately.
The Local Foods Local Places was in the middle of conducting a feasibility study on the need for a commercial community kitchen in town – and the Senior Building was one of the potential locations they were considering. There was no decision from the council at that initial meeting one way or the other. It was more a starting point to begin the conversation and make my interest known. It was decided that I would wait until the study was completed in August and based on its findings, either pass on the property or present my interest to the council members again.
Upon completion of the feasibility study, it was concluded that since Meals on Wheels was occupying the kitchen, there would be conflict with another commercial kitchen in the same space – so the Senior Building was back as a potential location for Hillbilly Laser. **insert super pumped fist pump here**
Insert: Obstacle #2
Another fork in the road was with the City itself - not so much the city council, but with the Park Board. When the City of Pelican Rapids acquired the building from the Senior Citizen Group, they put it under the park board umbrella for a potential trail head or community center. Turns out, what it costs a city to renovate a building seems to be a lot more expensive than a private citizen. All requests for improvements and work seemed to stop at council approval - in simple terms, the building just wasn't worth the hefty price tag it would take to get it up to city codes for public use.
During the summer, I became a regular attendee of the city council meetings.
The end of September, I again (nervously) stood before the council asking the city to consider selling the property. I got a unanimous ‘yes’ that they wanted to sell the building (note: Mayor Frazier was gone that meeting, so the unanimous was the 4 council members). The following council meeting (middle of October) would hold a public hearing and allow the public to come in and speak out – either in favor or against the sale. Oh boy – talk about my nerves in my throat!!! I (again) stood up and stated my desire for the building…. And, a handful of others spoke out against the sale of the building.
It was hard for me to not take those statements as a personal attack to me and my business.
I am not ignorant to what impact my acquisition has on the community with the building not being available for seniors to gather. To keep the building in the city's possession, there are a lot of variables - if you follow the council meetings or read the Press, you can easily get the information. With this post, I am simply sharing my side of the journey from my viewpoint, but I hope that down the road, there will be alternative opportunities for seniors to eat lunch, play cards and hang out.
On the about me page of my website, Hillbillylaser.com I tell my story – it isn't special or different or unique, but it's mine, and I am proud to share it. It started with a vision of creating a workplace with a strong culture and inspiring vibe - a place where everyone in the building, no matter what department or roll, is an equal contributor and we all row together because we all see we are going the same direction in the same boat. It doesn’t matter what department you’re in; it doesn’t matter if you’re an owner or employee. I wanted to create this feeling of unity and synergy and comfort; a place where creatives could collaborate, grow and thrive together. When I first envisioned this future, I saw people and felt the heartbeat of the business, but I didn't have a clear focus on the specifics.
But with the purchase of the Senior Building - I have a clear vision moving forward.
Looking ahead, I see a conference table with other local business people and budding entrepreneurs having Saturday morning coffee and brainstorming sessions – mini Masterminds, if you will…. I see a safe space for a collaboration of ideas… I see open conversations for business owners from all industries working through their own growing pains sharing social media strategies or sharing advise to get through a tough situation…. While my business name is ran under the Hillbilly Laser name, my main LLC is called teeemwrk. To me, this conveys a feeling of unity - everyone in the building is part of the same team. There’s harmony and integrity and solidarity and honesty. To me, this feeling and teeemwrk mentality is paramount in building good culture and values.
Since news broke in the Press about the councils decision to sell, I am humbled by the people making a special effort to pull me aside in the grocery store or send me a congratulatory text. I know the work is just beginning, but I am hopeful and optimistic to make the Senior Building the perfect home for Hillbilly Laser. A simple THANK YOU doesn't seem like enough.
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