"Location, location, location." That standard advice for choosing real estate rings out like a nagging mother's plea to "get married" or "do something with your life." But unlike those impractical nudges imposed on us by our loved ones, the urging to find just the right corner for your business is more than a cliché. (It'd be a long shot to start a New Age bookstore in a conservative Bible Belt town, right?) That's why the first steps to picking a suitable location for your start-up include employing your own common sense--and heeding the wisdom of entrepreneur Scott Fiore, of course.
In February's column, Fiore discussed the importance of researching your business idea. For him, a big chunk of that involved doing demographic research through the U.S. Census State Data Centers in the areas where he was considering opening his natural pharmacy, The Herbal Remedy. "I looked at the demographics and got Census reports," says Fiore, 31. "But the simplest thing was listed in bold print: [Last year] Douglas County, Colorado, was the fastest-growing county in the nation for the second year [in a row]." The data also indicated an influx of young and active Denver-area inhabitants. Just driving around and seeing hordes of families on bike rides, Fiore could tell Douglas County was a "very sports-oriented, athletic place."
Speaking of leisurely drives, a day trip in the car can prove to be a productive adventure when you're scoping out the perfect locale. As you search for available space in various cities, Fiore suggests rating accessibility and the "vibe," so to speak, of the district: "If it's not an area where you'd want [loved ones] going at night by themselves, do you really want to do business there? Do you want people to feel comfortable not just in your store, but in your area? Is it accessible [to customers and employees]?"
The Littleton, Colorado, location in which Fiore finally settled meets all of the above requirements and has added perks. Because Littleton is in Arapaho County but borders the more affluent Douglas County, Fiore can pay less rent ($13 per square foot) and still operate in an upscale area. He contemplated higher-rent districts, thinking the expensive rent payments would be returned in profit, but was thankful he nixed the idea after an independent health-food store in one of those districts closed its doors after only a year and a half.
Aside from reaping the rewards of a prestigious area, The Herbal Remedy is right at home in South Bridge Plaza, a strip mall that houses a gourmet meat market, a chiropractor, a massage therapist, a rehabilitation center and a health club. Even Littleton Hospital is right across the street. "It really is perfect. We're getting referrals from all those places," says Fiore. To top off this ideal scenario, the mall is bordered by two busy streets and is less than a mile from the interstate.
Using Fiore's happy ending as an example, we can assure you there is a perfect spot for your business. Finding it often takes time and gumption; still, your best bet's not to settle. Fiore didn't. "I think every single commercial real estate firm in this city knew my name because I called weekly, if not every other day, saying `OK, any progress?' " he says.
After juggling rental possibilities with as many as six different companies, Fiore came full circle last August, signing a deal for a space in the very strip mall he had eyed from the start. "There were no openings initially, [so] I was trying to play as many cards as I could, but it wasn't working out exactly the way I wanted it to," he says. "This [location] sort of fell into my hands right at the end."
The moral? Don't let the process get the best of you. Instead, do your homework: Jump on the Internet and check out what your state has to offer, get in your car and drive around, and see if existing businesses might bring customers to your store or at least complement your concept. Eventually, you'll find your business-to-be a place in the sun.
The Herbal Remedy, (303) 795-8600, http://www.theherbalremedy.com