Monday, August 30, 2010

Time to get greasy.

We finally got the keys to our factory space a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, it coincided with our scheduled trip to Texas and California to work with our sales reps, so we really couldn't get too much done before we left.

We scheduled estimates from painters, cleaners, electricians, roofers, and contractors, then we went on our way south and west to get some orders. When we got back late last week, we jumped right in and started to get our hands dirty.

This facility was last used in the early '90's by a company that stamped metal badges and pins - police badges, commemorative pins, etc. It has been used in different capacities over the years for different industrial uses--dating back to its original use as the American Can Company facility sometime in the '30's. Inside, there was a maze of electrical and communications wiring, and fluorescent and incandescent lighting, dating from different eras, decades, and companies--some working, some not. Our first order of business is to sort out the mess and take down the non-working items from the rafters and get the ceiling ready to paint. We hired an electrician to identify what can stay and what can go. Beyond taking down all the old wiring, they are taking down 64 8-foot sections of old, heavy, inefficient fluorescent lighting fixtures and hauling it away for recycling.

This was built before some of the modern conveniences we take advantage of today were available, and as such was built to be energy eficient in its own right. The roof on the building is a "saw-tooth" roof, with windows facing north to allow in natural light, and a south facing roof sloping away from the top of the windows toward the bottom of another set. Repeated, this creates a saw-tooth profile. Not only does this provide rows of windows for natural light, but the windows are designed along a massive chain driven system to allow them to slide open, providing for air flow and hot air release during the warmer months.

The problem with all that clever engineering is that sometime a few decades ago, the previous building owners decided that all that efficiency was just too much, so they painted the windows over in black and covered the whole thing in corrugated metal. When we looked at the building last November for the first time, we immediately noticed how dark it was, and how much it would take to light the 13,000 ft. industrial space, compared to the warm natural light that was coming in the office side thanks to the great skylights they had rescued. We called in a roofer to take down a test section of the corrugated metal and scrape off the black paint. We only took down 20 ft., but the difference is amazing! The entire facility is flooded with warm, natural light in the area where we took it down. The best news is that the windows are structurally sound, and seem to be well sealed.

This week, we'll be masking off the sections of the windows that we'll be uncovering, so that when the painters come to clean and spray the ceiling next week, our windows will be clear and ready to let in all that light. Later this week we're planning to have a representative from NYSERDA come in and give us an audit to see what our lighting needs are, and what they can do to help. We anticipate a huge reduction in energy usage by allowing the natural light to come in, and as such we're hoping they will have a program to assist us in the cost of removing the metal coverings from the windows. It's not cheap.

On the office side of the facility, we got to work ourselves. We got up in the rafters and took down the decades worth of dead wiring, again leaving us with a cleaner ceiling space and an easier job for the painting contractors as they come in to spray. It's amazing how much of the conduit that was up there was dead. Probably 60-70% came down.

Conduit and wiring piled up to be recycled.

We've only just begun the demo work, and that all has to be done by the end of the week so we can paint the ceilings and walls. Look for more pics once we get to that stage and the transformation really starts to be visible.

The clock is ticking. Our equipment starts showing up on September 29th, and we'll start rolling the first sandals off the line sometime in October. In between, we have to clean, paint, open, close, tear down, build up, install, and adjust. There will be plenty of pictures to follow the action.

Beyond all that, the first is in place and full of liquid refreshment, so anyone who is in the area and doesn't mind getting a little dirty, you know where we'll be...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Phase Three

Back in our first blog post, we shared with you our belief that sandals shouldn’t be hard. We definitely believe that. Apparently, however, starting a sandal company should be.

It’s taken longer than we hoped, but after finding investors who believed in us and our vision, bankers willing to work with us, and a city management with vision and some
cajones, we got the keys to our facility and our equipment is finally on the way. The next few months are going to be absolutely crazy as we clean and build-out our nearly 100 year old facility, install our equipment, hire our workforce, and start to build some sandals. Fortunately, we’ve been preparing for this day for over a year so, we’re ready to go.

You can see in the pictures that we have quite a bit of work ahead of us to get the place cleaned up--and that doesn’t begin to address the aesthetic challenges (really, bright blue walls?). The good news is that the building has great bones, and a rich manufacturing history. It has a rich family history too, as my great-grandfather worked the line in this building when it was the American Can Company in the ’30’s and ’40’s.

We have the opportunity to make some positive changes to the space by enhancing the appearance, creating more natural light, and decreasing our energy consumption. Stay tuned for updates on that front - it’s amazing how energy efficient buildings were when they didn’t have the option of air conditioning and fluorescent lighting...

On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve been on the road pre-booking some sandals and have had some good success on our trips to Virginia and North Carolina, and again in Florida. The early results have the Al and Josie showing the best results, with the Louie and Angie close behind - although we’re placing all seven styles with some consistency (sneak-peeks coming soon).

We’re off for Texas for a couple days with our sales rep, hitting Houston and Corpus Christi beginning Wednesday. From there, Southern California for a few more days to catch up with old friends, get in the water, and sell some sandals with our rep there.

We have plenty more going on, including our first booth at a trade show. Stay tuned.