Defeated, Deflated, & Destroyed

I should start by saying that I know these feelings are only temporary and in a few weeks these feelings will likely be nothing but an unpleasant memory.

But that’s how I felt this past week. On Wednesday, when we had the health inspection and didn’t pass because of one thing that should not have been an issue and should’ve worked properly, I felt defeated. Just completely defeated. I had done everything I could think of to pass health, and it didn’t happen. And not for any reason I would’ve thought. For something so simple and beyond my control. I had this defeated feeling many times during construction, but we managed to overcome. But once again I felt defeated.

I begged the health inspector to come back on Thursday (the next day) as he doesn’t work on Fridays and Monday was a holiday, and he said not likely but to call in the morning. I called. I went to the store and waited all Thursday afternoon and nothing.

Then I felt deflated. I was hopeful all day as he knew how badly I wanted to be open for Memorial Day Weekend, and nothing. All hope was gone. We weren’t going to be able to open for the holiday weekend and there was nothing I could do until Tuesday.

I felt stuck and destroyed. I was so angry on Thursday. I did a small Yoga-urt catering event on Thursday night so it was a good distraction, but I was so angry.

And on Friday, it turned to sadness and tears. I had to meet someone at the echo park store at 9:30am to put up some graphics, but when I left, I just cried and cried. I couldn’t stop crying. I cried on and off all day. To have the store so beautiful and ready and just sitting there, just killed me.

And what was I going to do all weekend? I had nothing planned as I was supposed to be opening echo park. I didn’t want to be anywhere near the store as it just made me sad. And I didn’t want to be alone with my thoughts either. I needed a distraction because otherwise I would be sad and crying all weekend.

I decided to try to go out of town, so I contacted my friend and although he couldn’t go out of town, he said he would do fun activities with me all weekend locally. So we did. Biking at the beach. Walking Hollywood Blvd. Saw The Avengers. Went to Barcade to play video games. Saw my family. I am so grateful to him for keeping me company and letting me cry on his shoulder.

I’m scared about this week as I don’t have an appointment locked in yet with the health inspector. I feel very vulnerable. But I am going to go there tomorrow morning and see how quickly I can get him there. And I will go back everyday this week until it happens as it’s my top priority.

It’s so hard being so very close and not having this step within my control. I’m going to try to stay optimistic and do everything I can. What other choice do I have?

Inspections, Inspections, Inspections

Like everything on this journey, inspections have been difficult and are taking much longer than I hoped.

The ones that were pretty easy: mechanical, plumbing, & final city.

The one causing the most problems: electrical. Not only has he had to come back 4 times as of next week, but he keeps postponing the day he will come, sometimes by 2 days. This has been going on for over 2 weeks and is so frustrating and stressful. It doesn’t seem right to postpone a scheduled appt, and yet he does. He really doesn’t care about the consequences for me and how much money I’m losing. He’s supposed to come back on Tuesday and I hope he doesn’t postpone again and that it’s for the last time – OMG.

And although I was told the health inspector could come within 1-2 days of calling, I am now waiting a week. It’s so infuriating to be ready to go and just waiting on inspectors. All I can do at this time is hope we pass on Wednesday when he comes. Fingers crossed.

Because we have to wait, I’m trying to rest a bit this weekend because once we pass health, it’s game on. There will be so much to do as we can’t stock the store with food until we pass. We can’t make product. Nothing with food.

The store is looking really good. Some designs were added this week. We are basically ready to go besides some small tweaks.

Most of the team has been hired but I’m sure I’ll have to hire a few more people once we get going.

As for when we open, it’s the million dollar question. If we pass health on Wednesday, current thinking is soft open Memorial day weekend through May 31. And then grand opening on June 1 & 2 with media/influencers in between.

I really need to get this place open to start making money as the bills are coming fast and furious.

And really hoping the weather warms up soon. This has been a much colder Spring than we are used to in Los Angeles. The Glendale store is doing ok, but I think we would be doing so much better if the weather was hotter.

As for my mom, she scheduled her surgery for June 11th. That brought me much relief, but the more my opening slips, the closer it gets to her surgery. It’s time to get this baby open!

Sharing Excitement

Every time I’m at Yoga-urt, people are asking me about the Echo Park store and telling me how excited they are for it. People are messaging me on social media. Emailing through the website. And just sharing their excitement.

It means the world to me.

First of all, I’m spending money like crazy on Yoga-urt #2 and it’s scary. These things are expensive and big financial risks, but knowing people are waiting for it to open brings some reassurance that it will all work out.

Second of all, although my family is excited for me, my family is preoccupied with other things, most significantly my mom’s struggle with Parkinson’s Disease and overall health. Over the years since Yoga-urt opened in 2015, her health has deteriorated a great deal to the point where she barely leaves her house and has a caregiver most of the day. It has been extremely hard on her and the whole family.

And my mom needs to have an outpatient surgery very soon for a kidney stone, might be around the time Yoga-urt #2 opens which is very stressful and hard. Overwhelming for me. And will once again pull my family in different directions and I just really hope her surgery can happen in June so I can be more present for all.

My dad is as involved as he can be, but has real limitations under the circumstances. And my sister is with her family in OC, and I have no idea really if she will come out to support.

It saddens me that my family can’t be involved in the way that I would like or wish but I’m trying to accept it in a loving way.

Although I hope my family can be a huge part of the Echo Park opening, I’ve decided that either way, I will celebrate the opening of the Echo Park store with my Yoga-urt family – my team and our customers.

And I can’t wait to celebrate!

This last week was very stressful. My GC and I had a few tough moments. Conversations that we had weeks ago that weren’t remembered. Changes needed to pass inspections. Where things go. Who pays for what. There were some tense moments but we are good now. Onward!

We made so much progress this past week. Floor was finished. All equipment was delivered. Cameras and music were installed. Lights and AC were on and working. Subway tile went up. Shelving went up. Started training people at the Glendale store. Graphics were sent for printing.

We start final inspections this week, but the final health inspection probably won’t be until next week. Really hoping for smooth inspections but you never know. So stressful!

We also start the big PR/Marketing push on May 1st. We have a great press kit and video and will reach out to all we can to get Yoga-urt the love and recognition it deserves.

As for the opening date, can’t confirm until final inspections are passed but we are getting close! Still SO much to do though. I am way overwhelmed but up for the challenge as I bring this baby home!

Here We Go!

Here we go is right!

We are probably 3-4 weeks away from opening the Echo Park store as long as we don’t get anymore curveballs.

The place is finally starting to look like Yoga-urt although not there yet. The most exciting thing was to see our exterior sign go up – it’s beautiful! And then our new gate went up. Paint is almost done, mural is up, counter is almost done, and floor is being done this weekend. Next week, all the equipment will be delivered and lots of details have to be done.

I’m really starting to feel the pressure now. All of the stuff that I pushed off dealing with until the end I now have to deal with.

I have to go back to the health department and the city to get some changes signed off on. I have to order all of the items left on the list like chairs & tables. And the thing that is occupying a lot of my time is interviewing potential team members, calling references, offering jobs and soon to be training. Not to mention finalizing the press kit, getting graphics and signs for the store, and soon ordering all the ingredients, toppings, etc. Putting the recipe book together. Buying a safe. The list is endless.

I’m at the point where I need to prioritize as I can’t do it all at once. So that is what I’m doing. And it’s stressful that this has all taken longer than I thought for a million different reasons. I lose money every week we don’t open and there is a lot of planning involved around the opening date which we still don’t know.

I just keep telling myself a week delay here, a day delay there, won’t kill us. To just push as hard as I can and then accept what comes. And try to enjoy the ride. Because once we open, everything shifts in a way that I can’t control.

Over the next few weeks some new Echo Park hires will be training at the Glendale store. It’s going to be a bit crazy, but should get us off to a good start when Echo Park opens.

The countdown is on and after being pregnant for 9 months (literally signed the lease 9 months ago), the baby is coming soon.

Here we go!

Vegan Street Fair & Smorgasburg

In the last few months, we’ve done a couple of festivals/events.

Back in February, we were signed up to do Super Vegan Sunday at Smorgasburg which is where Smorgasburg increases their vegan options for this one Sunday each year. We had prepped big time for this, but around 8pm the night before it was cancelled because of bad rain.

What a bummer, both financially and because of all the prep that went into it. I had spent the last 24 hours getting us ready and my team prepped for weeks. But I thought it was the right decision under the circumstances. We were offered a few make up dates and so we came out the following 2 Sunday’s. It rained one of the Sunday’s so it was pretty much a waste of time. And the 2nd Sunday was much better but it was still a cold day. I think I realized that maybe it’s best not to do events in the winter.

And then we had Vegan Street Fair a few weekends ago, which was our 4th time there and the very 1st event we ever did back in 2016. This event is the biggest vegan festival in the country. In the past, we’ve had nonstop lines, but wasn’t sure what it would be like because it was expanded to 2 days, weather wasn’t the best, and lots more vendors.

Plus, for the 1st time for VSF, no one from my family came to help and they are like my safety net. I had to rely solely on my team but everyone showed up and did a great job.

We introduced a new flavor and brought some favorites. The first day was good but not great, but we still managed to almost sell out of everything we btought. But the second day was great. We had nonstop lines for most of the day which I’m so grateful for.

It was interesting because for both of these events this year, we did not get a lot of love from the social media influencers. In the past, we have, so I honestly didn’t know how that would impact us. Definitely for Vegan Street Fair, it didn’t seem to matter. People came to our booth, waited in line, and we had one of the longest lines there.

We completely sold out of the soft serve scoops on Sunday which is great for many reasons, including that it makes it so much easier to pack up at the end of the night.

And then when I got back to the store around 8:30pm – for the first time ever – we were sold out of all of our soft serve in the machine. Nothing was left. All we had were pints & ice cream sandwiches. Craziness!!! Luckily o had 2 soft serve makers coming on Monday morning to get us caught up for Monday.

Man, these events are a lot of work. That’s why we do just a select few each year. They are physically hard and since I’ve had back issues, I have to make sure I have enough help for the heavy lifting. And the days are like 16 hour days for me. Exhausting!

But it’s fun meeting people, seeing our friends, trying other food, etc. Doing another small event in Orange County this Saturday, our first time in the OC.

But then that’s it until after the Echo Park store opens. I need to focus. Things are moving full steam ahead and it’s time to make it happen!

Construction Curveballs

Remember how I said on my last post that we were having 3 inspections? Well, we got 2 BIG curveballs – the biggest ones – both water & power.

Right after my last post, we got hit with these big issues.

It was an extremely stressful week. One big hit after another. Both seemed at times pretty devastating.

The power issue came to be because we always knew we’d be upgrading the meter from 100 amps to 200 amps. All of a sudden it became an issue. We wanted DWP to tell us where to put the meter and then they questioned if there was enough power or if the whole block of units would need a power upgrade – and if an upgrade was needed – they said it would take DWP close to a year to do. That’s right, imagine hearing that when you’re 4 weeks from opening.

I was pretty devastated to hear this. I made 3 trips to DWP that week to see what could be done. One solution within my control and timing was to cut equipment to live within the existing meter, until DWP did the upgrade a year later.

So I spent a week figuring out what I would cut. Went to the engineer to recalculate the amps but he kept saying I needed to cut more. It was so hard and sad for me. It also meant we’d need to move all soft serve production for BOTH stores to the Glendale store. I started researching trucks that could deliver almost daily to the Echo Park store and thinking how production would work.

I had another call with the DWP engineer, and after sending him pics of the meters he said he thought there was a chance I could increase my meter to 200 amps without the major upgrade – a glimmer of hope.

So last week, both DWP and Building & Safety came out to the store to look at the meters, the transformer, etc. and it was still hopeful as he said the transformer was bigger than he thought. He needed a little more info from us and to study it all and would give me an answer soon.

And guess what! They approved my 200 amp meter – I’m good to go on power and don’t have to cut any equipment. What a relief. I was getting so sad cutting equipment and not being able to start with all I had planned. But now, we’re good to go!

But we also had a HUGE water issue. All plumbing in my unit is good, but there was an issue with the meter it was attached to. It was 5/8″ and we needed one that was at least 1″. So back to DWP we went to beg our case.

DWP said that it could take up to 90 days to get a new meter, but it showed there was an active 1″ meter at that location. I went from feeling defeat at hearing 90 days to some hope that there was a 1″ meter we could use.

We had to find out if anyone else was using the 1″ meter or if we could use it. The next day, with the landlord, we tested all the units and turns out no one was using it (we later found out why, there was a broken pipe that we needed to fix) so we could. I got us a permit to do the work that needed to be done, had an inspector come out, and we did the work last week. Now we just need the inspector to come out to sign off and we are good to go!

Can you believe this crap?

Both my General Contractor and I didn’t sleep for many nights as it seemed we were in big trouble. The possible financial implications for Yoga-urt were so huge, it’s scary to even think about.

So the bad news is we lost about 4 weeks (huge bummer) and there is an added cost for both the time lost and work needed to fix the issues. But this could’ve been so much worse. It could’ve gone on for months or even a year.

DWP was very responsive to me (helps that I went there in person 3 days in one week) and I’m so thankful for that. My GC helped me through the whole thing. My landlord was also very responsive and supportive. So even though it’s been very stressful and scary, I’m so appreciative that we can move forward.

I still don’t understand why these issues came up so late in construction, but my focus was on fixing and moving forward. Some things just don’t have clear answers.

This coming week, we are waiting for inspectors to come back. I hate waiting. We can’t do the drywall until sign off, so we wait. So frustrating.

But after inspections, I think we are moving forward until we hit the finish line. Crossing fingers for no more curve balls.

Still so much to to do and I just really hope that we can open the 2nd part of April!

My Days

My days are kind of crazy right now. It’s go time for store #2 so I’m running around a lot.

For example, here’s how my day went yesterday.

I started by going to the city to deal with an issue with our back door at Echo Park. The good news is the inspector and I came to a conclusion that works for both us. But I have to change it on the plan and come back…again…to get it stamped. So another visit is added to my list for next week.

Then I went to a printer shop to make some copies of the plans because I have to go to the health dept next week as well to show some changes we made.

Next was to the tile place to order the tile for the exterior of the store. I had a tough time deciding between 2 different colors so hopefully I made the right choice.

Next to Smart n Final to pick up dry ice as I had 3 pint shipments to do. So on to Glendale Yoga-urt I go to pack up the pints, and then I took them to Fedex.

Next was dropping the plans back off at the Echo Park store for my GC.

Then back to Glendale Yoga-urt to try and get my walk in before it got dark. Spent some time checking in at the store there and then finally went home.

And all the while also approving signage for the store, ordering some things, and dealing with 1 really big construction problem that I will share more on soon.

I don’t know how I did this last time with a full-time job. It’s a lot now without another job, so how the hell did I do it. I know it wasn’t healthy and I know I’m still recovering, but I guess I just pushed through.

Tomorrow is a big day at Echo Park as we have 3 inspections. Hoping all goes well so we can move forward.

And then we deal with my big problem. At least I’m clear now on our options so hopefully I can make it still work – I have to.