Wow! Where do I begin? Exciting times here in Casa Vilora Land. Yes, we are moving on up to new digs in just a few short weeks! The road here has been rough; sometimes crazy, but nothing short of amazing. I have learned and grown as I pursued this long time dream, and I am very excited to embark on this new chapter in my professional and personal life
God placed this dream in my heart long time ago, and He has worked it out in His own timing. Although I became restless and impatient along the way, even trying to do this very thing without the right foundation in place, and “failed miserably” at it.
If you have been following me for a long time, you may recall that this is not my first attempt at moving into a storefront. Back in 2012, I attempted this very thing (read about it here). In my defense, I felt that the time was right then too. I saved up some money, and had planned to get a loan to finance the rest. Everything was looking good, and I signed on the dotted line and spent all my savings on some of the basics…until the loan fell through at the last minute. I was left unable to finish building out the store, and after about a year, I had to give it up.
Most people would consider it a FAILURE, but I don’t, although I can’t say that was the case when I was in the thick of it. I saw some amazing blessings in all of it. First, that former landlord felt so bad about the significant amount of money that I had already spent, he forgave the debt I owed him and allowed me to move out free and clear. That to me was the most incredible thing anyone has ever done for me. I also found the quaint little Victorian cottage that I now occupy, shortly after that to move my business into. The landlords were a great couple, who were so happy that I was fixing up the place a bit for them. There were months where the rent was going to be a few days late, and they were so gracious in allowing me to be a little late every once in a while without any penalty. This place also eventually allowed me to save some money – something I was not able to do for many years. I also learned along the way to run my life and business debt free, and to this day I am, and won’t be borrowing money to finance this venture.
Our biggest challenges are often the best teachers, and I learned a lot from that experience. I learned how important it is to plan and budget for a big change like this. I learned vendor relations, and how to effectively barter with suppliers where we both came out winning. I learned to be patient, and that sometimes a little sacrifice is worth it in order to accomplish your goals. I still don’t have a ton of money, but I am in a much better position to see this new showroom through to completion. It will take everything I have, but the return on my investment will be worth it.
After praying about this dream for a while, and saving every last penny I could, I began to seriously search for a new space about 6 months ago. I was looking for about 1200 to 1500 SF. I had budgeted for a maximum amount of $2000 per month for a lease. Here in Katy TX, that is no easy feat finding a great location for that rate. I fell in love with a few because of the visibility and traffic, but they were all coming in at $2500 or more; some as much as $4300 per month! Then I came across a quaint old building that needed a ton of work – there were 2 units next to each other that totaled 1400sf. I immediately saw the potential; called up the landlord, negotiated the lease to $2000 for both, and before long, signed a contract and paid the deposit. After a lot of back and forth with the City of Katy, and the things the landlord needed to do to bring it up to code, I realized that it was not going to happen. The landlord offered to give me my deposit back, and I accepted and moved on.
I found about three other spaces that I was interested in, one of which I applied to and still haven’t heard back to this day. I was particularly interested in this one because it was in a great location, and the rent (after negotiating) was $2150 per month. The current lessee was trying to get out of the lease, and so I thought the landlord would be motivated. WRONG! Poor guy is still there and I never got a call back from them after the application process.
Then I found another space that was about 1200 sf – the shopping center was less than desirable with a gas station on the premises, but the rent was only $1800. I was strongly considering it, but never got a call back from the landlord. Of course I kept looking, and came across another space that I had been interested in years back. I had called and never got a call back a few years before. I thought I couldn’t afford that center because it is very busy with great traffic, but decided to call anyway. This time the same phone number led me to a voicemail that gave a second number to call. I called the number and explained to the gentleman who answered that I am interested in looking at the two units that were available. It so happened that he was just down the street at the permitting office and was able to drive over to show them to me within 15 minutes. Units 207 and 208 were exactly the same 1450sf, but 207 had a few minor quirks, like a support column near the front door, and it was in rougher shape than 208. But there was something about it that I liked more. Plus 7 is a number that represents something that is meaningful to me. I was almost scared to ask what the rent was, but I did. It was $1667.50 per month!! I pretended not to be excited and told him I would be in touch later. It was literally 15 minutes later, I got back to my office and sent him an email negotiating the rent to $1400 with a buildout allowance for the flooring and 2 free months. He responded right away (a rarity with these landlords) with his counteroffer of $1522 per month, no buildout flooring allowance and 2 months free rent. (Yes! I’ll take it! 🙂 ) $1522 is only about $72 more than I currently pay for rent. I accepted right away, and before I knew it, I was signing the lease!
I signed the lease to my new space that Friday, and hurricane Harvey hit a few days later! I remember sitting in my home during the storm pretty much convinced that it was flooded and I may have to beg my way out of the lease. I had seen flooding in the same area many times before. I had no reason to believe it was spared. As soon as it was safe to go out after the storm, I went to check on my 3 storage units with all my stuff in them (which is on the same street, about a mile away), and of course I went to check on the new storefront. On my drive, I saw that every single neighboring business had flooded. All but one of the previous units I was interested in, but never got for one reason or another, were flooded. The shopping center with my new unit was fine! We weren’t flooded! The center just next door did, the buildings behind it did, and the homes across the street did. My storage units did not flood either, although the building sits lower than street level. I don’t know why this miracle happened to me, but it was confirmation to me that God wanted to use my business for more than just making homes pretty. He wanted me to make a difference in people’s lives. This is where the Adopt A Family idea came from. Read about it here, and I sincerely hope you will support it. I am close to selecting a family to help and I am hoping to get this into motion very soon.
The picture above is the mockup of my signage. It is now in the permitting stage and I am hoping to be installing it in a couple of weeks. Looking at it, even though it’s just a mockup, fills me with pride.
The showroom will remain a design studio with most projects customized to suit our clients, but we will also have some cash and carry decor items, like pillows, candles, accessories available. I decided to showcase it as more of a living space, with room vignettes to help inspire patrons. There will be a bedroom, dining room and living room vignette, plus a functioning kitchen. The rest will be tons of storage for sample books and catalogs and lots of work surfaces. We will be hosting monthly workshops for both designers and consumers, art night, and networking events. My goal is to be a community destination. A place where everyone feels at home
I will be infusing each vignette with unexpected, eclectic style, so clients can get a glimpse of high style, and what is possible if they worked with us.
I am in the process of designing a custom drapery program to allow custom window treatments to be affordable and accessible to every homeowner at every budget level. The new showroom will showcase a drapery display for this program.
Here are a few before pictures
Here are a few BEFORES with the floor done and the millwork going in
The Floor plan.
There have been a few modifications since then, but you get the idea
Are you as excited as I am?! 🙂
Check out the announcement video below to learn more about our upcoming move, which we expect to be mid November. I will be announcing the location and exact opening date soon. If you are not following us on Facebook, please do so now so you won’t miss out on the adventures. Click here to like us. I will be doing frequent Facebook livestreams leading up to grand opening. We are using hashtag #CVIStudioScenes
Please join our email list here, to stay up to date with our big move! We are super excited about this and can’t wait to be up and running
If you are in the Houston area, and you are looking for a new position or know someone who is, we are hiring for the following positions:
- Kitchen and Bath Sales and Design – commission position
- Book keeper – part time. Please do not apply if you do not use Quickbooks Online
- Design Assistant, Expeditor, Personal Assistant – full or part time
Please apply at here
Wishing You Beauty and Inspiration!