I live in CA. I have a fully licensed commercial kitchen in a separate building on my property. I love it!
The problem is I live in a very small town (7000 people). I only do wedding and custom tiered cakes. The nearest big town is about an hour away. But it's a great wedding location with lots of Wineries! I pretty much do all my business out there.
I honestly feel if I had a small place out there just as a cake studio I could increase business substantially. I am finding out that the rents on a small place run between $800 and $1000. My circle thinks I am crazy for paying that much for just a place to showcase my cakes and meet with clients.
But what they don't understand is that I meet with my clients at coffee shops close to them most of the time and I am paying out in travel time and gas anyway. I know the exposure will at least bring me that added business to cover the cost. What do you think!
PS. I always, always, get asked by my brides "where are you located" . I have learned not to tell them how far away my kitchen is because they freak! Even though I have been delivering out there and further for three years now. At least this way I could say my studio is located on Main Street in downtown Livermore.
I understand your thinking.
If it were me....I think I'd almost rather set up my entire bakery in that town. I'd rather schlep myself to work, than schlep a cake that far!
Not familiar wher Newman is, but being California winecountry, I don't think $800 is bad. I think you've weighed your cost driving back in forth, which California gas prices, ridiculous, to having a location there. Make a list. Where are the cost versus the savings.
I can see how having a showroom/meeting space would be beneficial. If you think you can increase your clientele enough to pay for it - I say go for it. I'd rent month-to-month or a short-term lease just to be sure.
Is there a florist or another boutique where you could have an area to meet with your clients and display cakes? That may be another way to go???
Until last Thursday, I was renting space in a kitchen that was 40 minutes from the town in which I want to do business. The first question I always got from people was "Where are you located?" and when I told them "I'm renting kitchen space in South San Francisco' but my business is based here and I can meet you wherever you like to discuss your cake, their eyes glazed over and they totally lost interest.
Now, I'm building a kitchen only 10 minutes away and potential customers seem excited that I am going to 'open' soon. (Nobody gets that I've been "open" for 14 months)
I KNOW being local is amazingly better for me, but I don't really get why it makes a difference to the client. I could have met with them at their house, at my house, at a coffee shop, wherever, and I did some of all that, but mostly people just didn't get it.
I absolutely HATE driving, so I would much rather have my shop and my clients close to me and commute if I sometimes have to deliver a cake out of my area (some of my clients will undoubtedly choose San Francisco as their venue), but if you don't mind driving and want to cultivate customers an hour away, I think you will be better off with a site close to your customer base.
Any chance you could sublease a small space in a florist shop, in the offices of a wedding planner, a wedding dress shop, or something like that? You probably only need 200 square feet or even less for a "display room" and many businesses are downsizing these days.
It is not just rent, but, at minimum, you'll need electricity and additional property/liability insurance and maybe a phone. You can run your numbers both for your own space and for a sublet and see how much additional cake you'll need to produce to pay your additional expenses each way and then see whether you have the time and inclination to produce that much cake. If the answer is yes, I'd say go for it! Just don't tell people that you bake an hour away. Let them wonder where the kitchen is....
I rented a table for $350.00 in a small florist shop. It didn't work out though. The owner was wonderful, but there just wasn't enough space for the brides and myself to feel comfortable. A friend of mine told me that because it was in a florist shop some of the brides felt pressured to go with that florist too.
I hold free tastings once a month at a local winery and that works out good. But the brides Always ask me "where is your shop".
Because of the economy in Ca there are a lot of small spaces available on a month to month basis. My hope is that if I can increase my exposure, be a part of the downtown association, and do some more networking, that it will lead to something more permanent like my kitchen and shop all in one! But right now this is all I can afford.
My big decision is do I wait until I can afford a whole place or do I try and get more exposure now. I am lousy at waiting!
If you think that the extra exposure can get you the business you would need to justify a shop in that area... then I say go for it. If it is affordable for you to rent a small place month to month for now and see where it gets you it can't hurt. So if you can spend the extra $1000-1200 per month for the place and utilities/taxes and insurance (less if ultils are included) then I don't see where it would hurt you. Don't get stuck in a long term lease and you should be fine.
The thing is though... they are still going to ask "where do you bake the cakes?" and you are still going to say "an hour away from here"... just something to think about.