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glenn

how to open an eatery in NJ

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Some of you know I'm looking to open my own place. Not to go into details, it's not exactly a restaurant - an ice cream parlor along with a bunch of different grilled cheese sandwiches and other stuff. All upscale items, no diet nothing (and anyone who asks for a diet coke will be banned along with all their relatives.) No cooking facilities necessary.

I've gotten as far as a realistic business plan, a savvy partner, getting a commitment for most of the capital and settling on several locations in Hudson county. I've run into a stumbling block though, one in which perhaps those of you who own businesses and /or restaurants or are in the business of consulting for such a purpose can help.

I found one possible place with the help of a realtor. I was only able to get a realtor's help by walking into the realty office and demanding they find me a place. Well, sort of. Suffice to say, no one in this business returns phone calls. I need an architect or someone qualified to give me an estimate of what it will cost to fix up the place (electric, plumbing, etc.) , not to mention getting blueprints if I take the spot. I've run out of people to try and I'm ready to resort to the phone book. I tried asking other restaurateurs in the area for referrals (they're all too busy!), tried the restaurant associaiton (no call back) and the realtor's recommendation (never called back).

Plus, dealing with the Building Dept. in 2 cities so far has been a nightmare. These guys (and it is just one guy in each instance) have their undies on too tight and are the most unhelpful louts I've spoken to. I assume they'll only talk to architects.

My other problem is finding available space. I'm not sold on this space I found and I wanna continue looking. This is impossible to do by phone because, like I said, people just don't call back. I've been hunting for 4 months for a spot and finally decided to throw away the phone. I've scouted the areas I'm interested in and have walked into realty offices, but most of the time I'm told the person I need to speak to isn't there and it's back to the phone thing. So how does one find an available spot?

It should be added that my budget does not call for a fancy schmantzy design firm. I've come across businesses that pretty much do this plus a lot more, but charge a king's ransom.

One of the most frustrating and surprising aspects of all this is the lack of help I get from other people in the biz. And I'm talking about places that I frequent and that know me. Bastids. ;-0 Anyhow, I sort of hate throwing this up for public scrutiny for various reasons, but I'm stuck. Thanks for any help.

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I'm in somewhat of the same boat, although w/o a partner, the commited capital, and I've decided to delay my plans.

I found one possible place with the help of a realtor.  I was only able to get a realtor's help by walking into the realty office and demanding they find me a place.  Well, sort of.  Suffice to say, no one in this business returns phone calls.

My usual assumption is that if they don't return phone calls, they're too busy, and are prioritizing their sales leads. But smart salespeople at least make contact with every lead before dismissing them out of hand.

I'm assuming you're calling the brokers listed for these places you've found interested. That's one way to start.

I didn't go that route because I didn't want to burn my bridges by not following through.

It's suprising that they're not returning your calls at all though. Most brokers will at least return the first call.

I'd suggest another option would be trying a buyer's broker. If you have a friend who is a broker, start there.

  I need an architect or someone qualified to give me an estimate of what it will cost to fix up the place (electric, plumbing, etc.) , not to mention getting blueprints if I take the spot.  I've run out of people to try and I'm ready to resort to the phone book.  I tried asking other restaurateurs in the area for referrals (they're all too busy!), tried the restaurant associaiton (no call back) and the realtor's recommendation (never called back). 

One thing I've done is get to know as many people as possible in as many fields as possible in my area. They came in useful when I needed to pick some brains for the business plan.

As far as architect, I would consider the local colleges' architecture schools.

If you get someone there, they'll be cheap or free, which is important.

But I don't really think you need an architect, especially since you can't afford one.

(I was planning on a architect friend giving quick and dirty advice on a few different areas.)

You need someone more of a building codes contractor or engineer. I'll see if I can send one your way. The one I would've used is a friend of a friend.

One of the most frustrating and surprising aspects of all this is the lack of help I get from other people in the biz.  And I'm talking about places that I frequent and that know me.  Bastids.  ;-0  Anyhow, I sort of hate throwing this up for public scrutiny for various reasons, but I'm stuck.  Thanks for any help.

That's unfortunate but not necessarily suprising. The only people you can really depend for stuff like this are your friends and close acquaintances, and those who may profit from you, but that last one hasn't really worked out for you.


Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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Herb, the reason for an architect as opposed to a tradesman is that I'm going to need to submit blueprints certified by an architect if I take the space. Another reason is that I assume that they know the ordinances the best, though I could be dead wrong. This expense is budgeted.

As for realtors, my guess is there's not much money to be made in leasing commercial space and it's probably a bigger hassle than it's worth. I was first told about the possible space that i'm now looking at by a realtor that never called back to follow through. So I went to the area - I didn't know exactly where it was - and just stopped into the first realty office I came across. There was no for rent sign on the place, though it was empty. The realtor instantly knew about the property. I've been told that it's rare that realtors get an exclusive on commercial rental property.

I should also add that I really don't have the time to be scouting around. Not to mention, scoping out an area, which, if done right, would take at least several days of watching the traffic flow.

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If you already have blueprints, an engineer can stamp them for approval. That would be much less expensive than an architect doing it, not to mention that architects are all very busy right now also. I would assume that the property owner has these blueprints for you. If you need to draft blueprints from scratch, it will be very costly. I wouldn't even consider a space if there weren't blueprints available. The other benefit of hiring an engineer vs. architect is that the engineer won't be charging you for extra services. They examine the blueprints, make suggestions, and stamp it. An architect will almost always do a re-draft, make changes, and stamp. I'm not saying this to disparage architects, they are just doing their job. But if you simply need those plans approved and stamped, an engineer is the way to go, hands down. In my opinion at least... :smile:


"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

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Maybe I'm under a misconception. I assumed that blueprints for any proposed changes needed to be submitted to the Bldg. Dept. I also neglected to mention that the place is completely unfinished and needs a substantial amount of work. I can take an educated guess at the cost of construction or bring someone in. However, my major concerns are electrical and plumbing.

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I'm sorry, I was misleading. An engineer can stamp them, but they still need to be submitted to the Bldg Dept. for approval. Bldg Depts won't (typically) look at plans unless they are stamped by an engineer or architect licensed in that state. For the changes you are going to make, a good contractor can handle the design changes, which can then be stamped by an engineer. I would think any decent contractor would have a relationship with an engineer for this...

Sorry about the confusion, it was early!! :biggrin:

Good luck


"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

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I know it's frustrating. When we were looking for a building we got the same thing. We would call the number on the sign and not receive calls back (why bother posting a for rent sign if you are not going to call people back)?

Regarding contruction, get an architect and contractor that have worked in the town before and know the buiding dept, fire dept people, it will make your life easier.

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Try callind Design Line Construction Services in Eatontown NJ. They are a design/build firm with architects on staff. They specilize in the food industry. 732-935-1440. Ask for David (owner) of Jennifer (Manager). Good luck!


Elizabeth (Betsy) Alger

The Frog and The Peach

New Brunswick, NJ 08901

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