Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Year of the I-Pad

Last week my sister and brother-in-law visited to help celebrate my father's upcoming ninetieth birthday (you read that right--90th!). My brother-in-law brought along his I-Pad. I looked at it, touched a few screen icons, watched him and my sister play Scrabble. The next morning I woke up with this strong urge to own one.

I titled this post, "The Year of the I-Pad' in reference to my post a couple of years ago, "The Year of the Blackberry," my first foray into smart phone territory. The phone has proved to be an indispensable work tool, but it hasn't evolved. I didn't even get a new phone at the beginning of the year when my plan allowed because there was no phone to upgrade to. I've been thinking of the I-Phone but have been advised by my trusted adviser (my son) to wait for the newer version, rumored to be out soon.

The newer version of the I-Pad, however, is out now. I must say Apple does it right. Their sales people not only know their products, they can place your order and deliver it right to where you are standing, playing with a display model. You don't even need to weed your way through the crowded store to the cash register, stand in line, etc., all those distractions that make you change your mind and leave. They keep you focused on the product and the excitement of owning it. All of us in sales should learn from this model.

I am finding my new I-Pad extraordinarily easy to use (including typing on the touch screen), offering great visual displays, loads of apps--both fun, work-related and all around useful. Makes my PC (although still invaluable) seem . . . well almost . . . outdated. It is no longer on the leading edge of computing. I am not the only one who feels this way. I came across an article: IBM Inventor: PC is Dead. Mark Dean is quoted, "My primary computer now is a tablet. When I helped design the PC, I didn't think I'd live long enough to witness its decline."

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Good Time to Buy Commercial Property

It is a good time to buy commercial property. Loan rates are low; pricing is all over the place but deals can be had. With depreciation in value, those who purchased in 2005-2006 real estate boom years are motivated to sell. Some of these were investors who purchased with cash looking to pull their money out. Others are near the end of a loan which needs re-financing. And others may be in default of their loans, under pressure from their banks to sell even if the sales price will not fully pay off the debt ('short sale' scenario).

Are you considering buying a commercial property?

By purchasing commercial property, you build equity in an appreciable asset that also offers multiple tax advantages and income-sheltering opportunities not available with leasing. Below is from a blog I previously posted, but still relevant today. In light of current market conditions, well worth a re-post.

Here is a list of factors to consider when evaluating the purchase of a commercial property.


Location/Site Considerations
  • Is it in a thriving neighborhood?
  • Is it in a commercial district that's popular and full of tenants, or half empty?
  • Are prices trending up or down?
  • Has the building been well-maintained?
  • What business image equity does the building offer?
  • How long you plan to stay in the space; will it be long enough for the property to appreciate in value? If not, could you easily rent it out to a tenant if you move?
Property Management
  • Will you hire out property management or do it yourself?
Opportunity Cost
  • What is opportunity cost of money used as deposit to purchase a building?
  • What return would you expect to receive on that money compared to the return you would expect to receive if you invested the money back into your business or other investments?
  • Cash Outlay - Down payment of approximately 25% of the purchase price, depending on the lender and buyer’s credit, vs. lease space with good credit, typical outlay is the security deposit and first month’s rent
  • Fixed vs. Variable Cost – With purchasing, costs more stable over long run, especially with long-term, fixed-rate mortgage. With leasing, the market dictates rent costs over the long term.
  • Growth Considerations – Leasing allows more flexibility and fewer growth constraints for newer companies or those in high growth mode. If company is mature and stable, or buys bigger building and rents out additional space, buying can not only meet future space needs, but offers another source of income.
  • Appreciation – In purchase, generate long-term increase in value through market appreciation.
  • Tax Factors - Lease payments are usually fully deductible, but many expenses of owning office space must be written off over longer periods of time of up to 39 years. Depreciation on the improvement portion of the property and can usually deduct all interest payments. When considering the tax factors it is essential to consult an attorney and tax professional about the legal and financial considerations of owning office space.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Recipe for Success--Paradiso Pizza and Subs

They signed the contract pre-construction. Time frame, by my best estimate, was March of 2007. Sitting in their restaurant, Big Joe's Pizza and Subs in Manassas, we marked the occasion with a serving of their fine Italian cake laced with rum. The availability of retail and restaurant condominium property for sale is rare, and they were excited about owning commercial real estate. It took almost a year for the building to be constructed and close to another year for their build-out to be completed. In late 2008, Paradiso Pizza and Subs officially opened its doors at the Piedmont Center Plaza in Gainesville.

I visit Kamran, the owner, and his partner often. Whenever I am out in the Haymarket/Gainesville area (at least once but generally several times a week), I like to see how some of my clients and customers are doing. It is rewarding for me to see how people I've worked with take a concept and bring it to fruition.

Location has been a challenge (they are tucked behind US Tiger building with no road visibility), as was the unforeseen economic times. But I am happy to report that business at Paradiso Pizza and Subs is thriving, so much so that they've added outdoor tables to accommodate additional seating. This is not just a pizza and sub shop. Paradiso Pizza and Subs also features a full menu of Italian as well as Greek specialty offerings, including what I have found to be one of the best hummus dips you can find anywhere.

I discovered their hummus when I stopped in one day to pick up some lunch. The gyros, kabobs, salads, sandwiches, calzones and pizzas all seemed to offer larger portions than I was hungry for. So I asked about the hummus on the appetizer portion of the menu. "We have the best hummus," Kamran told me. "One serving and you will be hooked." Turned out he was right. Their hummus, perfectly seasoned and textured with lemon, oil and garlic, and served with fresh slices of pita bread, is a worthy food craving, and whenever I am in the Gainesville area at lunch time, I pick up my hummus fix.

At Paradiso's, you can eat in or take-out, and free delivery is offered. I have sampled my fair share of their pizza, calzone and salads, and they are all excellent. Which goes to show that good food and friendly service are a recipe for success. The Piedmont Center Plaza is located on Route 55 in Gainesville, across the street from the Haymarket Post Office. Paradiso's address is 6826 Piedmont Center Plaza. Hours and directions are on their website.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Year of the Blackberry

The end of a year is always a good time to regroup and figure out what you will do differently, and how you will work smarter and more efficiently the following year. Last year I started this blog. For 2010 I've decided it's time to upgrade from my leather day planner and move to the smaller and more organized way to keep track of contacts and appointments--The Blackberry.

I bought this a couple of days before Christmas and spent a few days (with the help of my visiting adult children who know this phone inside and out) getting acquainted with it. Thanks to my one daughter, I can now enter contact information on my computer through G-Mail and my appointments on Google calendar and all this information uploads automatically to my Blackberry. Vice versa works as well. Thanks to my son, I can instant message him in Korea through Blackberry Messaging. Even my other daughter, who is an I-Phone convert, helped me find my way through this phone as well. Technology is wonderful.

This is a start to a productive, and more efficient and organized 2010.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Not normally a huge fan of snow, having grown up outside New York City where snow accumulated and remained for weeks in piles where it had been plowed by the side of the road, encrusted with black tar and road debris. But a Saturday of huge wet snow flakes, accumulating about 4 inches, is a nice break especially when it's the first snow of the season. But Realtors don't get days off on weekends and was an excellent day to update marketing for listed properties and review a long, complex lease for a retail tenant client.

Picture is the front of my house in Virginia. Looks inviting!

Monday, November 30, 2009

No more smoking in Virginia restaurants

The new ban on smoking goes into effect tomorrow.

Effective December 1, 2009, smoking will be prohibited in restaurants that are open to the public with a few exceptions.

I noted recently in a restaurant near my house with a heavy smoking bar that they had installed a new ventilation system in the bar and were installing doors to enter into the bar. This is to be in compliance with the new law which allows any portion of a restaurant that is structurally separated from the non-smokers with its own ventilation system and at least one public entrance into the non-smoking area to be exempt from the new law. That is, you can smoke in those bars.

The law affects bars and lounges, since in Virginia, to receive an ABC license, the establishment must serve food and show a set percentage of food sales.

Bowling alleys, skating rinks and other places that have a snack bar are also affected by the new law. The ban also applies to hookah and cigar bars if they prepare food. Restrooms must also be smoke-free.
More information at Virginia Department of Health site,

Monday, September 7, 2009

Oh So Sweet It Is

When I took the retail listing earlier this year for the charming storefront on Battle Street in Old Town Manassas, I thought it would be fairly easy to lease. A 1000 SF retail space with an adjacent free parking lot in the heart of Old Town within walking distance of the train station. A dream location!

And it is. But the the economy was faltering, and new business owners hesitated to make lease commitments. I showed the space to coffee shop and ice cream parlor and gift store prospects, start-up companies flush with good ideas but short of confidence (not to mention working capital).

Until Ebony, owner of Oh So Sweet Treats: Sweet Treats For Your Sweet Tooth came along. I met her on a very hot day early in the summer season. We toured the space (not air conditioned that day!) and it was a love-at-first-sight experience. Ebony was already a successful business operator, baking and selling cookies, brownies, cupcakes and other sweets from her home, successfully operating as a mail order company. She was ready to take the next step and open a storefront gourmet bakery.

Over the years, I have seen disappointment on every side of the transaction when a deal does not work out. Owners are frustrated when a space does not lease or sell quickly, or worse when someone changes their mind early on (when contractually, they still can). Buyers and tenants sometimes lose out on what they deem to be the perfect location. Even before working in this business, I've always believed what's meant to be will be when it comes to matching the right property with the perfect user. And this was a perfect match.

The landlord was excited about Ebony's proposed use. They felt that a bakery would be an ideal complement to the neighborhood and their own newly opened Old Town Market next door. Ebony had her own vision of how her store should look, which included taking down and putting up walls, installing new flooring, painting, and ripping out a display shelf in the front window to create a sunny seating area. The landlord was willing to do much of the work for the right tenant, and Oh So Sweet Treats was that tenant.

I have visited Oh So Sweet Treats several times in the past few weeks. It's a welcoming establishment with earth-tone green walls, dark wood-grain flooring and a glass counter displaying an assortment of sweet treats. There are also tables set up (sans chairs, waiting for city approval! Come on, Manassas, if one can stand by the tables and nibble on sweets and sip coffee, let us sit).

I am a cookie lover, and on my first visit I purchased some amazing white chocolate chip cookies, moist and chewy with just the perfect balance of chips and cookie dough and macadamia nuts. Melt in your mouth may be a cliche, but there's no other way to describe how I savored the cookie experience.

I missed Historic Manassas Inc.'s Ribbon Cutting ceremony, but was there later in the afternoon and sampled some truly luscious cupcakes. Ebony's baked goods are up to even the most demanding and discriminating sweet tooth, such as my own, taking the satisfying-a-craving factor to a whole new enjoyment level.

Located at 9411 Battle Street in Manassas, Oh So Sweet Treats is open Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and on Saturdays starting at 10:00 a.m. The staff are friendly and there are daily specials (advertised on Twitter, where Ebony has almost 1,500 followers!). Stop by for a real treat.