By REMODELING Magazine Staff. Dewitt Beal, DeWitt Designer Kitchens, Studio City, Calif.
Lease. I had to lease because I couldn't buy a place in the location I wanted. When I decided to lease, the principal thing I researched was the "life," or traffic, in the area. My space is near a main intersection, so it gets a lot of foot traffic. There are several home-related businesses -- an antique store, a hardware store, a sofa place, and a baby furniture shop -- in the area.
Part of the analysis of the location was to make sure people could see the displays. We have plate glass windows and a big bay unit. I was also looking for a shabby space, because I was going to gut it and build it out to suit my needs anyway.
Diane Quinn, Beyond Kitchens, Rochester, Minn.
Lease. When I decided to lease, the No. 1 thing I evaluated was location. Also, price was important because my business was a start-up. I also wanted to be near other small businesses. My landlord is a businessperson and offered me mentorship and networking. He and I have negotiated for me to buy the space, but he is not overly motivated to sell. At this point, I'm biding my time for a few years to see what happens. Several nearby businesses are discussing a cooperative building, which is another option.
Sandy Kennison, B.J. Kennison Company, Monson, Mass.
Own. We bought a house and it had enough land for us to build our showroom building. My husband/partner is a builder, so he renovated our house and erected a separate unit next door. It has a showroom and Corian shop on the main level and offices upstairs. Buying is more cost-effective in the long run. If you are dedicated to being in the kitchen and bath business, then it's worth purchasing a space -- especially with today's low loan rates.
Gary Lichlyter, Lemont Kitchen and Bath, Lemont, Ill.
Lease. I don't think there is a right or wrong answer here -- it's what you are comfortable doing. We chose to rent so we can concentrate on our business. If you buy, you need to treat that part almost like a separate company. Do you want to be a landlord or a kitchen designer? If you own it and there is a downturn in the market, it could hurt you because you might not be able to sell.
We've leased the same building since 1988. I didn't have to analyze foot traffic because our business is focused around interior decorators and architects and designers. We're not set up to handle walk-in business. Right now we have a 1,300-square-foot display space with another 1,000 in the basement for storage and office space. I struggle with what will happen if I have to downsize. Would I keep the main floor space or move to the basement?
Emeil Soryal, Kitchen and Bath Etc., Chagrin Falls, Ohio
Lease. My area has reasonable leasing rates. Unless you can buy a whole shopping strip or somewhere in a commercial area, you should probably lease. I worked out of my house for a few years, but I was missing out on foot traffic and having a visible name. I'm a firm believer that you need a storefront and need to be connected to other stores. We're next to a Subway sandwich shop and Ethan Allen Furniture. We get foot traffic during lunch. In a strip mall or shopping center you don't usually have the option of buying. If the landlord offered to sell me my space, I'd be interested.
Joni Zimmerman Manto, Design Solutions, Annapolis, Md.
Own. I leased for eight years before purchasing our design studio space last year. Lending companies are more inclined to support you in a purchase if you have an existing, ongoing business and a leasing track record at that same location. My space is in a professional office park, so we don't get that much walk-in traffic. I own the building personally. For tax purposes, it's better for me to own it and rent it back to the company. I am debating whether to stay here -- we might want to be more visible. But my money is not going out the window -- I am building equity in a marketable property.
I recently opened a showroom in a nearby town. We lease that space because it's in a retail shopping center that's not available for purchase.