Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Update on progress

Counter shelves are done, will be stained tomorrow

All appliances are turn on, all plumbings are hooked

Platform is in form and looking good, will put on bamboo floor and side covers, to be stained tomorrow

I redid the cherry tree at the door, it's now matching the one by the platform (still no camera as of today)

Today, we had an appointment with the health department inspector between 2 and 4 pm. I worked my butt off for 2 days (started working at 4:30 am), pushing the contractors and plumbers to put thing together before inspection, well, no show!!!! WTF!!! Not even a courtesy call to let me know she's not coming. I waited till 5:30 pm, left a message at her office. Of course I can't bitch, I can't even raise my voice, nor that I can blame her for not showing for any unreasonable reasons. This is the kinda crap I have to put up with for the last 6 months. Sure I get upset, but my mind is immune to this kinda shit by now, some times I feel numb, it's better to save a breath, not worth getting all work up for shit that can't be fixed. Things will fall into place at its own pace, that's my motto. A hot bath of Epsom salt with lavender essential oil can rid your body pain and tune out stress. I have been utilizing this regiment every other day if not every day for the last 3 months. I need my sanity!

I also need to remind myself how far I have gone so far:

Jan 06, discovered I want to run a business again

Jan - late march 06, research market, prepare business plan and estimate cost

Late march, start looking for a physical location (estimated 3 - 6 months)

August (5 months later) found this location

December (4 whole months) to negotiate a deal to lock down on a lease. It's nice to be rich, vacancy is not an issue.

December, architect drew up plans for submission to city of RHE and LA county health dept

Mid Jan 07, all plans approved (right on schedule)

2 weeks after plan approval, first contractor (I spoke to 2 months before approval) whom is a church friend of our family friend bailed on the project. Sheesh, can't count on a friend nor a christian, especially a christian contractor whom happens to be a friend's friend. Wasted my time and gave me bull shit excuse. Such a flake! Contacted an other contractor via a friend. He gave me a quote (friendship discount) that tells me nothing but he doesn't want the job. Which was alright. At least no bull. I can handle rejection, but let me know right! Found a logo designing company in Studio city to design my logo, it turned out crappy, I paid $1200 for junk that I can't use.

Early Feb, got hooked up with a neighbor's friend, big time contractor with 50+ union crew members, projects at Disney Land. Another friend of the neighbor who owns a company that install cabinets, offices set ups, cosmetic of remodeling for all the Penski dealerships around the country, who agrees to set up my counters, cabinets, platforms and etc...

Late Feb, Bob pulled a building permit for $1700. 2 weeks later, came back to me with a quote of $38k for only the plumbing portion. Well, that's not going to work, but at least Bob was very genuine and that's just the kind of "high price" subcontractors he knows.

Immediately, late feb, search for contractor information on line, came across Service Magic dot com, I just throw in some job to see what kind of response I get, ding, like magic, my current contractor call me 10 mins later. 3 more called and took them 2 weeks to come up with 3 sets of quotes.

Early March, all quotes were in and I selected my current contractor. Signed contract, scheduled to start working the following monday, scheduled to be finished by March 20. I thought we are still on schedule despite all the delays. Change of contractor is a not easy, I now have to pay $2400 for all the permits again. Bob the previous contractor had to request a refund from the city, I still don't know if he got the money back as of today. I need to give him a call.

Same week, early march, contractor insurance needs to be upgraded to meet landlord requirement, should had taken no more than 2 days, and turned into 2 whole weeks. The first few days, I called for follow ups, didn't hear from the contractor, I panic and thought of the worst that he took my money and ran away. Called utility companies to turn on services, no one has my address correctly. The center is so obnoxious, it has its own address, "the center" instead of # and street where it's on. Water man came and turned on the meter, but the water was not running, he refused to trouble shoot. My contractor found it later. Same thing with gas, meter was on and running, but instead, gas was leaking even nothing's hooked. Service man put a plug on the meter preventing further leak. My contractor took care of that again. Took me a week of research to find a local cable internet provider. Although I knew Cox was the only place, but my address was not registered at their data base, so on their website, I have no cable provider. Equipments were purchased from a couple of vendors, scheduled to be delivered next week.

March 23 midnite, ground breaking started literally, saw cutting concrete floor for proper drainage. 8:30 in the morning, got a phone call from the management office, complaining concrete in the storm drain. My heart dropped to the floor. Fear of having to look for contractor again, what a nightmare that would be. Got my sleepy ass up and arrived to the office to face the devil. It turned out wasn't a big deal, the contractors cleaned up afterwards and no more complain. Same week, started shopping for a sign company, overwhelmingly expensive for an aluminum sign which is required by the landlord. Saturday, Homedepot called me up at 7:30 am, informed of a delivery. It was a Saturday!!!! I dragged my ass up and drove 45 min to the shop. There was the delivery man with a fork lift, on it was a crate of a big 75 gallon water heater tank and cabinets and bamboo floors. He dropped the crate right at my door and left. It's another jaw dropping experience. I called for help, no one's available. Contractor showed up 3 hours later although told me he'll be there in one. I waited and waited, at the mean time, I kept looking at the pile of stuff. Finally I decided to move them inside by myself, the most reliable person is oneself! I got everything else in and down to the giant tank. I then managed to got it stuck in the middle of the door. A shopper stopped and helped me move it all the way inside. I left feeling invigorating. On my way home, I realized my track lights were not in the pile. So a stop at homedepot, the not so helpful "helpers" took an hour to figure out my lights were not included, they don't have them in stock even tough the computer says they do, finally I got my money back and went home for a much needed nap.

End of March, schedule for first inspection, we waited for a whole afternoon, no show. Then I got a call from Bob the previous contractor, he informed me the inspector called him, telling him we over did thing before first inspection. It turns out the city gave him the wrong info, he went to the wrong store (same center), yelled at the wrong people, called the wrong contractor. The point is, Bob was under the impression that I was using his permit behind his back. I had to swear in life of my toes to ensure him my current contractor is legit and we have new permit not under his name, therefore not his liability. 2 days later, the plumbing crew of 4 guys, my contractor and myself waited for the inspector again. Once we spotted him at Pinkberry's, one of the guys stalked him till he entered our door. Hey, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. First building inspection passed. I was happy as a kitten. Everyone in the center started to talk about my contractor for passing at the very first time, usually take a couple of rounds. The center manager wants my contractor now. Called Gene the cabinet guy to start the job, he was in Arizona at the time and agreed to come by in a week for an estimate. We found out architect made a big mistake. Instead of 72" under counter fridge space, he had down 58", now all the plumbing is finalized and covered back up, all the hook ups are at wrong positions. Fuck is what I said! Plumbing is the most expensive, labor intensive, time consuming and crucial part of remodeling in case you don't know. So instead of redoing everything, we decided to rearrange the equipments which is going to interrupt work flow. That's the world I live in now, every now and then it knocks the senses out of you.

Early April, floors were tiled after the concrete was put back in. Found a sign company and paid down payment. Gene was supposed to come by, but didn't show, called a couple times, he kept postponing. I got fed up and negotiated a deal with my current contractor to build the counters. Sunday, my girl friend and her niece, my sis-in-law helped me paint the walls from 11 am till 6 pm. Girl friends are the best and the most reliable. I stayed till midnite to touch up and put up base cove, get ready for plumbing hook up the following day. The next day, I couldn't even lift my arms. YZ told me that she took pain killer before sleep and she's all good the next morning. I had to take pain killer for 3 days.

First week of April, one of the contractor left for vacation. He arranged his partner to have appliances plumbing hook up and build counters. The partner built a tall ass railing over the platform, looking like a cage, I told him to cut it down, he refused to until inspector comes. He then build frames of counter. Expecting deli case shipment last week, but was turn away because the floor guys said it won't fit through the door. Well, people don't give a rat's ass about you or your timeline like you do. That is just the bitter truth. I had to reschedule the 4th time (a week ago was the original delivery, but the driver got lost twice), contractor needs the case for final counter fitting. Plumber who did the rough plumbing was supposed to hook up the finishing plumbing part, but never show nor return calls. The problem was he thought the pay was for rough plumbing only. Chris the partner got pissed and switched plumber, schedule to start work next week. So now, Chris can't get jack done, he was schedule to finish all those task within a week, turned out he did less than 10 hrs of work in the whole week. I was not happy!!!

Following monday, stopped by the sign company to pick up banner, walked in and greeted by a new face, and informed that he's now the new owner whom knows nothing about my sign project, no money, no paper work, no words, nada. Panic alarm ringing in my ears!!!! Called the previous owner (number provided by the new owner), he actually did answer, and offered a refund or a deal with his friend. I haven't seen a dime so far, just dragging ass.

Sunday morning, I got a call from my sis-in-law, my mom was admitted to the hospital for kidney stone and infection. At that point, my sanity fell apart. I worked hard on letting things go, take difficulties with ease. All of that melted under the pressure of my mom's health issue. I was in the garage crying my eye balls out in the darkness. I felt mentally brutalized. I stayed with my mom till Wednesday morning before returning to deal with matters of the shop. She's released the same afternoon and happy to be home with the grand kids again. Phew~

Second week of April, main contractor came back and found that nothing much was done. He got pissed and smacked a piece wood so hard and punctured his finger. I took maters to my own hand, went home and got a big olde pick up truck, drove to the ware house picked up the deli case flew down to PV on the free way. The contractors took out the door of the entrance and the deli case, smooth sailing, there my deli case sitting inside after a 2 weeks ordeal. Just when I was feeling a little exited about the deli case, contractor point out the case needs condensation drainage, and the architecture plan did not show a floor drain for it. But the health and building department stamped the plan. So I just have to pray that she won't notice during inspection, so I don't need to saw and cut and dig and retile the floor again. Man, I was happy with my architect until the mis-labeled fridge and the deli case issue. These mindless mistakes can cost me an arm or a leg. Building inspector came, it was not even an issue in his book about the height of railing over the platform. The delay was all for nothing. I think Chris was sucking time for other projects, I believe they have 5 projects going on at the same time. Called health department for inspection, no return phone calls, kept calling till Friday, still no contact. What a bitch.

Saturday, I walked in the shop, literally it was jam packed with plumber, granite counter installer, counter builder, my contractor, electrician installing lights, neighbors stopping by, security guard Oscar was nosing around too. Oscar is a very nice guy, he let me pull my big pickup into the atrium to unload the deli case. The place was like London with heavy fog (granite dust). Boy I almost choked. But it was a scene to be joyful for. Things are happening.

3rd week of April, the plumber confirmed by the city that all pipes have to be copper, which was not indicated on the plan by my architect. In case you don't know how much do copper pipes cost, it cost me a couple extra thousands. Another big mistake by the architect. Part of plumbing hook up was done and passed the inspection, waiting for final sign off after health and fire department. Part of the counters are covered and shelved, cabinets are hung up. Called fire dept and scheduled following monday inspection, called health department again and again, finally got a hold of her on Thursday morning (a week and 2 days from first call, shit is right), scheduled for follow tuesday (today) between 2-4 pm. Contractors showed up only twice this week no mater how hard I was pushing. I don't have a gun and can't put one over their heads. Saturday, contractors worked till 9 pm, appliances were still not hooked.

Monday, 23 of April, I went to the store at 4:30 am, Fire department came right on time at 10 am, in and out in 2 minutes with signed approval. He even let me get away with not having to install an extra sprinkler. Yay!! Called contractor for heads up for tomorrow's important inspection, either make it or break it deal. Cell phone network out is the message I got. Panic attack again, the inspection is so important to me, I just can't let this take up more time. Came home at 2 pm, tired as hell and fell asleep. around 4:30 pm, got a call from contractor, schedule for morning work. Well, I can't blame a man at the doctor's office.

Tuesday, 24 of April as of today, came to work at 8 am, plumber got everything hooked up. I ran a cycle on the dishwasher to see if it works, 10 sec later, the floor was flooded with water, OOPS! Tim the plumber found out it was a leaking host and fixed it. Everything else are running as well, ready for health dept inspection, inspector no show!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What a biiiiiiiaaaatch!!!!!!!

Boy, what's next?! What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, I can hear the metal clunging noice when I bite! ;)

This is the story of my project thus far. A lot of uncertainties, a lot of unpredictibilities, a lot of more money here, more money there, a lot of delay, a lot of rent to pay, a lot of things not getting done especially in my way, a lot of waiting for this, waiting for that, waiting for this department, waiting for that inspector. On top of that, a lot of "when is it going to be done?" Oh god, I would puke if I hear it one more time. Patience is golden!!!!! I still don't have a sign. Some times I wonder, just wonder. There are times I feel the need to vent, but most of the time, I am immuned to it all. I still loose sleep over shit like this every now and than, but life goes on, I refuse to get upset for longer than necessary. When life throws a rotten lemon at you, dodge it or eat it up like a proud man with eyes shut. One thing I truly learn to accept is, you can rush and push all you want, if the timing isn't right, it's just not happening. Not to say sit and wait for it to happen, rather do all that you can, yet don't get hung up on immediate gratification. Patience patience and a lot more patience.

Through out the last couple of months, I got to know my contractor Marco really well. He's reliable eventually, it may not be right away, but at the end of the day, he's there and gets things done. I like that he gives me options and sugestions without imposing like Chris. He's doing a lot of little extra fixings without extra charges, he even pay for lunch some times. Either people take advantage of my trust in them, or they want to invest in it. Marco wants to import building materials from China with my help, perhaps in a year once both of our businesses are set to auto pilot. My girlfriend's husband is a contractor in China, was awarded a contract building the current Beijing international airport. Here I just want to live my dream of having a peaceful life style in a good and safe neighborhood, there is the temptation of doing something big. I can't say I am ready for it, but when it's time, I'll just let things evolve on its own course. Those who just want a quick scam of my money, karma will kick your ass! Oh, believe me karma is oh soooo real!!!

Well, all is going to be worth while, this is what I tell myself constantly. The whole experience has turned me to a walking bamboo. Characteristics of bamboo are reciliant, flexible, durable, almost unbreakable. This is only the beginning, there will be a lot more to face in the future, in theathers near me.

Marco end up getting multiple job offers from my job. The nail salon hired him for a tile floor and granite counter job, the management office asked him for a bid on a vacant store, building a new bathroom, a Korean gentleman wants him to retile his floor. My next door neighbor is moving out in July, so who knows, he might get that job too after the new tenant sees what he did to my shop. He'll have my business if I were to build something else.

This turns into a book already, should have a movie made about it. :P


Gumbywan said...

This is some cool blog. Unfortunately this is a typical nightmare starting your own business.

As the master said: "Go have some tea."

Imen said...

Thanks gumby...

The scary thing is, at the end of the day, after all the bitchings, I will do it all again. :)

Cheers with a cup of luanze oolong

Takuro said...

I just have to say, "job well done!" Its not easy doing it all on your own -- In fact, its damn near impossible sometimes.

I'm on the other end. Reading this, all I can think is, "gotta try harder"

May be a bit premature, but congratulations! We're all in eager anticipation!

Steven Dodd said...

All of this headache and hassle, even though the outcome is worth it, is not my cup of tea. I'm glad I can just go to class, graduate, and work 9-5. Type B is the way I roll. I hope everything gets settled and things start rolling for you. This should be a lot of fun once you get your grand opening.

~ Phyll said...

Imen, kudos! Seems like you have to deal with a lot of others' incompetencies. All the best of luck from here on.

They say all you need is to have the backing of a state congressman or a city councilman. One phone call by them to the right agency head and all your troubles will be washed away.

Imen said...


Thanks for the kind words.

You might know better as a professional. :)


9-5 is nice and easy. I look forward to the end of the tunnel. :)


good tip, I'll start digging for info right after this.

Thank you all for the well wishes!

Shen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shen said...

Shen said...
Hello, Imen,
I'm Shen and I've been "reading over your shoulder". Many blessings on your new journey.............
Where is your shop, BTW? We are in LA often.
Happy sips!

Imen said...

Hi Shen,

Thanks for your kindness!

The shop is in Palos Verdes, stop by for a sip when you are in town. Are you coming for the pu-erh event? If so, I'll see you there too. :)

Imen said...


Your tip worked. I called her supervisor this morning, she showed up this afternoon, and gave me a bunch of crap. I now have to delay further god knows how long. sheesh
Well, it's a step forward no matter what.

~ Phyll said...


Real crap or made up crap?

shen said...

Thanks for the invite - We'll be sure to stop by. Our kids live evry near Palos Verdes. It sounds like your shop will be just lovely!
Yes. I'll be down for the Pu-erh event and I'm looking forward to meeting some of these L.A. posters.
See you soon!

Imen said...


I am sure it's by the book, however, there is always the border line acceptables. One of them is the wall finishing, the smoothness of a wall is arguable. Now I must take everything down and sand the entire wall, then repaint then re-hang cabinets.

Nevertheless, when I get that done, she'll have one less thing to say.

I hope you had a good weekend with your friend. :)