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Renting space for your blacksmith business


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As very wise man once said, if you rent you should have everything ready to move to a new location in 24-48 hours. That way the landlord knows not to hassle you, quickly raise the rent etc.

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Commercial leases often get weird.  But then again, renting space from Joe Average can bite you also--I've known several people who rented space from a Joe and Joe tried to micromanage THEIR business:  Constantly sticking their nose in and wanting X, Y and Z done differently.  So, I guess in terms of landlord troubles, it's probably a wash.

In true commercial leases, expect to be required to have about a million in liability/fire/damage insurance which lists the landlord as an "additional insured" party...you basically are paying to insure them to some extent.  Also watch out for "Triple net" which is sometimes just listed as NNN:  That means you pay the property taxes, maintenance, and general utilities prorated for your percent of space in the complex.  NNN can easily add a couple of hundred bucks to what you thought was your lease payment.

Expect to pay a hefty premium for shorter leases.  Mine are 3 year cycles here and they have no interest in less.  

In commercial space, expect the fire department to come and inspect at least once a year.  They check to make sure you do monthly inspections of the fire extinguishers, aren't storing stuff you shouldn't (technically, you can't even have propane inside in most areas) and that the other basics of fire code aren't being violated (such as blocked exit pathways).  They almost always search until they can find something to whine about but are usually not jerks about things unless you are a big problem.

And then you need to get a commercial dumpster with a commercial space.  You don't "have to" but it's not like home garbage service where you can get by fairly cheap.  If you do get garbage service, it tends to be much more costly and there are some other problems--for example, if you are in a place where people fill your dumpster with their old mattresses so you need to lock it, the garbage company will charge extra.  If a dumpster has wheels and someone moves it so the driver has to get out of the truck to move it into position for pick up, the garbage company will charge extra.

Electricity is also more expensive for just the basic monthly fee.  They also tend to charge more per KWH than home service.

It's a big step to go to a commercial space.  Be darned sure you are ready for it.  If you can find a "Joe" mentioned above who has appropriate space and isn't a jerk, I'd lean that way for smithing space--even with the possible hassles of Joe constantly checking in.  He might be less savvy to the SOP of commercial leases and give you more flexibility with less hassle.  A friend just got dome with one of those micromanaged versions though--the guy was the "sue happy" type who filed small claims suits constantly.  It might be worth doing a search if you don't know the guy to see if he is that type.  

 

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Go find your local small business association or similar and ask some questions. They will tell what the fees are and what the likely pitfalls are.

Here commercial leases are very costly in other fees. Generally they require you to pay the rates (council fees for the land, water, sewage, rubbish bin collection etc), the council charges way more for these services for commercial property than residential property.

They also require you to fit out the establishment, then make it good at the end of a lease. They might even try to charge you for a fitout a previous tenant has left in place.

There will likely be a multitude of insurances you will need to have as well, they should be able to advise you on that as well.

 

 

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I'm looking at moving soon to a completely different area, perhaps for a short term, and may need to lease a space for blacksmithing. Anyone have tips for finding a suitable commercial/industrial compatible spaces?

If I can manage it, ideally the best plan is to have a place out in the country where I can build a small shed or use what's there. That's easy. The commercial/industrial/light manufacturing real estate is completely alien to me.

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FPA:  There are some storage facilities that have electricity to their units and they are often rented to craft people or other small businesses.  Before I had a place of my own I rented garages.  The problem is often venting a coal or propane forge.  I just opened the door and slid my coal forge just outside while the anvil remained inside. This, of course, limits you to reasonably acceptable weather.   You'd be surprised at what is acceptable in Wyoming.

Sometimes you can find someone who has a detached residential garage for rent.  Try the TPAAT (Thomas Powers Anvil Acquisition Technique) for craft rental space which is basically asking every living human you meet if they have or know someone who has what you are looking for.

Contact the local Chamber of Commerce for possible small rental spaces but don't call yourself a blacksmith, use the term "hobby metal worker."  "Blacksmith" calls up in many people an image of loud noise, smoke, fire, dirt, and general dangerousness. 

Also, if you post your general location we may be able to give you more specific answers and local knowledge.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand." 

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I use a gas forge so a garage is OK for now. I would like to get into using charcoal, but having a heated shop (or rather, a shop without one of the walls open) would be nice for when I turn off the forge in the winter!

Contacting the Chamber of Commerce of a community is definitely a great idea.

As for location, I'm not sure yet. A lot of things are in flux. We'll have to see how the year carries on.

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6 hours ago, George N. M. said:

FPA:  There are some storage facilities that have electricity to their units and they are often rented to craft people or other small businesses

I looked into this and the insurance was prohibitive. The regular renters insurance wouldn't cover it. These were your average side of the highway self storage type places not maker spaces though. I've been putting off asking the manager at my current storage unit about the possibility of using it to forge as long as I don't store any propane there. Fire makes people nervous but it would be so much more convenient than my current situation. 

Pnut

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I have tried renting shop space a few times. Moving a blacksmith shop is an awful and traumatic endeavor. Unless you expect to move shortly it would be advisable to buy rather than rent. I rented a large farm shop for a few months, and only got half moved in when the owner started changing locks on me. I tried to rent several times from artist co-ops, and after four of them strongly sugest you not even consider them. Of three of them who declined my lease based on fire hazards, one burned to the ground, and two have blacksmiths working there now. One doubled the rent every time I spoke to them until my 800 sq ft space was reduced to quite literaly a 10x10 meat locker for four times the initial rent. The last was a comercial building in an industrial park. They were actually not a bad situation but the opportunity to buy my new place arose. I had concerns about noise, vibration, and security in the industrial park, as the building was shared with several not so "open to the public" looking businesses. Having to pack up and move machinery and steel overnight is enough of a concern to make me exceedingly reluctant to rent.

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pnut:  What kind of insurance are you talking about?  Liability insurance to cover you if you negligently damage the owner's property?  Insurance to cover your own property from destruction or theft?  Renter's insurance is usually the latter.

Jason and others:  If you rent get a lease because it makes sure that both you and the land lord are committed to a certain period of time.  If you are just on a month to month agreement you may have to move all your heavy stuff on pretty short notice if the land lord wants you out.  Some states have requirements for notice of non-renewal of a lease or rental agreement, e.g. 7-10 days for a monthly agreement, 30 days for a yearly agreement.  You can put a notice of non-renewal for both parties in the lease or rental agreement.  Although they can be a hassle, leases, in many ways, protect both the tenant and the landlord.

And, yes, sometimes rental neighbors can be sketchy and dangerous.  They can be doing things that put you and your property at risk from fumes and fire or explosion.

As I and others have suggested before, do not describe yourself as a "blacksmith."  Use something like "hobby metal worker" or "metal artist" or "metal fabricator" or "knife maker/fabricator."  It will open more doors and does not have the negative connotations that many people have for the word "blacksmith."  If you do say "blacksmith" make sure that they know that you are not planning to shoe horses.  Not many lay people know the difference between a blacksmith and a farrier.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."  

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The usual renters insurance that I pay for to protect my belongings against theft, damage, fire, etc. wouldn't cover any damages caused by using a gas burning appliance at the storage unit. It's explicitly forbidden as is storing fuel in the unit. It's one of those self storage places. You had to have your own policy until a few months ago now they offer insurance for nine bucks a month. 

The only storage place that I found that would go for it wanted me to have my own liability insurance to cover damages to their property and all of the other renter's property that is stored on site. 

Pnut

EDIT: it's explicitly forbidden in the rental agreement to have any open flames or to store fuel along with a few other common sense things like sleeping in the storage unit or working on vehicles. 

 

 

 

Edited by pnut
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Be advised that many commercial property leases have provisions where the owner retains any improvements you make.  Installing stuff like a sink or a light fixture might be the only way to use the space, but the landlord get's to keep it when you leave.  In some cases, they will also require that you remove the installed stuff when you leave, but they keep the material.  I see a lot of commercial remodel projects with everything from built-in millwork to chandeliers sitting on the floor of a demolished space.  

I don't know what size of space you're looking for, but be advised that hard-up property managers will often subdivide a space to appeal to renters with smaller needs, but they don't always invest in subdividing the utilities.   

It would be difficult for me to name a group more entrenched in dishonest and unprofessional construction practices than the property management firms who cater to low rent clientele.  Much of the work is done without permit or inspection, by unlicensed professionals who cheat one another to survive.  

Another thing to contemplate is your neighbors.  I've worked for tenants and landlords in commercial spaces where there were extremely dangerous operations going on next door, but nobody on the regulatory side had caught on.  I've also worked in quite a few situations where the neighbors were an attractive nuisance.  

Above and beyond all of that, I would like to suggest that you consider how the recent/ongoing pandemic regulations will affect your operation. Being locked out of your business is a very real possibility in some areas.  

 

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I agree about "cowboy" contractors.  They are people to avoid at all costs.  One technique I have found to separate the sheep from the goats is to ask for a Certificate of Insurance for their liability policy naming the owner as an additional insured prior to the start of work.  Reputable companies will provide it as a matter of course while the fly by night operators will argue, try avoid providing it, or back out of the contract because they cant/won't.

Also, requiring bonding from a company that is on the current list of acceptable bonds for federal projects will thin out the disreputable operators.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

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