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Thursday, July 1, 2010

It's small but it's home-sweet-home

Three years ago, Anna and I could be found sitting on the dining room floor at my house, night after night. We were sorting through donations, organizing beads, trying to figure out what some things were, and often commenting on how much easier it would be if we had an office.

Our dreams were grand. We talked about 1,000 square feet of open space, somewhere along the Colfax corridor. We wanted natural light, plenty of outlets, a kitchen, a utility sink we could use for dyeing fabric, and plenty of outlets to run sewing machines. Susan suggested a small sofa and an easy chair, as well as a cozy corner where we could sit and have tea and just visit with the women of A Little Something.

In the last three years, our organization has grown in fits and starts. We work very hard. We've brought in many more members, lost one to an unthinkable tragedy, learned good business practices, put together a Board of Directors, got better about keeping track of our mail and writing thank-you notes, and became more aware of the reality that not only weren't there enough hours in the day, we really were getting desperate about needing a dedicated space.

We house our worldly possession in the basement of my house. About 15 months into our project, my husband requested that we relocate from the dining room (which we had taken over in its entirety by then) and to the basement so he could be left to enjoy his nightly TV viewing in peace.

The basement was mostly empty. We brought in steel shelving units, a carpet, a table or two, and hung things on the walls. My husband tore out most of the ceiling and installed crafting-friendly lighting for us.

Of course, nature abhors a vacuum, and the space slowly began to fill with beads, yarn, display items, and all of the other accouterments of crafting. My Pilates machine became a hulking shape in the corner, covered with fabric yardage and baskets.

It was the basket-making supplies that sent Leo over the edge. For nearly a year, Leo kept commenting that the A Little Something section of the basement was getting quite full, and this wasn't what he had in mind. To alleviate the tension about this, I found it was best to have donations delivered to my workplace, but leave them in the car until Leo went out to walk the dog. Once he was out of the house, I would bring the supplies in and work them into the existing inventory in the basement. He's not a crafter--once the supplies were in the basement, he couldn't really discern that more had been brought in.

Until the basket-making supplies.

After doing some shopping, my husband took it upon his wonderful, gallant self to unload my car while I was resting. He found a large quantity of craft supplies in the back of the car and moved them into the basement. Somewhere during that process, it registered with him that we never had basket-making supplies before. And that was the beginning of the end of our free ride in the basement of a modest little ranch house in Denver.

I looked at many offices. I spoke with a few dozen property managers and landlords. We were considered too small, too new, too noncorporate, too...not what they had in mind.

Our disappointments were frequent and profound, having found the perfect office at least six times and been rejected.

Eventually, I found a listing for a quaint little building square in the middle of our desired area. It was in our price range. It was almost too much to hope for. I scheduled a showing.

In a very weird twist of fate, the building turned out to be familiar. It was the former home of the Rocky Mountain Survivor's Center, a wonderful organization that did amazing good work with survivors of torture and trauma. When they lost their main funding source in the fall of 2009, they had to close up shop for good. So many refugees and asylees had been helped by RMSC, it was hard to believe the building would now house businesses instead of a place of healing.

We sweated the decision about our worthiness to rent. When we got the news that we had been accepted, it seemed impossible. Finally, someone was willing to take a chance on us.

Today, Katrina and I inked the deal. We signed a lease. We wrote a check from the business account A Little Something opened after we became an officially registered business in the state of Colorado. The moment was profound.

We had hoped to rent a 200-square-foot space with large windows and a door to the back deck/fire escape. After much discussion, though, we decided that we needed to rent what we knew we could afford. It is humble, to be sure. Our office is a mere 100 square-foot, 10'x10' space. And we love it.

We haven't moved in yet, but we will in the next week. Perhaps if we have a good sale season, finalize our nonprofit status, get some grants...we can move into a larger space within the building. The building is lovely, cozy, and welcoming. IT feels right, and in the end, that may be its most important quality.

We owe thanks to Jeremy Anderson at Shift Realty and the building's owner, Alexandra Katsiaficas Wagner for their help and flexibility in making our quest come to fruition. We hope to have a long and very positive relationship, starting today, when A Little Something took a very big step.

We don't have office hours yet and we need to round up some cabinets and shelving, but eventually, you can find us at 1547 Gaylord St., Suite 204, Denver, Colorado 80205. We'll let you know when we schedule the office-warming party.


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