They painted their vintage trailer with care. They even attached little wings on the back evoking Thor. They picked a spot, negotiated a deal with the landlord, printed their marketing material and plugged into electrical sockets to keep all those fabulously raw juices, smoothies and meals cold and ready for pick-up. What happened next to Hannah and Amy Pickle is only baffling to those unfamiliar with the treacherous terrain of commercial real estate in Memphis.
After two weeks operating in the Cooper parking lot of Overton Square, Raw Girls received notice their permission was revoked, effective immediately. Months of anticipation from their Midtown customers and hard work on their part was thrown out the window like a carton of rotten fruit into the compost pile.
I’ve been involved with commercial real estate for a while now. First as a tenant and now as broker. I’ve learned a lot about cap rates and vanilla shells, end caps and legalese. The biggest lesson, however, is something else completely. Sure there’s a lot that is math, or boils down to liability clauses. Without getting too metaphysical about it, I guess you could say I believe that real estate works in mysterious ways.
There’s a million angles to every deal. Unlike dollars, tractors, bitcoins and salads, they ain’t making any more dirt. It’s that essential nature of real estate, when combined with stratospherically different values for that dirt depending on its location, that makes me step back and say the serenity prayer. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
What happened? Did a restaurant within 300 feet of the trailer activate their rights under the city food truck ordinance? Did somebody at Loeb Properties decide they didn’t like pastel colors on their parking lot? In the end it doesn’t matter. As we learned to phrase in law school, the Raw Girls didn’t have the right sticks in their bundle. They have to move, and they really have no recourse but to choose to do so with resentment or serenity.
Amy and Hannah do a lot of yoga. Maybe that’s what helped them come to such an enlightened conclusion when their first real estate deal went south. “It’s a blessing. We had signed a contract over a month ago to finish our cookbook proposal and haven’t had a minute to write the first word. There’s pressure to get something on paper, so we are taking a week or so to focus on that before launching in a new spot.”
We in the commercial real estate industry know these lessons well. Caveat emptor. Get it in writing. Investigate all contingencies. Have a plan B, C and D. We accept there’s no such thing as absolute control. Sometimes through the muck of it all. After site selection, negotiating terms and building out there is a peace we can have with the unknown. Control what we can, but remain open to the possibilities that come from the chaos of unaligned interests and finite dirt.