Countdown to Christmas: Day 21 - New Home For Outlaw Soaps


Freight building on railroad platform in Colfax, CA

THAT is Colfax Rail Junction. See those orange signs? Those are "FOR RENT" signs.

But those signs are liars, because WE RENTED THAT PLACE! (well, almost)

When Pene (pronounced "Penny" not "Pen-neh") gets back from a vacation and I get back from Mozlando (I'm freelancing for Mozilla, makers of Firefox, and their big all-hands meeting is next week) and Renegade (next weekend), we're signing the lease on this place (and a cabin that Pene owns, which ... well, story in a minute).

This lovely rail platform was built in the 1880s. Our unit (OMG OUR UNIT) is the two doors closest to this end of the building.

Here's how this all happened... (if this doesn't amaze you, you are too dodgasted jaded)

A couple weeks ago, I got an order from Kristie from Artisan Heart Creations. It was kind of out of the blue, but then Kristie explained that her business partner, Patty, sourced products and she knew one of our friends (Chuck, Russ's best friend and the best man in our wedding), it made more sense. It's not that we don't ever get random wholesale orders out of the blue (in fact, all our wholesale orders are like that, since I haven't been out there selling stuff all year), but it's always just interesting how people find us.

Anyways, I knew of Colfax since I stopped there many times to and from Burning Man. It's a cute little western town, has a pretty major grocery store, and also had a great coffee place. I'd also stop by the rail station because there was a huge antique store there and I love a good antique place.

Artisan Heart is in a big ol' wooden building that looks like a serious outlaw hideout, and surprise, the corner unit was available.

Kristie and I chatted about it briefly and she thought it was probably about $1,000. That was within our budget, but did we really want to commit to such a huge place in such an old building?

I called the owner and he said the rent was $1,500... definitely would be a stretch, but we could probably make it work.

As we talked to Kristie and Patty, we thought about how we might be able to make it work. There were a lot of problems, starting with the fact that we didn't have a place to live up there, and my romantic fantasy of converting the offices upstairs into a loft was going to take a ton of work. Plus, at $1,500, we'd really want something that was well set-up.

Against Russ's gut feelings, I insisted we go see the place and tour it with the owner. It was in even worse shape than we thought. The carpet was gross (they even had carpeted over drains in the floor), it smelled weird, and the linoleum in the back room was totally destroyed.

We went to console ourselves with some Mexican food. While I was there, I struck up a conversation with the owner of the restaurant, asking about the place, what it was like to live in Colfax, etc. She recommended that I go across and chat with the owner of the rail building. It looked too small from the outside, but heck, we might as well.

There was a very crazy hurricane in Colfax that day. The traffic sign cautioned against "Unsettled weather ahead."

Rail junction building

(would you just look at that parking?!?! And that's main street across the street... the place with the giant sunflower is Luna Cafe, the Mexican restaurant)

We went across, and we were about to go into the real estate office when I saw a woman struggling with a stapler and a big green "for rent" sign. I went up and asked if she was the owner, and she confirmed that she was.

As soon as we walked in, we knew this was the place. It looked tiny from the front window, but it just kept going and going. It had been a vet office, so there was a big central room with very spill-friendly floors, and a lot of little offices off the main room.

Basically, it was PERFECT for soapmaking.

The huge workshop

(look at that great floor! and the water and power hook-ups!)

And then we went around a corner and THERE WAS A LITTLE RETAIL SHOP! Wood floors, painted walls, WAINSCOTING!!!!! Hella classy. And it was the weighing room for the freight, so it still had the scale in it.

We're going to arrange it like an old freight weighing room and decorate it with lots of crates and stuff. Perfect!!!!

retail shop

So... I was trying to keep my cool. I mean, we still didn't have a place to live. When I mentioned that to Pene, she said "OH! I'm renting a 1 bedroom cottage too!" (what are the chances?!?)

We went up to see the cottage yesterday, and it is absolutely perfect. I could not have drawn a more perfect setting for us. It even has dinosaur statues and a little mining town. YES REALLY.


And most importantly, we can afford it -- all of it! Both places are just $200/mo more than we're paying now. Yeah, we're going to be cutting it a little closer than usual, but hey, the business is growing and we'll have a retail shop, plus my Mozilla gig is going to be expanding after the new year, so ...


(geeze, I hope I'm not saying this pre-emptively)

Ok. Back to Christmas talk...

Even though the upcoming move is very exciting, we are still facing the reality of our COMPLETELY AWESOME Christmas season... but this time, with the added incentive of coming up with rent, deposit, and workspace build-out money.

We just received word (from a customer) that our Bacon Soap has sold out from our London distributor, The Gift Oasis (who is selling through Not on the High Street). We'll see if they want more or if they're good for the season.

I still haven't sent Amazon more stock, and their forecasting tool says we're about a day away from being out of Unicorn Poop and a week away from being out of Hair of the Dog and Bacon, so I gotta get back on that.

Russ has been scrambling to keep up with orders (and doing pretty well!). Despite our best efforts, it has been a little crazy and we haven't been able to do everything perfectly. Thankfully, our customers are very forgiving.

We're down to our last 3 "Excuse me while I whip this out" flasks (with no reorders on the horizon).

Renegade Craft Fair in LA is next weekend, and I'm glad we'll have stock to bring there (but I also hope we sell out of it!).

We decided that unlike last year, we're going to keep shipping orders all the way until the post office closes on December 24. We won't do expedited shipping because we can't handle that kind of stress, but we'll do our best to get everything out right away, all the way through Christmas and into the beginning of January.

We're not totally sure if/when we'll be closed for the move in January, but that might happen. We'll of course keep you posted. :)

Thanks for doing this all with us! We're both so excited to have a place where you can VISIT US and we can hang out in person!

Once I finish this post, I'm going to get cranking on wrapping soap.

And that's now....

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