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Company Update: Property Search

Finding “THE” site for “THE” soaking place on the Northern Front Range….


When securing commercial real estate in one of the most intense markets nationally for a new brick-and-mortar business like Soak Boulder, the zoning and land use ins-and-outs alone are quite complex and expansive.

But the real story is this….

While operating in a zone of significant perceived and real risk, 

Soak Boulder’s success hinges primarily on its capacity to exercise and invite a profound level of creative collaboration

No area of this business makes it more evident that radical collaboration is key than the search for a commercial location.


The Alps Boulder Canyon Inn is the fourth property we have seriously considered as Soak Boulder’s future home. Its rich history, quintessential Boulder charm, and dream location make The Alps an attractive option for charting the course forward. In short, it’s awesome, and, it’s not cheap. The multi-million dollar price tag does not deter us, and instead, inspires a new boldness in approach.

The Probability Factor (Multiples)

Until now, we have cautiously surveyed only one property at a time. But anytime a prospect fell through after weeks or months of work, it was back to square one. Every property is unique, so any serious exploration is an investment; from zoning challenges to city/county processes and design considerations to adjusted financial modeling, it takes significant resources (time and money) to explore the viability of each site as a potential location for this business.

The Alps immediately captivated our imaginations with its attraction and great practical potential. And while it could be the one (we’ll know more after we submit a special use review packet to Boulder County this fall), we are concurrently pursuing two other properties.

We recognize the investment in simultaneous explorations is worth it to accelerate the process.

Of the two alternative options, one is a downtown Boulder space, a relatively blank slate, where the soak and sauna experience would be fairly straightforward, and almost entirely indoors with no extra frills. As for the other, conversations are in process with the new owners of a third property that demonstrates potential to operate as a small resort (a la Ojo Caliente) with indoor and outdoor options, nestled right against the foothills and a literal rock’s throw from Boulder Creek!

 

It Takes a (Creative, Committed) Village

To actualize Soak Boulder on a reasonable timeline, we must activate and focus the people and resources required to secure a site in the next few months.

We are fortunately backed by an incredible team of advisors and experts including real estate agent, Peter Vitale of Cove Real Estate (also on the City of Boulder Planning Board), Scott Rodwin of Rodwin Architecture (see Japango), and Wren Farris, creatress of Soak HQ, to name a few. Having rallied a handful of key stakeholders committed to this vision and approach, we aim to tap an even greater network, inviting the collective wisdom needed to guide this process and catapult this vision forward.

This means getting uber creative and uber collaborative in several key areas:

Real Estate Purchase:

Soak Boulder is a major and unique build-out, so finding an aligned partner (or group of people) to invest in the real estate we need is an easier path forward than convincing a current owner to change the use of their building. This means stretching beyond the current network and perhaps pulling together a deal with multiple investors who may or may not have previously done business together.

Mobilizing Connectors:

A number of Soak Boulder supporters have raised their hands as connectors – offering targeted outreach and strategic introductions to key people in their circles. To maximize their efforts, we engage and equip connectors with simple language to convey what we do and why, Soak Boulder business basics to speak to how we do it, and three easy ways to make an introduction to our team.

Cultivating Allies and Partners:

Particularly at the municipal and county level, establishing relationship is critical. The aim is to illuminate the undeniable asset Soak Boulder is to the community while also adhering to the processes and protocols in place, demonstrating solid commitment, business acumen, and partnership.

Secret Sauce

As small business owners, we get a lot of advice thrown our way. Much of it is welcome, and we are very fortunate with the advisors drawn to support this vision.

No matter how awesome the person or perspective however, the bottom line is about whether or not we are operating in a way that is aligned with the purpose and core values of the business. We share the journey and insights gleaned from the exciting, wild ride of starting a business like this because the sooner you know this the better: there is no secret sauce. The only limits to creativity and possibility are whatever we believe they are.

And, we believe:

Having a clear vision doesn’t mean having it all figured out.

There are multiple paths to realizing the singular purpose of Soak Boulder. Involving other invested stakeholders in discovering how we get there simultaneously engenders trust in leadership and a clear zone for creative contribution and participation.

When there’s a YES, there’s a way.

In collaborative endeavors, discerning alignment is a critical first step and, ideally, people self-select. Since “yes” is a feeling and not just a thought, we aspire to provide clarity on the Soak experience as early in the process as possible to our tribe of potential stakeholders.

The “way it’s been done” is done.

By many traditional measures, we are underdogs. We don’t let that deter us. Instead, we innovate! We magnetize key players and resources by balancing confidence and humility, and by consistently maintaining curiosity and a learning mindset.

Being a “passion project” and being a big deal (BFD) are not mutually exclusive.

We don’t pretend we are playing in the VC world. We know what we are creating – as well as how we are going about it – appeals to and aligns with a spectrum of people who have the financial wealth and social capital needed to bring this vision into reality.

Our main job is to bring people together.

When you get a bunch of people in a room (at least, until soaking tubs are ready) who are excited about wise business strategy and solvent financial viability, and who are extremely passionate about self-care and their community, remarkable things happen.

In closing, we have our work cut out for us! But because we know there is more to landing Soak Boulder’s future home than simply raising capital and overcoming planning and zoning challenges, we remain dedicated and passionate as the humble and capable stewards, people mobilizers, and inspirational visionaries we are, bringing Soak Boulder to life!

Challenge Accepted: Proof of Concept

Even when utilizing a replicable, proven, and lucrative business model as a pioneering sister site of Soak on the Sound (a wildly successful bathhouse in Washington state),

…the landscape of our progressive Boulder culture requires a boost in our approach to establishing proof of concept.  

Everything in our locale is different: climate, economy, competitive landscape, consumer interests and behaviors, demographics, and a long list of other factors.


THE CHALLENGE:

Establish proof of concept for a brick-and-mortar business in an untapped and unproven market for personal self-care hydrotherapy services.

ADVICE RECEIVED:

Illustrate community need and interest (market) with a major demonstration of early support (demand).  According to our amazing tribe of mentors and consultants, and this article on Forbes.com, incorporating new methods and tools into a the traditional framework of a product development and launch strategy ensures the product is marketable.  The short version – bring customers in early by involving them in your product launch.

OUR STRATEGY:

In tandem with our current market research efforts, launch a stellar presale campaign, right now, that:

1. Triggers an influx of consumer engagement;

2. Proves people are willing to buy early in eager anticipation of the business actually opening; and

3. Honors early support and commitment from customers with deep discounts on soak services!  


The last bathhouse to exist in Boulder closed in the early 1980s, and the city’s persona has changed tremendously since then. We are currently conducting a comprehensive research strategy to glean insights on what the landscape is today.

After putting forth an initial local market survey that yielded a load of awesome insights about our market, and after successfully closing our seed round of funding, our confidence in this vision is amplified and ever growing.


Everyone we talk to has an immediate and incredulous response, inevitably including the question,

“Why doesn’t Boulder have this already?”


Well, it’s about to!

Join us and be one to say “I made Soak Boulder happen!”

  •  PURCHASE: 50% OFF Soak Passes –ACT NOW! (offer ends March 31st).

  • GIVE: A gift of $100+ garners membership in the Soak Boulder Tribe.

  • MORE: Opportunities available for deeper involvement as a founding partner – Contact Us!

Hot on the Trail for Home

A hunting we will go…

Soak Boulder is “Hot on the Trail” in search for a home!

Here at Soak Boulder we have been happily hunting for our future location. Read on to see what we are looking for, catch up on our journey thus far, and find out how you can help!


What are we looking for?  

We have identified two potential settings in which Soak Boulder could provide signature experiences in ways that meet the needs of this market:

  • Urban Convenience in the heart of Boulder at an elegant, simple, accessible location designed for shorter, more frequent visits to downshift in the midst of daily life.
  • Rural Destination on the outskirts of Boulder in a peaceful, spacious, nurturing setting perfect for a brief retreat or longer half- and full-day experiences.

In either case, here is what we are looking for and what is required in a space::

  • 3,500 – 6,000 square feet, plus or minus – through extensive financial modeling, we established the sweet spot falls within this range.
  • Land Use Code shows “personal services” as an allowed use (or possible through a special review); we are likely looking at a change of use no matter where we go since there are currently no bathhouses operating in Boulder.
  • Zoning District for properties in the City of Boulder is one of the following: Business Community, Business Main Street, Business Regional, Business Transitional, Downtown, Mixed Use, Residential High, or Residential Mixed 1 – we have more flexibility outside of the city limits.
  • Commercial Lease, though we are open to properties listed for purchase if it’s the right place.
  • Boulder County, preferably within the city of Boulder or situated closely on the outskirts.
  • Single-story or two-story stand alone unit, but open to shared tenancy and/or opportunities to partner with other like-minded businesses.
  • Solidly engineered floors capable of holding large,weighty tubs filled with people and water.
  • A basement or sizable crawl space is ideal for housing a pump room.
  • Preferably not on a busy street with heavy traffic (at least offset).
  • Outdoor space is desirable and allows for additive experiences/services (i.e. foot soaks, meditation garden, possible outdoor tubs, etc.).
  • Looking for a property owned by an experienced, business savvy strategist who is aligned with the vision, sees this as a needed community asset, is willing to take a risk and knows a good thing when they see it.

How can you help?

The simplest way you can support this endeavor is to keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities, connections and locations that could suit Soak Boulder!

More specifically, you can help by…

  • Introducing us to developers and property owners.
  • Leasing YOUR property to Soak Boulder!
  • Spreading the word to your networks and mention we are seeking a site.
  • Contacting us if you would like to help us secure a lease.
** As we prepare to engage in lease negotiations and execution, we are open to partnering with  an individual or complementary, established business willing to bolster our credibility.  While this may be unconventional, we are a startup business on our first foray in commercial real estate. We are aiming to be as prepared, strategic, and copasetic as possible in navigating the realities in front of us and believe in asking for the support we need..  

 

What have we looked at thus far?

Out of the plethora of property listings we have perused, we visited around a dozen to date and submitted LOI’s on three. Check out the winners below to see what we loved about the properties.

805 Walnut

Description: 5,000 sq ft stand alone brick building tucked in the quiet behind Lolita’s;formerly used as a warehouse and manufacturing space.

  

1743 Walnut

Description: 9798 sq ft 2-story brick building (a former bathhouse in the 70’s), with lots of potential, used as office space for the past three decades.

1590 Broadway

Description: 3600 sq ft 2-story brick building primarily used as a high-end office space, ideal pump room basement space, combo of historical/modern elements and fun layout.

 

What we loved…

Each property had its own different features and advantages, and we discovered some things we really liked. . Here is a list of amenities and characteristics that would serve Soak Boulder well.

  • Owners that are aligned with the vision and us!
  • Blank slate buildings (big open boxes) that permit creativity and customization!
  • Floor plans that work well with our concept and programming.
  • High ceilings and solid floors.
  • An accessible and noticeable Boulder location in a peaceful and quiet area (not a lot of hubbub or foot traffic).
  • Close proximity to the many food options downtown Boulder has to offer.
  • Easily accessible in all the ways, and great options for parking!

Who comprises our property search posse?

It takes a village to build this community asset, and we are thrilled to have the investment and support of collaborative, creative, resourceful, and connected professionals – some of Boulder’s best. We couldn’t ask for a more solid group to join us in manifesting this vision to reality.

Soak Boulder is collaborating with experienced professionals that bring expertise and brilliance in the following areas:

  • Commercial real estate law and brokerage
  • Commercial property ownership and leasing
  • Architecture and development
  • City planning at various levels
  • Familiarity working with and building similar businesses ( (i.e. Soak on the Sound, Ojo Caliente and Ten Thousand Waves).

Final Words… Droppin’ the mic

This is an exciting chapter of Soak Boulder’s journey. The property search enlivens our passion, clarifies our vision and refines our efforts to bring Soak Boulder to you.

We are dreaming big and working with purpose. Our growing network of savvy and supportive people is helping us ask the right questions and find the right solutions, and we’re hot on the trail of Soak Boulder’s new home.