Friday, June 30, 2023

Week in Review: Sweets and Servers and Spots

Happy last day of June!  Not much to report on this week at Casa Martin, we are just plugging along and staying sane by sending each other memes like this:

The answer is: Always something sweet, like our special flavor this week.

Brownie Bits

My mom and brother-in-law are both recovering as well as can be expected from their neck surgeries, still in pain and not sleeping great but they are heading in the right direction!

Eamon, Xander and Declan attended Altar Boy Boot Camp at our church this week, and JP and Andrew volunteered to help train the new servers and JP even gave a talk.  I need to get some photos from the week from someone.  The thing is that it's a bunch of guys running/attending the camp and guys just don't think about taking photos like us ladies, ya know?

Brendan hung out with Phil while the other boys were at camp and was put to work cleaning the alley behind The Ice Cream Cottage.

He got paid in ice cream :)  I also took him to play with a friend in a pool yesterday, so don't feel too bad for him!

On Wednesday, Maggie and I had dermatology appointments for some suspicious spots, so we made a day of it and went shopping and it was so fun!  I learned some new teenage slang "you're her" that I continue to use wrong and I picked up this beauty for 70% off.  We went out to lunch and I was wearing a Franciscan University shirt, and a handsome young guy came up to us, asking my affiliation with Franciscan.  I told him that both my husband and I graduated from there and my two oldest are attending.  He said he just graduated and I asked if he knew John-Paul Martin and it didn't wring a bell, and I said he went to Austria last fall and the guy was like "Oh yeah, JP!  I know him! We were in Austria together!"  Turns out he's from MA and lives about 30 minutes away from us, and he and JP never knew they lived so close to each other.  That would be the second question I would have asked after meeting, but college kids brains just work different ;)

The derm appointment was serendipitous because I went in for a flaky spot on my forehead that wouldn't go away, which she froze because it was pre-cancerous, and she saw a troubling spot above it that she biopsied (under the band aid) that I never would have noticed had I not gone in for the spot below.  I'll get the results in a couple weeks.  Maggie's mole was A OK so that was good news. 

Wear your sunscreen kids!

I've been subconsciously celebrating the 4th of July by eating this breakfast this week.  Cottage cheese with strawberries and blueberries - red, white and blue!

We are gearing up for a *fingers crossed* busy holiday weekend and I wish you all a wonderful July 4th with your family and friends!

Monday, June 26, 2023

The Ice Cream Cottage Story - Part Three

Part Two here

We met again with the developer on February 2, 2023 with more questions and got more answers.  The developer actually went to the same Catholic high school where Phil teaches.  He told us that his older cousin was a coach there and used to drive him to school each morning, early enough for him to get a workout in and attend morning Mass.  We took this as a good sign :)  We met for lunch on February 13, 2023 with the developer and the owner of the properties and my parents, whom we had now brought into the tight circle of trust as we needed their advice desperately.  The owner and developer definitely thought we would be the perfect family to open the ice cream shop.  We were flattered but understood that they wanted to secure us in that spot in order to have something to tell the potential buyers of the available restaurants.  Once they had a new ice cream shop run by a family with years of experience, they could attract restaurateurs (why is there no 'n' in that word?) more easily.  Getting that first spot filled was crucial to them and a dream come true for us.  Leaving that lunch we felt very certain that we wanted to move ahead, but there were still so many unknowns.  Let's just say I now have the utmost respect for anyone who's started their own business!

First up was figuring out how to get the finances to start the business, remodel the building, buy equipment, etc.  We were blessed to get loans from a couple family members and one friend (who is more like family).  They were all very generous and loaned us the money without any interest payable or a due date.  Once we secured those funds, we had to settle on a lease with the owner of the building.  This is where weeks went by and legal fees started adding up as we wanted to agree to a fair deal.  We were the understudies in the agreements because we had never done this before and we were trying to determine the fine line between negotiating for what we wanted but not asking for too much that might cause us to lose the place.  Who's responsibility was it to fix up the place, get the utilities up to code, paint, repair the roof, etc.  What was a fair price on the building when it had only been an unsuccessful ice cream shop in the past?  What if we wanted to pull out in two years but had poured in money to the building?    

The owner had bought all of the properties and needed to wait two years to sell them in order to get a tax break.  We agreed to lease with the option to buy in two years.  One of the biggest disagreements we had was that we were originally told that each building had it's own deed and could be bought separately. We later found out from the town that was not the case, and that the ice cream shop was on the same property and deed as one of the restaurants.  Since we had agreed to lease the shop for two years and then have the option to buy...but what were we actually buying?  We finally agreed that they would pursue with the town to get it separately deeded but if that was not possible, then we would buy it as a commercial condo.  We hired a lawyer to work with their lawyer and eventually after much fretting and many near calling-it-offs, we finally signed the lease on March 20, 2023.

Signing a lease at the end of March and wanting to open at the beginning of May leaves not a lot of time to do a quite a bit of work.  We hadn't spent the weeks of negotiations doing nothing, of course!  We had been busy researching equipment and setting up an LLC and picking a name and designing a logo and setting up a website and social media and getting an EIN and a business license and taking a serve safe course, creating a menu and opening a bank account, etc.  So once that lease was signed we hit the ground running!  We called the shop The Ice Cream Cottage because it's just a wee little shop between two bigger restaurants, it's open seasonally and it's by the water, like a summer cottage.  We did toy with the idea of calling it Maggie's, since we have a Maggie and the restaurant next door was named Margaret's:

Our young Maggie at the old Margaret's Restaurant next door.

A young Colleen Margaret at the old Maggie's.  Confused yet?

We ultimately decided against naming it Maggie's because we weren't making our own ice cream and the original Maggie's was actually Maggie's Homemade Ice Cream and I didn't want to taint the name in any way.  Maybe one day we can make our own and call it Maggie's.  

The old Maggie's business card

I have always loved a navy/white/pink theme because it's classy and nautical and fun, perfect for a summer ice cream cottage, so those became our colors.  I ordered navy t-shirts and hats, picked out the navy paint color for the trim, white vinyl for the front of the shop, and used pink accents on the signs.  My dad, a former builder, created a sketch for The Cottage:

He's Irish so he doesn't know how to spell Flavors ;)

I had personally given up Instagram and Facebook years ago, so getting back on for the business was a little daunting but I picked it up again pretty quickly, or so I thought.  Since we weren't announcing the new business publicly until the lease was signed, I set the accounts to private so nobody would see them, or so I thought.  A few days later, I get a text from a former coworker of mine saying he's so excited to hear about the new business.  My heart dropped as I wondered how he found out, and he told me he saw my Instagram account.  Apparently I had set it up as a personal account and set it to private, but then I switched it to a business account later and didn't realize that automatically made it public.  He got a notification that it was an account he might like and saw that it was our family opening it and reached out with congrats.  He teaches and coaches some of my kids, so I asked him to please not say anything to anyone yet as we were going back and forth with the lease and wanted to make sure it was definitely happening before we announced.  He promised he wouldn't tell a soul, or so he thought.  

A few days later, Andrew came home from school and said "Coach asked me if I knew about the ice cream thing yet and I was confused.  What ice cream thing?  Are you bringing ice cream to the sports banquet or something?"  Oh boy.  Time to spill the beans.  We called our three high-schoolers into our bedroom, shut the door, and told them about the new shop.  They were excited!  Maggie started putting together all the dots of why we had been going out so much recently (for meetings and showings) and they had a million questions for us.  It felt really good to finally be able to include them on it. 

Once we officially signed the lease, we told the rest of the kids what we were planning on doing, as well as our families.  Our oldest three boys plus four cousins had already worked in an ice cream shop and Maggie was planning on joining them this summer, so it had already been a family joke that we needed to open up our own shop with all of these family scoopers.  Speaking of that ice cream shop where the boys worked, we reached out to that owner a couple of weeks before we signed the lease to give her the heads up that we were most likely opening our own shop and the kids wouldn't return to her this summer.  She was very understanding and offered us any help and advice that we needed.  We told her that Eamon could continue working for both shops, and the cousins would continue working for her as well.  We didn't want her to feel like we were stealing half of her employees, even though we would have loved to hire family!

Some of my family at the ice cream shop my boys worked at.

We also knew we had to call the owner of the ice cream shack where Phil had worked last summer, because we weren't going to buy her shop now that we were buying this one.  We were really nervous to tell her because even though she hadn't reached out to let us know of any decision, we felt a bit obligated to buy it once she was ready to sell.  Wouldn't you know, a few days after we signed the lease, she reached out to us and asked us to meet her at her home.  Awkward.  We went over, prepared to tell her that we were opening our own shop this summer and could no longer buy her shack...but before we could even say that, she totally shocked us with her story...  

Part Four here

Friday, June 23, 2023

Week in Review: Father's Day 5K, Friends on Vacay, and Two Surgeries on Same Day

When we last left off it was about to be Father's Day weekend, and Phil and his favorite runner-sons formed The Ice Cream Cottage Team and ran the Father's Day 5k in our town on Sunday morning:

Brendan and I walked over to cheer them on:

They did great!

Declan ran ahead of Phil in the last mile and I couldn't find any race photos of him.  When I searched his bib number, it just kept showing the girl in the blue shirt.  I checked the results times and realized he must be in this photo - and then I found him!

Can you see his little legs running behind the girl in the blue shirt?  

You can always tell a Milford man ;)

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

The Ice Cream Cottage Story - Part Two

Part One here

One morning in January, I heard on the radio that the two restaurants in our town had closed and had been sold.  These were the two restaurants with the ice cream shop in between!  I immediately googled the story, which stated that all three buildings had been sold to a developer who was hoping to reopen them all.  

Margaret's restaurant on corner, Brady's Ice Box in the middle, Elisabeth's restaurant on left.

An aerial view of the old shop, with the purple awning.  See how close the harbor is?

I quickly sleuthed the contact info for the developer (sometimes I wonder if I should have been a private investigator) and sent him a message on his real estate website, telling him about us and that we were interested in the ice cream shop.  Whenever I fill out these generic contact forms, I always use my email, but give Phil's phone number because I dread talking on the phone.  I know, I know, I have issues.  

Immediately after sending the info to the developer, I texted Phil to give him a heads up that the restaurants/ice cream shop were up for grabs and that I reached out to the developer and gave his phone number.  Five minutes later, Phil texts me back and says "I just got off the phone with him."  Apparently Phil got a phone call from the developer and had no idea what was happening as the developer was talking to him about the ice cream shop.  But he quickly caught on and acted as if he was in the loop and they agreed to meet at the shop at a future date.  

On January 21, 2023 we met with the developer down at the ice cream shop, which is exactly 3/4 mile from our house.  Upon walking into the shop...I could see it had a lot of...potential.  It was in pretty bad shape and had only been open for one summer in the past 14 years or something like that.  And the color scheme - yikes!

But we're not scared of hard work and we were very excited about the possibility of this shop.  Takeout only! So close to our house!  In our own town!  In between two restaurants that would draw crowds!  At the start of the bike path!  Near the water!

I'm pretty sure Phil and I started losing sleep in January and haven't caught up yet.  Back then it was due to the excitement of making a dream come true mixed with the fear of not knowing how to do it.  We had huge decisions to make, investors to get on board and prayers to say to discern our future.  Plus we weren't telling anybody yet.  It took a lot to be obsessively thinking about something and not being able to talk about it to or around other people.  We walked the dog a lot during that time, uninterrupted time to talk with no ears to hear except for Lucy's but she doesn't say much.  Woof.

We did need to reach out to our friends who own the homemade ice cream shop in the next town over, to ask them if they would sell their ice cream to us.  We knew we didn't have the time to make our own, and their ice cream is the best in the area and very popular.  JP's first job ever was washing buckets in their shop at age 14.   So Phil texted the wife of that shop and told her we were thinking about opening an ice cream shop and were wondering if they would wholesale to us.  She asked where we were opening, and upon hearing the location said that they had been interested in that location in the past, and told us that we would do great there and yes, they would sell us their ice cream.  We agreed to meet up with her and her husband (the maker of the yummy ice cream) for dinner a few days later on February 1, 2023.  

When we sat down to eat with them, the husband shared this story with us:

"So I got a phone call the other day from a guy who owns properties in the area.  He said he bought  two restaurants and an ice cream shop and was wondering if we would be interested in opening up another shop there." 

{Side note: The owner of the properties did not know that Phil and I had met with the developer of the properties a few days earlier.}  

"So I asked him where it was and he told me, and I said aloud 'Oh yeah, I know that spot and have always wanted to open a shop there!' when all of a sudden my wife runs over and screams:


"So I told the guy that I would step aside and that Phil and Colleen Martin are good people and they should proceed with them, but that if it doesn't work out to let me know."

Wow.  Talk about timing.  

If we hadn't reached out to our friends on that exact day to ask them to wholesale their ice cream, the owner of the property would have made a verbal deal with them that night to open another shop.  But instead, they were willing to step aside and let us have it.  

Also, it made us feel really good to hear that they would have wanted the spot, since they have the expertise and up until that point... the shop was just a lot of...potential.  If our friends thought the location was perfect, then we were even more eager to make this whole thing work!  Unfortunately there is no magic plan or checklist that someone hands you when you want to start a business, and we had a lot to figure out for ourselves...

Part Three here

Friday, June 16, 2023

Week in Review: Races and Meals and Games

Another week of June in the rearview mirror!  

Yesterday was the last day of finals for Eamon and Maggie who completed their Sophomore and Freshman years, respectively.  Today is the last day of school for my little guys who are finishing 6th, 3rd, and 1st grades:

That photo is from the Youth Mile race they participated in this past weekend.  Brendan (age 6) ran his first ever one mile race in 8:41.  Brendan was so cute to watch, as his running tends to go more up and down than straight ahead.

Declan (age 9) won first place with a 6:44 mile.  He runs fast and paces himself so well just like his big brother Andrew used to do.  Declan said that he "overlapped" four kids during the race :)

Andrew at age 10 winning the Half Mile in 3:01

Alexander (age 11) ran his mile in 7:55 which was a PR and goal for himself to get under 8 minutes.  He said he prefers swimming to running as soon as he crossed the finish line, but I'm so proud of him for pushing through.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

The Ice Cream Cottage Story - Part One

I think y'all know that I grew up in a family that owned Maggie's Homemade Ice Cream shops on Cape Cod.  When my parents decided to sell the business, they were in their late sixties and all six of their children were married, had young families, and were growing their careers.  Nobody was able to take over the business, though Phil and I wanted to.  At the time, he was (still is!) a high school teacher with summers off but we had two babies and a third on the way, no money to invest and the timing just wasn't right.  We always looked back and wished we could have figured something out back then, and dreamed of having our own little shop in the future.

Fast forward about fifteen years and we were swimming along in life with seven kids and a dog.  I was working full time as an accountant and Phil had earned another Master's degree, this one in Educational Leadership.  We felt ready to take the next step of him pursuing administrator roles, which would mean that he would be working all year round and no longer able to care for our kids in the summer plus work part-time odd jobs.  But the kids were older and able to babysit and the littles could attend camps.  Phil started his search to become a Catholic high school administrator and had some interviews and was offered some positions, but with each job offer at a school outside our diocese came the choice of losing our current tuition plan for our kids.  As you can imagine, the tuition benefit for seven kids isn't something you just give up to make a little more money doing a much larger job at a school further away.  We kept praying and felt that maybe it wasn't the right plan for our family at the moment.  Maybe it would be in future years when we didn't have as many kids that were elementary and high school aged. 

{Let's flashback a few years here, before the pandemic happened, when I asked Phil to call the owners of a small ice cream shop in our town that seemed permanently closed.  We have lived in this town for 18 years and we never once saw it opened.  He called the owner, told her that we were interested in the shop and found out that her husband had an accident a few years earlier which resulted in brain injury which was not allowing him to work fully.  They owned the ice cream shop and the two restaurants on either side.  She was understandably overwhelmed by all of this and said that she just couldn't make any decisions at the time about the future of the ice cream shop.  We totally understood.}

Back to the current time of praying and discerning our future goals, and we decided to meet with a financial advisor.  I had seen an ad that our library was having free financial consultations and since I had just changed my job, I had questions about what to do with my retirement funds.  Phil and I met with the financial advisor and discussed our financial situation.  He was mostly just complimentary on how we handled things, which was nice for this accountant to hear :)  At some point I stated that I wasn't happy in my position and that I couldn't wait to retire or at least reduce my work to part-time.  He asked me what kind of job I would want to do if I could choose anything.  I replied without hesitation, "I want to open an ice cream shop."  Phil looked at me, shocked as we hadn't really discussed actually making this happen.  It was always just a dream, like some would say that they hope to live on a big self-sufficient farm one day but never go through the steps of buying said farm.  We didn't have savings in the bank to open a business, nor were we able to give up our current incomes to gamble on a business.

But being the man who tries to make all of our dreams come true, Phil got stuck on the ice cream shop idea and it became a fun thing to discuss.  A few weeks after the financial consultation, Phil was teaching his high school students and one of them mentioned that her mom owned an ice cream shack.  Phil jokingly said "Well if she ever wants to sell it, let me know."  The student came up to him after school and said that she thought her mom might actually be interested in selling the shack soon and gave him her contact info.  Phil reached out, and we met with the owner and learned all about her business, which she had started mostly to give her five kids a summer job.  Those kids were all growing up and moving on (the youngest was about to graduate high school) and she was happy to find a family to potentially sell it to in a couple years.

Phil started working at the ice cream shack last summer, to understand the business and see if it would be a good fit for us.  The owner was in no rush to sell and we were in no rush to buy so it was just feeling things out for the summer.  The shack had a lot of perks (low rent, take out only, loyal customers) but it was about 20 minutes from our house and that fact just kept nagging at me.  It was just a bit too far for my liking, as I imagined running some gallons of milk out to them on a busy night and it would have been almost an hour commute to drive, shop for the milk, drop off and drive home.  Phil kept reminding me that I had lived about 20 minutes away from my family's ice cream shops and it had worked out.  

The Shack

After the summer ended, we agreed to meet with the owner at some point to discuss future plans and then didn't hear from her for months.  But I'm not blaming her at all.  We didn't reach out either, because we were really unsure of what to do.  Phil wanted to buy it because he would be fulfilling the ice cream shop dream, but I didn't think the location was the best and we hadn't discussed a price and I had no idea what we were willing to pay or what she was hoping to get.  As the months went on and the discussion was nonexistent, it felt like maybe this wasn't meant to be or at least not meant to be for this coming summer...

Part Two here

Friday, June 9, 2023

Week in Review: Awards and Cuddles and Car Troubles

One more full week of school to go for my kiddos!

I guess that's not exactly true because JP has already finished his junior year at Franciscan University and Andrew just graduated from high school, and I got the professional photo to prove it:

Worth the $19.99 fee

But Maggie is wrapping up 9th grade, stressing about finals yet still managing to go to bed at 8:30 because apples don't fall far from the tired tree.

Awards Night

Friday, June 2, 2023

Week in Review: A Presentation, An Induction and A Recommendation

This week was definitely less busy than last and for that we are grateful.  

Declan (age 9) had a big project due today on Paul Revere.  He had to write a paper, create a bottle guy (I don't know what they call it, but it's made from a soda bottle) and dress up to present to his class.

The British are coming!  The British are coming!

Did you know that Paul Revere was one of nine children (two named Thomas) and had 8 kids with his first wife and then 8 kids with his second wife?  Now you do!