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How Beezy's, Beal made the numbers work to grow in downtown Ypsilanti

News that a local entrepreneur (Bee Roll) and developer (Stewart Beal) are partnering to expand a popular business in downtown Ypsilanti (Beezy's Cafe) is rightly being celebrated. It's the type of move that passersby would say, "That makes so much sense. Why didn't it happen earlier?"

Normally, the problem of filling empty storefront A with growing local business B is a lot easier said than done. Roll and Beal figured out a way to make the numbers add up.

"This is what I would call Ypsilanti hustle," Beal says. "We are both going to work really hard to make this work."

Beezy's Cafe has become an Ypsilanti institution in the seven years since its opening, serving soups, sandwiches and other delicious food to a growing clientele. Despite its success, finding capital to grow has proven difficult, to put it nicely. (You can read more in-depth writing about those challenges here. Roll recently signed Beezy's Cafe up as one of the early adopters to ZipCap to leverage a $10,000 loan. More on that here.)

Last week Beal purchased the former Club Devine building at 21 N Washington St. The vacant structure also happens to be across the street from Beezy's Cafe current home. Beal and Roll plan to expand Beezy's Cafe into 3,000-square-foot of the former Club Devine space later this year or early next year. That space includes a 800-square-foot commercial kitchen, which is four times the size of Beezy's Cafe's current kitchen. It should give Roll ample room to keep up with demand for both her eatery's breakfast, lunch and dinner items, and its catering service.

"I just hope to have the kitchen operational so that I can produce food in a little more space," Roll wrote in an email. "That will potentially raise enough revenue to feed the rest of the growth and keep up with existing bills."

Roll is paying $2,500 a month for the new space of Beezy's Cafe, which include $30,000 worth of improvements Beal is making to the space and rolling into the rent. That comes to a price per square foot that Beal describes as the minimum a commercial property can charge a business and still maintain its status as a functional property that can make further improvements. Beal adds that he has been talking to Roll for years about her business and knows she was looking at expanding into an adjacent property that required at least $150,000 buildings updates. The problem so many retailers like Roll run into is they see empty storefronts in a dynamic downtown like Ypsilanti and then realize they need tens of thousands of dollars in upgrades that the landlords have no interest in making.

"In Ypsilanti the reason buildings are vacant in because the the owners of the buildings don't want to invest in the building to land a tenant," Beal says.

The former Club Devine building was move-in ready. Beal says his development team only needs to put down a new floor in an otherwise pristine space. Which is part of the reason why Beal wanted to move a tenant into 21 N Washington right away. For him it makes sense to bring in an popular business like Beezy's Cafe at an affordable price to anchor his new commercial development.

Beal is now working to fill the second floor and basement of the 22,000 square foot building. He is considering turning the second floor into either an office space or residential lofts, and hopes to fill it within six months. He knows filling the basement will be more of a challenge and hopes to find the right tenant for it in the not-too-distant future.

"She (Roll) brings the fan base and we get the space ready for her to make it work," Beal says.

Source: Stewart Beal, owner of Beal Properties; Bee Roll, owner of Beezy's Cafe
Writer: Jon Zemke
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Related Company

  • Beezy’s Cafe
    20 N Washington St
    Ypsilanti, MI 48197 Website
    Beezy’s Cafe is a eatery in downtown Ypsilanti that serves gourmet soups and sandwiches.