Building the Dream: Commercial Construction for Gross Confection Bar in Portland, Maine

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When a mutual friend introduced us to Brant Dadaleares we were stoked. When we heard about Brant’s vision for a dessert-only restaurant and bar, we were hooked! We knew we had to be part of this project, whatever it took.

Most commercial construction projects start with bids from multiple contractors, but we were honored when Brant and his team made it clear from the start that they wanted to work with us. We gave them a list of architects to interview, then as a team we drew up the budget, and we were off!

We love all phases of the commercial construction process, so this project was particularly special to us because we got to be in it at every single step, from architect selection, to design, to city permitting, and finally, construction.

Today, we’re breaking down the stages of the process to detail how we converted an old Christmas-trinket shop into Portland, Maine’s hottest new date spot.

Let’s dig in.

Design/ Build: Budget Minded from the Beginning

One of the benefits of being part of this project from idea to construction was getting to work hand-in-hand with the architect from the beginning. When creating the design, the architect built the design off of the budget and specifications that we had already defined with the client. We can’t overstate how rare this is in commercial projects.

Our role as commercial contractors means that we’re involved in the intimate details of the budget, so being able to outline this with the architect from the beginning meant that the client got the best bang for his buck. Often times clients come to us with designs set (and have already paid an architect to draw them up), but once they talk to commercial construction companies they realize the design is way above budget. Despite choosing a bid-winner, these kinds of projects often run way over budget. In this case, that didn’t happen. We were able to start with real expectations and lead the architect into a design that the client could actually afford to build.

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The Look for Less

When a designer creates specs for a finishes, they aren’t always thinking about final cost. So what’s specified in a designer’s plans may take a client far above budget. And even though we had a dream scenario with the architect and this client, unexpected costs simply show up, and things have to shift.

One of the ways that we help our clients stay on budget is by doing product research on their behalf, especially on contractor-only sites. Ryan will research a product to find things that suppliers won’t mention. Our goal is to be solution oriented, so if the numbers aren’t adding up, we come to them with multiple solutions, and give the client resources to keep looking further on their own.

Here are just a few of the budget minded switches we made in this case:

  • Flooring: Design: $13/SF → Budget $3/SF

Solution: Switched to vinyl tile, then hired a floor mat company to put mats down to protect high traffic areas.

  • Countertop: Design: Pricey Stainless Steel → Budget: Soapstone

This was an architect change based on other changes. Both countertop options cost the same, yet with other changes the aesthetic needed updating. So, within the same budget we switched the material to match the updated design. In the biz, we call this value engineering.

  • Shelving: Design: custom metal supports → Budget: readily available materials

Using readily available threaded metal led to big cost savings for client, and gave the client the same functionality & look but at a lower cost.


Shared Success: DIY’ing the Dream

One of our company core values is shared success, and to us that means that everyone’s life benefits from our work together. So if that means a client needs to DIY parts of the project to make their dream a reality, then we’re all for that.

Reclaimed King’s Lumber from Home Renovation

A particularly unique way that we got to share success on this project was from sharing parts of our home with the client...literally. Optimum Construction Co-Owner Ryan happened to be remodeling his home during this time and uncovered King’s Lumber, an exceptionally large piece of lumber once used for masts that cannot be purchased any more. These were the perfect fit for a few spots in this build, so Ryan donated his housing material. Ryan’s kitchen ceiling is now he hostess stand at Gross Confection.

Teach a Client to Demo…

We’re always happy to support a client in whatever they need to make things work for them, and in this case, that meant the client decided to do his own demolition at the outset to save on costs. The client also decided to do his own painting, saving him a good bit of money as well.

On top of that, one of the client’s passion projects during this renovation was the fireplace. He’s a handy lad, so he decided that he wanted to refinish it himself while we worked on getting the custom lighting installed inside of it.

With both of these client DIYs (and a few other smaller ones), we were happy to give Brant tips for the projects he elected to undertake. And to make sure the job was done well we loaned him tools and product. This might sound crazy, but to us, the most important thing was getting the job done well and making the client happy, which we’re proud to say happened in abundance.

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Reusing Materials: The Biggest Money Saver

One of the best ways to save big bucks in any renovation project, commercial or residential is to  reuse materials that are already in place. Here are just a few of the materials that we reused, in whole or in part:

  • Shelving units

  • Cast iron columns (found behind the walls during demo!)

  • Exposed ceiling

  • Fire alarm and existing wiring

  • Lighting: (track lighting & pendants)

Reusing each of these materials helped our client not only to save but allowed the fit-up to move faster. Shared Success in this case meant putting money in the client’s budget toward things they really wanted and needed.

What couldn’t we reuse?

Well, surprisingly, this space didn’t have ANY plumbing in it previously. Not an ideal situation for a restaurant. So, we had to add it all in, figuring out how to work with the narrow subterranean crawl space. But we did it!

Timeline: The Biggest Budget Maker (or Breaker)

The biggest ‘hidden cost’ in commercial construction? Time.

It’s often overlooked as part of the budget, but delaying opening a business by weeks or months costs them significantly. So we work as hard as possible to keep projects on a tight timeline, and this was no exception.

With a month of work left on this commercial construction project, the client discovered that he needed the kitchen space within 2 weeks time for a major commission. So, we reorganized our timeline and finished up work in the kitchen before other parts of the remodel so that he could have that space available when he needed it.

Building Relationships, one Commercial Construction Project at a Time

Here’s the thing: we measure our success by how well our work builds our relationship with the client. If everyone is better friends at the end of this, then that’s a successful project.

We’re here to build relationships, and we’d love for one with you to be next. Got a project in mind? Send us a note. We’d love to take you to lunch and hear all about it.

Ben Rodgers