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Construction is On!

Building permits

My friends and family always ask how the store is coming along, and I never really know how to answer. We’re in the middle of construction, and I know we’re making progress, but it feels like it is taking an eternity to see any real change. Even though we signed the lease on April 1, we didn’t start construction until June because of the time required to get permits. Since the building is designated as a landmark, we had to submit the architecture plans to the Landmark Association before we could get approval from the New York City Department of Buildings. This held us up for about 2-3 additional weeks, but we didn’t have a choice.

Now that we have our permits we are trying to get things done as quickly as possible, and our contractor tells us he thinks construction will be complete by the end of July. My goal is to open in August, so I am keeping my fingers crossed and rubbing every lucky thing I can find. It will all depend on the Department of Health approvals before we can finally open the doors.

The last few weeks have been filled with manual labor. We have a great contractor and construction crew doing most of the work, but to save a little money Andrew and I are doing some things ourselves. We spent the weekend before our vacation tearing down sheet rock to expose the building’s original brick walls.

How the ground floor looked before we touched any walls…
Ground floor as it began

Andrew after a long day of work…
Andrew at work

Kelli tearing down some sheet rock to expose the original brick…
Kelli tearing down some sheetrock

The wall is now on the floor. We have brick!
The plaster is off the wall, and on the floor. Brick is exposed!

The walls will be acid washed this week to remove the remaining plaster pieces, and I think they will look great and give the space a really comfortable feel.

Today we tore up a section of the old VCT flooring. To remove the flooring I held a propane torch over the tile while Andrew used a scraper to remove it. We did this in 100 degree heat with no air conditioning. I can only say that today was not the most attractive I have ever looked.

Before we got the space it was occupied by a Tasti D-Lite. So much of the space was in such bad condition I wonder how it could have operated. I believe they limited themselves to a small area upstairs, while we are planning to use both the basement and ground floor. You can see the bathroom is painted in true Tasti D-Lite fashion. I call the color “Tasti-Pink”. We tore down the south wall to get rid of the pink and expose the brick, and we will be painting the rest a nice neutral color.

The original bright pink Tasti D-Lite bathroom…
Tasti D-Lite bathroom

The kitchen will be located in the basement, and the upstairs will be for seating. We also have a BACKYARD that I can’t wait to use, but we’ll build this out after we finish cleaning up the interior. The only drawback to the basement is the 6’7″ low ceilings, but this is New York City so you take what you can get. It took me three visits to get used to the ceiling height, and now I don’t think twice about it. The basement also has windows for good air circulation, so I think it will work out well.

The basement which will be cleaned up and used for the kitchen…
The basement

You can see a basic sketch of the basement and ground floor layout below.

Ground floor…
Ground Floor general plan

Sketches of basement plan

We will put a dark hardwood floor throughout most the store, and use tile for the work areas and bathroom.

Flooring Plan

We will sell a range of fresh bakery items, along with a wide selection of loose leaf tea. Coffee will be available, but our focus will remain on tea. I will also be bringing in my favorite tea and bakery-related items for sale in the front of the store. Amai is unique in that it is a bakery that sells tea, not a tea shop that sells baked goods. We will always make our own food, but will not have our own tea line. I prefer to take advantage of the wonderful things happening in the tea world today, and partner with tea shops to bring in the best tea products we can find.

This week the air conditioning should be installed and our counter top will go in. Next week is a plumbing inspection, and after that we hope to paint and begin installing equipment. I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I will be so happy to finally have a store to share with everyone soon. I’ll try to keep the pictures and updates coming.

JOB NOTICE: I will soon be hiring a full-time (30-40 hours per week) baker to handle the kitchen once the store opens. I am looking for someone good at production, who works efficiently and is detail oriented. In addition to being responsible for daily production, you will have the opportunity to create new recipes and work with a great group of people. If you are interested please send a resume with your availability to ineedsweets at amainyc.com


Ray says on July 11th, 2007 at 11:15 pm:

I can’t wait to see the finished store! I also found your job opening appealing. I have absolutely no baking skills, a face for radio and I really don’t like working too hard. Oh, I also need something that pays in the mid-6 figures with at least 12 weeks of vacation per quarter. I am also hoping nepotism will play a role in your decision making process. Thank you for your consideration.

Debbie says on July 11th, 2007 at 11:44 pm:

It’s so exciting to see this come together. Wish I was there to help. The brick wall looks great. I’ll visit NY the first chance I get to personally sample all of the tastey treats. Whip up a batch of extra chocolate everything just for me!

Kenneth says on July 12th, 2007 at 1:49 am:

And the awesomeness continues. This is going to kick so much ass!!!

Kelli Bernard says on July 12th, 2007 at 7:43 am:

Ok Dad, we’ll get you a chair and put it in the basement. You can sit and no one will see you. If the six figure salary can include the 0s after the decimal point, you’re in!

Queenie says on July 12th, 2007 at 9:22 am:

I can’t wait to see the finished store! Every time I’m in the area, I try to walk past to see the progress. Can I reserve the table in the lower-left of your floor plan to be my new “office” once the store opens? In the meantime, don’t hesitate to give me a call if you need a hand with any of the DIY construction; I’ve got plenty of free time now.

cheryl says on July 12th, 2007 at 2:24 pm:

Oh Kelli I feel your pain. (Even after 4 years)
We should share grunge photos. :) I have to say, all of the hard work will make it such a wonderful place to spend most of your waking hours. The sweat labor makes you feel a great sense of pride. I am soooo excited for you!!!

Jee says on July 12th, 2007 at 3:00 pm:

I can’t wait for your store to open! Any plans on serving afternoon tea?

dbdtron says on July 12th, 2007 at 4:55 pm:

Congratulations Kelli! I remember back when you left your day job for Polka Dot! Best of luck.. and I’ll be in to order.. :)


Malini says on July 12th, 2007 at 9:51 pm:

WOW! The place is going to look great. I am putting it on my list to visit on my next trip to NYC.

Take care.

Jessica "Su Good Eats" says on July 13th, 2007 at 12:00 am:

Wow, August? That’s so soon! You’ve been doing a lot of hard work. Did I tell you? One of my favorite teas is Janam. You’ve heard of single-estate chocolate; they have single-estate tea from India, and it’s delicious! They also have a great chai tea. You can buy tea from their store in Jersey City (love the atmosphere) or online at janamtea.com.

keiko says on July 13th, 2007 at 7:30 am:

This is so exciting – hope everything goes as planned, good luck!

Can I send you my CV? :)

aileen says on July 13th, 2007 at 7:46 pm:

So exciting! I find myself contemplating a visit to the city….and a tea sweet! It’s incredible how much you have accomplished. Congratulations!

Emily says on July 14th, 2007 at 12:41 am:

Kel- Amazing, just amazing!!! I can’t wait to come visit again, I wish I was there now to help and hang out!

Kelli Bernard says on July 14th, 2007 at 6:42 am:

Thank you everyone, I really can’t wait until you can come visit too.

Dbtron – Yes, I only left Polka Dot about a year ago! Time flies. Thanks for following the progress. Ayse (owner of Polka Dot) and I still keep in touch and I’m hoping she will share the kitchen space with me to make her cakes. We’ll be renting space to specialty cake designers.

Keiko – You don’t even need to send me your CV ;) I wished you lived in New York!

Jee – We will offer special plates with assorted cookies/crackers/cheese, etc. as an afternoon tea special. There won’t be waiter service or anything, but you can definitely have something special.

Jessica – I’ve never been to Janam before and just checked it out online. It looks very cool. I’d love to see it in person. Thanks for telling me about it.

Em- I wish you were here too!! I could put Adrian to work as well :) I hope you guys are doing well.

McAuliflower says on July 14th, 2007 at 3:48 pm:

Yowza- how exciting!

Thanks for sharing the plans here- it really is interesting.

Glad you had brick under there. That’s rare in my neck of the woods.

cheers Kelli!

Nick says on July 15th, 2007 at 1:30 pm:

I wanna work in the basement!

Chris says on July 15th, 2007 at 1:31 pm:

I want to work at the register. You can pay me with food!

Kristin says on July 15th, 2007 at 11:01 pm:

Just don’t get Dad a rocking chair…he will fall asleep! Oh how we all wish we were there to help out and to see the store come together. It will be great we can’t wait to come and visit!

Clarice says on July 16th, 2007 at 12:24 pm:

I can’t wait to see it. The hot pink bathroom is classic! I think Andrew has a new calling in construction….

Laurie says on July 16th, 2007 at 5:45 pm:

Hey, you are really moving along at warp speed…although I bet it doesn’t seem fast enough for you! You’ve accomplished sooo much! Can hardly wait til you open & can start reaping the benefits of all this hard work! BTW – LOVE the bathroom! :-) Don’t change a thing!

Shauna says on July 25th, 2007 at 5:49 pm:

You are living the dream! :) Best of luck and love your blog.

Chris says on July 31st, 2007 at 8:03 am:

Wow – you are amazing!
I am following your blog now for a while from sunny southern Africa…and i just can say you do a great job and best of luck for all your plans! Wish i could see the bakery once you´re open!

Kelli Bernard says on July 31st, 2007 at 8:08 am:

I really appreciate all of your support. Thanks for following along with me, even from southern Africa, wow! The internet is wonderful. I hope to meet you all in person at the store sometime soon.

monique says on August 20th, 2007 at 6:44 pm:

It’s so nice to see you kick butt in New York. You’re Aunt is proud. Can I apply for the managment position? Love you.

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Lovescool is the documentation of a journey to discover what sweet things are out there, why people love them so much, and perhaps what it takes to start something new.

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An interest, that turned into a blog, that turned into a career. Kelli Bernard is now the owner and baker of Amai Tea & Bake House.

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