Monday, June 13, 2011

The Down and Dirty

What do you do when you buy a crack house? 

Main Entry

Basement Unit

Units 1 - 4 layout

You start swinging sledge hammers.........

After everyone had vacated the building, we got straight to work.  The building had (4) one bedroom units that were identical in layout that run the entire length of the building  (two on each side) connected by a central hallway and stairs .  The 5th unit was a 3 bedroom apartment with a laundry area in the basement.  It took us (4) 30 yard dumpsters, two amazing best friends who helped keep our moral high (thank you Janna and Leif) and lots of sledge hammering.  We knew that the kitchens were finished, nothing in there could or needed to be salvage so we went to work gutting everything.  I really wanted to keep as much historical preservation to the building as possible.  So we saved every door and door knob we found anything that could be saved or that had not run off with the previous tenants. 

The biggest educational experience was seeing first hand what drug's can really do to a person.  Most of the former tenants had left most of there belongs behind and being a person who has never experienced that "culture" I was shocked at there thought processes. To walk out with nothing? To live in your own garbage? To hide needles and crack pipes in light fixtures? To disassemble piece by piece 10 stereos and telephone parts? (this I learned was what meth addicts do) Why is there white power all over coffee tables? Why would you want to brake into a basement and sleep on a wet, moldy, dirty mattress that who knows what has been on? The list went on.......

Every day for six months after our regular jobs we would meet at home change into our "dirty" clothes and head to the building. It was a new experience and a new lesson and somewhere inside of us we knew that we couldn't go back and that all we could do was move forward.  It was a pivotal point in our lives and the reason why I'm sharing this experience with you all.  There was no buyers remorse, no thoughts of just walking away or hiring someone to do it (we couldn't have afforded it anyway) we found this incredible strength within us and we were not going to let anything stop us. We worked all weekends, and most nights until 12 or 2 in the morning. Believe me we were exhausted, and had our little emotion melt downs from time to time, but I think we wanted to succeed so bad. Our family and friends support was so motivating, everyone came by to help us paint or do something it was so rewarding.  We worked together and unit by unit they slowly started changing. The only thing we could afford to hire was some electrical work, hardwood floor refinishing, and custom kitchen cabinets.  Everything else we did ourselves.  We didn't have any real experience, but knew enough to stumble through it until we got the hang of it. 

As time came closer to start thinking about renting we had to again pull from within ourselves and block out the self defeating thoughts.  What kind of person was going to rent from us? Can we keep the drugs out? Are we thinking about charging to much? Are they going to destroy all the work that we have put into it? The neighborhood was intimidating, our building and street corners had been the center of most drug dealing. With us not tolerating or allowing that environment anymore what would happen?

Change.............things started getting better, drug dealing was disappearing, people stopped breaking in, word got out that we wouldn't allow anyone to push us around.   I even got into a few screaming matches with a guy who told me I was a capitalist changing the neighborhood.  I told him if he didn't like it that he could move on.  I guess he did..........We were persistent and never backed down. Call after call to the police about drug dealing and gang activity motivated (or they got sick of us calling) more patrol cars to frequent by.  We even witnessed a undercover SWAT team take down a house across the street, it was surreal...and then after it was safe we introduced ourselves as the new owners who absolutely wanted them to know that we were going to have a drug free apartment building.  Word got out, things were changing........

Hallways and Laundry Area

All Units 1-4

The basement unit 5
 (professionally photographed by my great friend Frank from Digiman Studios, thanks bud!)

Its been almost 4 years since,  we have an incredible building, with incredible renters, (little speed bumps from time to time but nothing extreme) a drug free street corner and a huge lifetime of lessons learned in such a short time period.  Being a landlord is hard work, and we strive to keep our units "brand new".  Our secret is that we didn't cheap out, we were creative with our money and designed every detail as if we were going to live there.  People notice......  We don't make millions, but we survive even through this economy.  From here on out any project that I start takes me back 4 years ago to our building. And I remember and pull from that feeling.  When I first starting building this house I had so much stress worrying if I was going to be able to do it, would I make huge costly mistakes, would the subs I hire treat me different being a women boss, those self defeating thoughts. But, then that feeling kicks in, and I say screw it.....I'm going to do it............ somehow!!!

Its just my thoughts and experiences, I'm not super women or a know it all, I just wanted to give back, and inspire everyone to dream big. .  It was a huge stepping stone for me and maybe someone will get something out of hearing my journey, that's why I blog.  I want to capture this time in my life to look back at and remember, because this current project has a whole other set of lessons being learned.


  1. Needed that reminder of passion today! Thanks friend!

  2. what a wonderful post- and this story is amazing and you are a truly inspiring!