There’s really never a dull moment for a small business. At Sister Pie in West Village that means dough needs to be rolled, pies need to be baked, deliveries need to be received. The routines — and occasional challenges — of running a pastry shop don’t go away no matter how many accolades you receive. Owner Lisa Ludwinski is nothing if not realistic about that. However, her latest business hurdle may be one of her biggest yet.
It’s a story that will feel familiar to many restaurant owners who lease from a landlord, particularly in areas with rising rents. Two weeks ago, Ludwinski was approached by a real estate broker representing her landlord who informed her that the building Sister Pie occupies at the corner of Kercheval and Parker Street is going up for sale. The cost? $420,000 with $200,000 down and a five-year land contract at 5 percent interest.
Ludwinski tells Eater she would have liked to have the option to purchase the building written into her lease, allowing Sister Pie to grow slowly into a neighboring space. However, that expansion idea was a ways out in her five-year business plan. Now that the building is up for sale things feel uncertain.
“The $400,000 price tag is pretty steep especially for us,” Ludwinski tells Eater. “We're turning five years old in November and we've been in this space for two and a half years and we're definitely in our early growth phases,” she says.
The business, she notes was largely funded through a $50,000 Hatch Detroit grant, non-traditional loans, and crowdsourced contributions from a $25,000 Indiegogo campaign. Since opening, much of her capital has been invested back into the business.
Things with the building have felt precarious for a while though, says Ludwinski. Sister Pie has been without a lease since September 2016 and so far unable to negotiate a new one. That means if someone else buys the building, then there’s a possibility she may not be able to remain in the space.
“We feel a little bit backed into a corner,” she says. “We are so absolutely committed to this neighborhood and we want to be here for our customers who have followed us since the beginning.”
With that in mind, Ludwinski is exploring alternatives with help from mentors at Hatch and O’Connor Real Estate’s Ryan Cooley. She’s also developing “relationships with other people who might be interested in helping us” and looking at different potential locations in the West Village and the surrounding area for the bakery. In the meantime, Ludwinski has once again requested to be put on a lease.
Despite the challenge, Ludwinski is confident that something will be worked out whether that be staying in the same building or something else. “It's honestly just really scary, but also I feel positive because I know that we're going to figure it out no matter what it is,” she says.