Almost exactly six years ago, I wrote a simple post about a pawn shop opening up in my town. It was during the very early days of this blog, and I figured it was an easy way to take some shots at that financially predatory industry. Also, the shop was called Mister Money, which had an ironic similarity to my own name, Mr. Money Mustache.
So anyway, in that post I joked that I was going to buy the building next door, and if anyone walked into my shop trying to borrow money, I’d PUNCH THEM IN THE FACE and tell them to embrace frugality and sensible living, rather than high-interest borrowing, as the solution to their financial problems. For some reason, this idea of the “Face Punch” really stuck with the early readers, and became a bit of a brand for MMM.
As sheer coincidence would have it, in early March 2017 a cryptic ad appeared in the local Craigslist.
There was an address, but no pictures and no other information.
I recognized the address as being right next door to my pawn shop rival. And we recognized the price as being about half of what a small single-family house or commercial building goes for around here these days. Mrs. Money Mustache was the one who first found the ad, so she called the number.
To make a long story short, the building was a severely run-down joint, but with extremely good potential. A dozen species of insects and animals called its rotting exterior woodwork their home and three dumpsters worth of demolition, debris and dead trees clogged the property*.
But at the core was a 2400 square foot brick and concrete structure, plus a detached 2-car garage, on an immense 7500 square foot lot, directly across the street from a recently-built $23 million building which happens to host one of the town’s best pubs.
The reason it was so cheap, aside from decades of neglect, is that it was owned by a charming man in his 70s who now lives hundreds of miles away. Once a prominent owner of significant chunks of Longmont, he was unloading this last forgotten scrap of real estate just to get it out of his hair. Perhaps he was unfamiliar with the recent boom in our property prices here, and he was definitely unfamiliar with modern property marketing techniques (he had relied on a friend to even get the ad onto Craigslist). The building had been in constant use by a series of retail tenants, but nobody had had much of an incentive to fix the place up.
I called him later that night with an all-cash offer, and after an hour of telling me amazing stories of his life, he accepted it. A few weeks later, we closed on the property and then I spent the next few months in a full-bore restoration process – a multi-person vortex of flying sparks, brick, sawdust, beer, diesel, sweat, blood, and beer.
So Why Did We Buy a Building?
This somewhat wild scheme is the culmination of a few different values:
- We wanted to get more involved with the local community, by owning a little piece of the Main Street and helping to make it a more joyful place. There’s nothing wrong with selling stuff and making money, but I’m also interested in teaching classes, hosting events and parties, and donating the space for use for non-profit events which are designed to help people. (See the bottom of this article to learn about the first one)
- Mrs. MM and a good friend of hers both have booming Etsy shops that are ready to break out into the real world. They enjoy working together so much, that they decided owning a building together was the next logical step. So both women, and both of us husbands, teamed up together and split the building equally.
- From a financial perspective, it would be hard to go wrong because we got the place for such a low price. The land alone is worth more than the $225k purchase price, and if the town continues its current downtown boom, this could increase drastically again over the next ten years. Since the structure includes 2-3 separately rentable spaces, the property could easily bring in $3000-$4000 per month of income (after renovations) if we chose to rent it out in the future. And there were no banks or borrowing involved, so the stress and closing costs were low, and flexibility is high.
But all those points are just the “pretend responsible adult” justifications. In real life, we bought this thing because it seems like a fun adventure.
As this blog has grown so unexpectedly over the years it has presented all sorts of opportunities. As prestigious as they sound, they really all boil down to either spending more time on airplanes, or more time or sitting at the computer, and always less time being here for my son. I don’t really need more fake lifestyle guru nonsense in my life – I want more great stuff going on right here in our own community.
So, as the headline suggests, I’m outfitting half of this building to become the MMM World Headquarters.
What Happens at MMM WHQ?
I’ve decided that my side of the building will become a coworking and hangout space for Longmont-area Mustachian Entrepreneurs. It will be membership-based, with only 50 memberships made available at a price of $50 per month. And for the price of membership, locals get:
- 24/7 keycard access to a big, open room downtown (about 700 square feet) with couches, tables, benches, stylish design, etc. Plus an adjoining small kitchen area for our food.
- access to 49 other accomplished entrepreneurial local friends, who can all be part of an active Slack Group.
- WiFi over Gigabit fiber internet access
- Free or cheap coffee and fitness-friendly snacks
- Tool sharing library
- A big outdoor patio courtyard area out back with grill, chairs, speakers, patio lanterns, etc.
- Outdoor gym with barbells, squat rack, and bodyweight things like pull-up bars, etc.
- Garage workshop with welding and metalworking equipment
- Beer brewing setup with permanent kegerator – members with skill in craft brewing can rotate through to produce guest batches. Ideally, this will provide free beer at all times.
- Bike fixing station, parts inventory and swapping, helping each other improve skills
- Talks and classes – from members, and from visitors.
- Group Advocacy for improving the town.
- The chance to work together on this new building – learning through doing as we build new features. (I’ve already got all the equipment for a 3.6 kW solar energy system ready to install onto the garage roof when we’re ready)
- And any other perks and cool ideas we can think of with our collective mind power.
Although $50 per month sounds awfully cheap for all of this, it should actually work out great – paying the taxes and utilities and easily pumping out a monthly surplus to use for continued improvements, tools, supplies, etc. I reserve the right to make a profit off of the place eventually, but obviously this is not my main motivation – otherwise I’d charge a more “normal” coworking membership rate or just stay home and crank out blog articles.
If you’re interested in joining, read this rough agreement then send me an email through the contact form with “Coworking” in the title. If you end up as a member, I will put you onto a shared Google Doc list and the slack group so we can all start talking. (Please include some biographical background to help me determine that you’re a real, friendly person!)
Important: Until the opening date in September, please do NOT show up at the building unannounced as it’s still an active site with people working hard, conducting building inspections, etc. I feel strange adding this note, but people have been stopping by almost every day and as much as I love Mustachians, unexpected visitors make it difficult to get work done. Also, the Northern entrance is “Mud and Madder”, the future handcrafted shop owned by Mrs. MM and a friend which is not part of my MMM HQ.
The primary members will generally live within biking distance since I don’t want anyone to sign up for a mandatory car commute. But if you want to become a patron or long distance member – contributing to the cause and working remotely with the core members (perhaps just to gain access to such a cool group, stop in whenever you are in the area and see your money put to use for interesting hactivism here in Longmont), send me a email with “Patron” – we could probably still keep a close-knit group with up to 10 such members.
Are you Ready?
The space is almost ready and the first philanthropic event is already booked: I’m hosting my friend Alan Donegan’s UK-based Pop-Up Business School for their inaugural US event in early September and it’s for everyone – not just members!
You can sign up here:
This is a nine-day class on Mustachian-style entrepreneurship: how to start a business with minimal initial investment and a quick path to cashflow.
Members of the Longmont community** and the coworking space will get first dibs at the tickets, which are are actually worth about $500 each but offered for free due to a unique business model.
Pop-up business school is intended to help anyone – well-established or just scraping by – start a business. Because this is such a powerful way to improve lives and communities, as Pop-Up Business School’s repuation has grown, Alan and company have been able to attract outside funding. City councils, philanthropic foundations, and companies.
So I tried the same thing here for the US debut – inviting a few unusually cool companies that are run by people that understand our mission around here. Almost all of them said yes and chipped in a substantial chunk of money, directly to Pop-up business school. So in thanks I’d like to mention them here:
Treehouse Learning – a classy and fun way to learn stuff – specializing in software development and other skills – with a meaningful social mission of cutting the cost of higher education.
See you There!
This has been a big and really rewarding project so far. Although it was a big commitment and going out on a limb, the resulting months of hard work and connecting with so many nice people has been exactly what I want out of life – and what I wish for you in your life too.
Here’s hoping that this current project of mine, and your own big efforts in the coming year, continue to crank out lots of opportunities for fun and learning.
*on the positive side, there were a number of functional mannequins and assorted body parts for them in the garage, which I have obviously saved for future fun.
** Out-of-towners looking for frugal accommodation might want to check out the RV campground at Boulder County Fairgrounds, tent camping at Union Reservoir, or even just find a spot for a tent in the nearby National Forest foothills, given the beautiful time of year.