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Building a Bubble Tea Shop with a Boost from Buildzoom
Commercial Construction Project

Client: Steve Klotz

Architect: Harka Architecture

Time: Dec 2020 to March 2021

Our service: Buildzoom Premium Service

- Project Organization
- Bid Management
- Bid Comparison
- Contract Negotiation

Project Summary

Transforming a small retail space in a suburban strip mall might be relatively easier for an experienced business owner or someone with construction or design experience. This project, a conversion of a 1,600-square-foot restaurant into a tea and coffee shop, was taken on by a new business owner without experience relevant to the project. After the business owner leased the commercial space, he needed an architect to help him design the interior. He also needed assistance with permits and finding a contractor to redevelop the restaurant. The space needed new floors and lighting, a new kitchen and a service counter. Aware of his inexperience, the owner also relied on BuildZoom for their expert advice throughout the process of making decisions about his new venture.

About the Client

After a 30-year career in TV and broadcasting, Steve Klotz came to the realization that he wanted to own his own business. “My wife is from China and her daughter suggested a bubble tea shop because they’re popular in Portland,” says Klotz. “I decided to also make it a coffee shop to broaden the potential customer base.”

The Problem

“I was opening a commercial business and dealing with the public, with the building itself and with health and safety issues”

- Klotz (Client)

Klotz felt he didn’t even know the right questions to ask when interviewing architects and contractors.

“To protect myself and to get the best possible outcome,
I needed to hire the right people.”

- Klotz (Client)

Klotz’s awareness of his lack of experience drew him to BuildZoom.

The Results

- Money saved. “BuildZoom saved me money because they made sure I wasn’t taken advantage of,” says Klotz.
- Architect hired.
- Contractors hired.
- Peace of mind. While saving money was great, Klotz says that having the help of BuildZoom to focus his ideas and teach him what questions to ask gave him confidence in his project.

The Process


Once the concept for Bobo Bubble Tea and Coffee was in place, Klotz searched for a small space to lease for a reasonable price. He found one in a small strip mall in Tigard in suburban Portland, Oregon. After he signed the lease, he quickly learned he was in over his head when it came to getting the space ready to open.

“An architect who had worked on our house offered to work on the café, but he wanted to do a lot more to change it than I thought was necessary,” says Klotz. “He said it would take anywhere from six weeks to six months to do the work and that his fee would be maybe $60,000 or maybe $100,000. I knew I needed help,” After Googling contractors and worrying about how he would know if they were good or experienced, an ad for BuildZoom caught his attention. “The ad said they would help me find a contractor, but I was pretty skeptical at first and wondered if I would just be paying for them to generate the list that I was getting through Google,” says Klotz. “I took a chance on them because while I have experience doing a lot of other things, I have no idea how to hire a building contractor or what I wanted the project to look like.”

Finding the right architect

The first step for Klotz was to hire an architect for the remodel of the café. BuildZoom assisted Klotz with identifying architects and questions to ask.

Bid leveling

“I hit it off right away with the architect I eventually hired, and the best part was that BuildZoom was able to give me a second opinion,” says Klotz

“I could ask them if the architect was telling me the truth and get their opinions on things that we were discussing. It was so important to me to have the team at BuildZoom to help me adjust the plans because they understood that I didn’t have any experience.”

Review Design & Proposals

BuildZoom helped Klotz review the architectural proposals and contract before and during the design phase. Next, contractors needed to be hired. Klotz received bids from a couple of contractors he had contacted before he hired BuildZoom and then BuildZoom found him additional reputable contractors to bid on the project.

Drawings Renders
Project cost management

“The initial bids came in about twice as high as what the architect had predicted for the cost, so we needed to value-engineer the project to bring the price down a little,” says Klotz.

The budget was $50,000 to $100,000 for the project. To bring costs down, Klotz, with the help of BuildZoom, explored buying some materials directly from manufacturers and consulted with subcontractors to look for ways to save such as spacing out the lights further to reduce the number of necessary light fixtures.
“I’m saving money by getting bench seats for about $9,000 from someone in Chicago vs. $25,000 locally,” says Klotz. “And by reducing the depth of the quartz counter to two centimeters instead of one centimeter, I can also save money.”

Klotz says BuildZoom’s advice about the contractors and about specific cost-saving decisions was invaluable. “I really couldn’t have done this without them,” says Klotz. “I relied on them for their experience and advice. It was almost a shot in the dark to hire them, but now I’d call them again in a minute. I learned so much from them and I needed someone to hold my hand during this whole process.”

Bids Image 1 Image 2 Image 3

Group photos

BuildZoom and their Premium service helped us find the right architect and screen contractors, negotiate a good price, and set things up to be completed on time and on budget.

On a more personal note, Avo and Peter have been great to work with, and have been tremendous resources as we navigate through the sometimes uncharted world of contractors and tenant improvements.

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