We were looking for a warehouse or a storefront building for our offices. We found a cave. Add caves to the list of odd things people find on EBay.
It happened to be exactly what we needed, even though we didn’t know it until we saw it and realized its potential.
To give you a little background, we were living in a starter home that we had outgrown long ago, and our business was on its path to recovery in the wake of the events of 9/11/01. Several years earlier we had moved our offices to a 10,000 square-foot rental space on the fourth floor of a building in downtown St. Louis. Early in 2001, business was booming. We were developing software for a couple of amazing clients—Compaq and American Airlines. The space worked perfectly for our team of thirty-six programmers. Later that year Compaq began its merger with Hewlett Packard, putting all projects on hold, and after 9/11, American Airlines stopped all projects as well. By April 1st, 2002, we let the last of our programming team go because we could no longer afford their payroll. (By the way, April 1st is a poor choice of dates to fire or lay off staff members. Half of them will think it’s a joke and show up for work the next day.) Down to just the partners and a few staff members who stuck around hoping things would improve, we set out to re-build.
Fast forward to December of 2003. Business was improving, but the previous two years had shown us a need for more flexibility within our office space, and for diversification of our income sources. Our lease would be up for renewal in April of 2004. Rather than continue to pour thousands of dollars into rent every month, it made more sense to purchase a small building, build equity, and generate rental income on any portion of the space we didn’t need. As we began our search, we hoped to find a small warehouse or storefront building, perhaps even one that needed a little work, but that would meet our needs while we continued to grow.
A couple of years earlier, there had been a plethora of small-to-medium-sized warehouses available in St. Louis, often with very low per-square-foot price tags. This time around, conventional searches turned up nothing. Very few were on the market, and those that were came with high price tags and in need of major structural repairs.
We knew that EBay listed real estate, and although we hadn’t shopped for property there before, it occurred to Curt that it was worth a look. Quite frequently we had found things on EBay that we couldn’t find anywhere else.
Surprised by the first result on the page, he called out, “Deborah, there is a cave for sale and it’s only 30 miles away from here!"
“The Cave” was listed as residential/commercial, about thirty miles south of St. Louis, and had a history as a popular public venue for roller skating and concerts. We had to see it, if nothing else, out of pure curiosity and amusement!