Amazing Lash Studio in Iowa with Grant Guidinger
Guest: Grant Guidinger
Topics: Amazing Lash Studio, Wellness Brands
Chris Ressa 0:01
This is retail retold the story of how that store ended up in your neighborhood. I’m your host, Chris ReSSA. And I invite you to join my conversation with some of the retail industry’s biggest influencers. This podcast is brought to you by DLC management.
Welcome to retail retold everyone. Today I’m excited. We have grant Gettinger. Grant is the vice president of real estate for wellness brands. He is passionate about retail passionate about real estate is a very active in ICSC. We’ve recently become friends and I am excited to have him on the show. Welcome, Grant.
Grant Guidinger 0:43
Thank you very much, Chris.
Grant. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about you who you are and what you’re up to man?
Sure. Yeah. So I’ll try to save in one breath. It’s kind of fun to start. I was born in Florida, raised in Philly high school college in Seattle. And in work, I have been in San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, back to Seattle, Denver, Dallas and now reside outside of Denver, in Parker, Colorado with a family of soon to be three children. Wonderful wife and the world’s greatest doc. Wow, that’s a lot.
That’s amazing. Three kids how old? My daughter just turned six. Her name is Cora. My son Nolan is about to turn for his first tee ball practices tomorrow.
And then we’re doing December,
the week of Christmas. Congrats, man. That’s awesome.
Tell us a little bit about professionally about what you do and well does brands.
Sure. So I’ll start a little bit from the beginning. I went to work for a family development company up in the Pacific Northwest. I jumped out from there into a market I didn’t know anybody in San Francisco and got to work for Cushman and Wakefield, specifically, a lady by the name of Kazuko Morgan, who taught me a lot in this business first and foremost How to Pronounce luxury brands, which I was not very good at at the time.
And you speed up to today and I, I have a dream job for me. I am the Vice President of real estate, real estate and construction for a portfolio of franchise driven brands.
And it is what I’ve always dreamed of doing since I was a young broker. I was passionate about the strategy side, the analytic side the why behind a deal being transacted in an LOI getting done. And there were some other steps between then and now. But I have a wonderful job and a wonderful team. Well, this is like I had mentioned a portfolio of franchise brands. It’s the category leader and experience based businesses that really focus on quality of health and beauty conscious customers. So we have three different brands that we support. And you can think of us as a group that provides a robust platform. We call it shared services, we leverage the learnings from one brand to another. And, and I always I always challenge a prospective franchisee to find another 200 unit. brands such as amazing lash Studios is one of our brands or ailments massage when I when a prospective franchisee comes in, I say find a deeper bench. Find a team that’s got more experienced everybody on the real estate development team. It’s nine people we have 15 years minimum experience none of us fell into this. We’ve all been doing this as our career. Those three brands, amazing last videos category leader over 250 units. We have a me elements massage, also about 250 units. Both those brands are coast to coast elements is now in Canada and British Columbia and fitness together, which has 150 yields coast to coast. Wow. Go into
this a little bit about the shared services and what you mean by deeper bench.
Sure. So most of my experience when I sat as a third party vendor, as a real estate broker and transaction manager as somebody that was you know, helping draft plans at the beginning of my career for retailers that were looking to grow. Most of them when you hit that 100 unit mark, they have that real estate manager, they have that project manager, maybe they’re still thinking about getting a design professional. A lot of what you look at by example for amazing lash in that space. Right where the category leader from the standpoint of we have the most units and we are coast to coast. Our competition has a few a little less unit wise But I would doubt that they have a three person real estate team of 15 years of experience, a dedicated analytics lead a dedicated Head of Design. Somebody that oversees construction, and two project managers, one with 15, and another with 25 years experience. We focus a lot on real estate development. Obviously, that’s my, that’s my segment. That’s what I can speak a lot to. But we always tell franchisees when they come to our system, the greatest return on your invested time is not that that you spend on real estate. It is not you whipping out a lawn chair and babysitting a GC that is part of us and the vendors that we bring you. Your best return on invested time, is the time you focus on your grand opening claim, your social digital, your marketing, your hiring, and your ops and training before you open. Got it? sage advice right there?
You have some unique brands, is the core focus on growing those brands or, or expanding and adding new brands?
That’s a great question. So we have had other brands in the past. And the reason I sit here today is because I was brought on as a consultant. Right. So I’ve been here for just over a year, almost a year and a half. For one year prior I helped with the integration, post m&a of amazing lash studios. And at that time, I was also a consultant to try to help the brand, create new efficiencies cross department process in terms of how real estate shepherds franchisees through our system. And so you marry an updated process with a brand new company that has an established way of doing business. It was a it was a very big growth time for both amazing lash and wellness. And we’ve we’ve come out of it now. And we’ve shaved I think it was over 100 days off of our timeline from which he developed starts a franchise agreement execution right and ends and certificate of occupancy. And a lot of that is just the grit that we have done through vetting the right vendors and making sure we’ve got the right internal processes and people doing the right. Awesome. Very cool. So here we are.
September, we’re embarking on the fourth quarter of the year, and we’ve just come out of one of the most challenging times in American history. Give us a little bit how you guys have managed through this and what’s going on in your world.
Yeah, it’s, it’s still hard times, obviously, it was it was always one of those things where you look back at the beginning, and you say, well, in a month when this is over, or maybe in a couple of months from this is over and you speed up and we’re six months into it now. And there’s still probably a little bit of hardship, and certainly a bit of a an economic recovery that will have to take place once we fully understand the depth of the cuts that we have made to the economy. And I think from our standpoint, you know, we’ve, we’ve been in rough waters, so I used to sail back in the day, so So you know, we we were at rough waters, with high winds and no way to reef to sail. Right? We’re flying fast. And we’re trying to figure out the best mechanism for safety, for revenue potential to keep our franchisees in business and customer satisfaction. It’s really complicated. Something you’ll hear from everybody obviously, is the communication. Every department worked tirelessly to put together toolkits and suggestions in terms of best practices for how to navigate through which is really inconsistency. There’s inconsistency in municipal regulations and consistency in terms of even at the franchise level what they think they should be doing above and beyond that from a safety protocols there. So I’m very pleased, I feel very blessed that well, this kept so many people in place. We didn’t have that that big riff we really got doubled down on to support the network. And, and that was really refreshing I’ve done at a company where I was let go during turbulent times, and I know how challenging it can be for the individual and for the organization and every franchisee, and the customers of those franchises. And so it’s been it’s been really nice to see that in terms of, you know how we’re coming out of it. Every brand is a little different, but generally speaking almost our entire portfolio is reopened. We’ve been really creative in California. We have some by example amazing lashes with our door application. I’m not entirely sure as to how they’re doing it. But I know it is challenging on a municipal money by municipal basis. And that creativity, I think really reflects what we’ve been trying to do, which is to provide support. That’s what a franchise is supposed to do, post to help above and beyond a single unit operator who’s trying to figure it all out. And, you know, that’s really what we’re seeing right now, which is a lot of mom and pops, and even some, you know, in network sophisticated, such as in franchising, that are not making it. And it’s hard to see, I think we’ve been very insulated and lucky because we have a member based business, we have a reoccurring revenue based business. And generally speaking, our customers have come back for almost to where we were pre COVID. From, from a traffic standpoint, the only thing I think holding us back from traffic standpoint is probably making sure that we’re conducting ourselves safely and making sure that you know, municipal restrictions are being followed, which can inhibit the traffic flow component. But we’re confident we’re going to be back to pre COVID numbers by the end of next month. And we’re almost there right now. And I think the biggest surprise we’ve had I can speak positively about all the brands is elements massage, I have been pleasantly surprised to hear the stories from franchisees hiring back their massage therapists. It’s been a real challenge in the industry for probably the last five years, the availability of MTS massage therapists and for whatever reason, we’ve been able to get them back. That’s not to say that hiring isn’t challenging right now. So we’re pleased and I think a lot of it comes from the hard work of not just the Support Center, not how communicated we’ve been the franchisees but our our operators themselves. Wow, that’s awesome to hear, man.
Last thing on what’s gone? Let’s pivot back to you give everyone you know, you mentioned earlier before we started, you know, today you’re not doing a ton of deal making what does the VP of real estate for well, but does brands do? What is what is your if you’re not deal making? What is your role typically consist of right now I’m doing everything. We’re all doing everything? No, you know, it’s interesting, our, our team has become a bit of the we’ve taken a step back a little bit and tried to become as best the generalist as possible. I am helping out on project management calls, project management calls or helping out on real estate calls, I am taking a way more involved role on deal making and supporting our franchisees. A big portion of my time at the beginning of COVID was helping franchisees frame dialogue with property owners, understanding what to ask how to navigate, you know different portions of their lease, always encouraging them to obviously hire third party attorneys. And then developing different toolkits and trying to figure out how to leverage our vendors in a different way. We have required and preferred vendors in real estate design construction. And they’ve all stepped up, we couldn’t have been better prepared for this environment, because we had the acquisition with amazing luxury because we hired a few strategic thinkers and implemented some new process. And we were way more equipped this year than call it a couple of years ago to to experience this. Other than that, I told you earlier in the week, I decided to take a little more vocal approach and to try to put wellness out there. But what it is that we’re doing out there, and to always make it known that for anybody who has ever been impacted by you know, losing their job in this environment to give me a call, and for us to try to help those that have been impacted. Because we have a lot of friends that are unemployed, we have a lot of good people who, you know, first generation wealth wise might be losing an asset or losing a business and we all need to rally around those people. Totally, man. Well, that’s awesome. Let’s pivot for a second to story. So you have a story about a
store that got opened, why don’t you where is this location?
Well, okay, so I don’t want to say where the location is. Okay, it’ll, they’ll know who it is. Okay. I think this person would giggle a little bit if I told the story. That’s not a bad thing, but we’ll keep it on name for now. Okay, can you give me a state, Iowa, Iowa
is is for those those don’t know is Tom brands the franchisee? It’s not. Okay. Okay.
Yeah, no. So one of my first roles as a consultant before I got hired was to experience steelmaking. I’ve been a dealmaker, that hundreds of deals, lease and sale transactions a lot in the retail space. And so this was the first person I got to meet, or one of the, I think it was one of the first people I got to meet, and very passionate, very forward in their knowledge. And I’m confident that they’ll be able to take care of this, you know, the quintessential person that that knows every broker and every landlord in town. And what you’ll find if you get to experience to deal with well, because we’re very, very structured and there’s a there’s a process but it’s expeditious. It’s more about consolidating communication and ensuring that things are are simple and and that you don’t have to repeat yourself. And, you know, we got her on board with that. See, now look at me, I’m now I said the state, I said, the gender
you haven’t said the brand yet, I’m sure that.
Um, but, you know, she, she was, she was excited once we finally introduced her to the broker and saw the quality of work of the vendors that we’ve added. The negotiation, of course, was a little contentious at first, and then it, it eased up, and we found some commonality. And we found, of course, 10, different people of which our franchisee was connected to, to some varying degree with with the landlord. And you speed up through the process. And this person just became one of our, one of my favorite people to deal with. She was engaged and really open minded to learn as much as about maybe the things that she didn’t know, before this, and became one of our our quicker belts in the year. Right. I told you that we helped to reduce that that development timeline by over 100 days. And part of that was her and her responsiveness. And, you know, you speed up to after it opens, we’re excited. She’s doing well. And what’s the first call I get from her? It’s not the Hey, Grant, thanks. My experience was wonderful. It’s we have a rogue tenant, and they’re doing our service. Oh, my God. And so, you know, we quickly got the landlord on the phone. And the landlord was wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. And within, you know, couple months, it had been resolved. And you’ve got an operator now in our system, who just as of two weeks ago, is looking for site number two, and is a great brand champion.
Amazing. And this, can you say what brand it is? Is it the amazing lashes that elements massage? It’s amazing lash studio, amazing lash. So we haven’t talked about this, which is this is interesting. You threw this in at the end, which is rogue tenant. So but I want to go there for a second, which is can you tell everybody on this who might not know what is a rogue tenant?
Yeah, so So generally, there is some level of an exclusive that might protect tenants use from being impeded to a certain degree. And oftentimes, when you use the term rogue tenant, it represents somebody who is in the property, generally doing something else, and does not necessarily have the right to be doing what it is that you’re doing. And, and so this this generalist cotenant. And I want to be respectful and kind in case they hear this, started to do it. And really started marketing. And I believe we had an outright exclusive on. And, and this occurred shortly after we opened, right? Our owner gets a marketing piece on her doorstep. And it’s two doors or three doors down from and so again, I think it’s a it’s a it’s an item from which can cause a lot of stress between a landlord and a tenant. And there was some language in the lease regarding row tenancy. And the landlord was very communicative with us and with that tenant, and they they now are not offering my Washington.
That’s good. One of the things that I think is a challenge is you have the legal side of things. But then you have the practical like, okay, there’s a legal right, but then someone violates it and and now what does everybody do? And everyone you know, hopefully does whatever they can to stay out of the court system. What Should sounds like happened here. But it’s all finishing, we talked about this a lot with possession, which is of real estate where a lease might expire. But what happens if the tenant doesn’t leave and, you know, most leases, leases have a holdover provision, but that only only helps if you don’t want the tenant to leave. But if you’ve had someone else going in that space, the only way to get them is to come up with get them out is to come up with, you know, either a business resolution or you have to go to court to actually get them to leave. And so, you know, we come across this sometimes, which is, you know, the legal rights, but, and then the practicality of what happens when the legal, you know, the legalese isn’t followed. So, I found that interesting about this story. And unfortunate for you, that was the first call that you got from this franchisee when, you know, as she opened her new location, you know, you mentioned that, you know, she was, you know, knew everyone in this town, and, you know, wanted to do things her way, would you say that, for you, getting, you know, part of this process with her was getting, really getting her to buy into the well built system, and that you were going to provide a service to her that was best in class and get her to the finish line was, was that a big part of it?
I think that’s a great way of describing it, you know, other brands I’ve been at, though, they’re a little more forward about making people play ball. And that’s not how we think about it. You have to you have to get someone’s bias, you have to make them a believer, that team that they’re working with is the right team. And they’re, they’re advising you correctly. And it does take a little bit of I mean, it takes a lot of effort. And that’s one of the reasons why we have a team with the experience level that we have. And so I think it’s a critical advantage to working with us. Yeah,
it’s interesting, I think, most of the listeners, and just even me, right, you would think and now that I’m thinking it through it, it makes sense. But you would think if someone signs up pays, the franchise fee does this.
They’re, they’re gonna,
they’re gonna buy in, but it takes more sometimes, right? They’re entrepreneurs, they have, you know, they’re thinking they might be multi unit operators, they might have different experiences. And to buy in, it takes some effort to buy in. And I assume, once she bought in, that’s really when things started clicking. But until, until then, there was probably some friction. It wasn’t
that bad. I mean, I think they the, the franchise, we call them franchise development, franchise, sales professionals do a really good job. And we’re involved in the pre sale process too. And, and we lay that foundation or relationship and process with them before they even come to the discovery Day, which we call Meet the Team day, the final grip and grin before you sign a franchise agreement and fund it and get kicked off the real estate side selection. But, you know, just a very passionate, strong minded person, and in somebody that we had to do a lot more effort to, you know, convinced that this was the right platform from which that we were going to conduct site development and worked out.
Was there in this scenario? Was there disagreement on the right property?
Actually a little bit there, there are a couple properties proposed by the broker. And oftentimes we find a local expert, knowing the new bleeding edge development and an established trader and right. You know, we took a recently newly built multi tenant unanchored project, kind of a shadow as you would turn it across from a large regional player in the market. And, you know, the site had all the attributes you’d want. It had access, it had visibility to storefront. It had good parking, it had good co tenancy. Sure, there’s a bunch of other attributes we could be talking about. Sure. But importantly, you know, it still was within the realm of being close to the trainer epicenter, where we felt that we’d still be able to capture the customers. She also had a very big advantage, I think of being first to market and being a big fish in a small pond. We haven’t just found success in the big markets. In the United States. We’ve been growing a lot out in smaller markets, and finding a lot of success there. Got it? And
do you find with, in general, because they’re entrepreneurs, most franchisees, you know, struggle with this control of the process? Or do most of them just, you know, is it,
it’s interesting. So don’t think of it as, we’re not controlling the process, right? So so we create a process and a cadence of communication, where we are trying to enable them to make decisions at critical milestones. So there’s, there’s generally, I’ll just say two lines of thought when it comes to franchising and site development. One, you do everything for him, and you handle these two, you empower them to make critical decisions from which that they decide their fate, through information that you’ve collected as an organization, the analytics in the background of the GIS platform that I have the knowings, of having the right vendors in place from a real estate negotiation standpoint, to the GC bid process, and, and even the architect that we have, regionally or locally that’s putting together a plan. That once somebody gets into our system, they they feel empowered, and they feel like they’re part of it. But still, it’s not something that’s too cumbersome, because we have these professionals, we have an internal project manager aside from an external project management company, which is an optional add on, for our franchise store owners to utilize. And so we are of the mindset that we put them on a critical path, we support them, empower them, but ultimately, they’re the ones signing the loi, they’re the ones signing the agreements to develop and to create a set of, of construction drawings. We empower them with critical information, we learned both that the brand and the other brands.
Awesome. So I think it’s a it’s a great story and a good I don’t want to use the word turnaround, but turnaround of where you were able to get a franchisee to truly buy in. And when. And after that, even after she bought, she bought in, she had more challenges, she had this rogue tenant, which, you know, and a new franchisee probably never crosses her mind, she’s probably calling you and telling you, you told me I was getting an exclusive. And you were able to turn that around and work with the landlord to get the landlord to stop the rogue tenant from doing what they were doing. And ultimately leading to now you’re working on the next location for that tenant. So kudos, you know,
I do want to say one other thing too, before we move on, we’re gonna find that in this this tough, contentious time where the things we’re doing for the franchisees are going to make them bigger brand champions, we’re gonna see more growth from these brands. Because as a whole, I mean, we’re surviving. You know, we’re getting back to the point where we’re thriving. And I think this has been a good reflection point for our franchisees to regain that trust and, and commitment from us, right, you’ve got brands that are laying people off in droves, and reducing support, and that’s not us. We’re all that.
Awesome. On that note, anything else that you learned from that scenario that you take now or anything else that you know, was a good learning experience in that deal for you.
Um, I suppose always be open minded, the local sometimes interrupt even the broker, when it comes to certain critical elements, for customer traffic, right consumer behavior. This person did a tremendous amount of groundwork. And it was, it was great to see. Now just always, always be open minded, even when somebody challenges an established process process, right? Because there’s always room for improvement and creativity can spur another level of efficiency and performance that you never thought. Awesome.
All right. So, but you just dawned on me, she did a lot of homework on like traffic counts and stuff and kind of potentially thought or actually did know knew a little bit more about the local consumer than the real estate folks, your broker yourself. Or she was trying to say she did.
She did. She She’s, she’s deep in that market relationship wise and her knowings of really word of strategize growth was first and initially in line with what the broker was thinking as well. Right. So from a trader standpoint, and the subtleties of how a certain trader it was shifting in the market and separating into two alternative notes and the subtle differences of how properties had been developed and were the, I would say beneficial attributes for the brand we’re and we’re not. So super quick study and just somebody you know, you had to prove your worth to. Nothing wrong with that.
I love that she made you prove your worth. Awesome. All right, man. Now we’re gonna pivot to the final piece of the show, which is retail wisdom. I’ve got three questions for you. Are you ready? I’m ready. All right, man. One. What is your best piece of commercial real estate advice grant?
Okay, so. So what I would have said before listening to your podcasts would have gone into reputation, people remembering the integrity and the character in yada yada, yada versus just the deal. What I what I want to say, because you’ve heard that probably three or four times, if not every time is, if you wish to succeed, you must brave the risk of failure. I was not a very popular kid growing up. And not that you need to know that but I’m going to share a story about it. And and I found my my confidence in myself through the failure of stepping on a wrestling mat every day. I didn’t want a wrestling match for two and a half years, I was crying some days. And, and I remember that first big win that got me to leaks. And then I got another big win at leaks. And then I got another big win. And I got a letter that year as a freshman and it changed fundamentally everything about my life, the people that I met through that sport, and the practice of that sport, speeding up today and my journey, because I am a passionate jujitsu guy, struggle, the greatest things in life come from struggle and failure. And if you’re not brave enough to embrace something, challenge established norms, or to think outside the box, and really to sit down and critically try to figure out what that means for what it is that you do and how you function in an industry in society. You know, it’s, I think it’s the reason that I, I am in my dream job right now. Right? Like right now I’m very happy with where I am, I have fought tirelessly, I have not always won. And through those learnings, I’ve become stronger. I’ve understood how now to speak to different levels of an organization to different types of people in the industry, to leverage different vendors appropriately and what their roles really are versus what visibly you see them as. And so I would say if, if, if you want to become Chris Reza, you have to you have to risk and you have to grave uncertainty.
Awesome, man. Well, that’s amazing story, I can tell you, for those who don’t know, two and a half years not winning a match. I don’t know many people who stick with it. That is not fun. And so that is amazing that you stuck with it for too, you know, kept going after not winning a match for two and a half years. Got me to college and because it plays for those who don’t know, for those who don’t know how many matches where you wrestling in a year, 30 year matches a year
in high school. Well, middle school when I first started, it was probably like, 20 Right? So I was losing 20 The first two years and half the high school season, which was 30 If not 40 When I was a junior to senior.
So you’re like oh and 55 and you keep coming for more man that is that’s some you know, real vision and you know, a lot of people even and I see it all the time even with like some parents are like hey, man, maybe this isn’t for you, you know, right? This is Oh and 55 like let’s you know let’s do something else.
I mean, I was a big kid to man all the football coaches looking at me I was like, five foot eight and seventh grade and 250 Oh my god, everybody thought I was gonna be the next big you know lineman or something or linebacker if I shaved off the chub and put on a bunch of meat and and you know, I just found myself in the struggle wrestling and I got good at it. Awesome.
Next question, what extinct retailer Do you wish would come back from the dead?
This is really hard because there’s so many childhood brands like I can think of my time going through FAO Schwarz or like when I first started buying my own clothes from structure,
structure, that’s a great one. No one said structure.
But I would say zany, brainy was my favorite store growing I was a kid who was raised in Wayne PA and I think they were based in Philadelphia. And I just love that. And obviously, you know the family my father, my grandfather, everybody’s been in some form of retail real estate either as an operator or developer as a broker. And, and we all just had so much fun going there and buying You know, stories that you couldn’t get anywhere else.
Last question. So we’ve talked more about wrestling on this show than I have in the past and so I am looking on habits website had no idea. I’m looking at the Asics JB elite for white and gold wrestling shoe what is hibbett? Retail these for? For those who don’t know, JB is Jordan burrows, gold Olympic gold medalist for the United States.
Okay, so we should preface this with wrestling is generally a little more blue collar than most so you would think it’s not that expensive. And from listening to other people on your podcast, I’m also going to just double whatever my initial thought is. $120 240
Wow. So I’m going to tell you grant your way off, but thank you for playing it is. It is $100 $100 on habits website. They’re pretty snazzy shoes to the JB elite. So do you still own wrestling shoes?
I do. I’ve got some John Smith’s red, white and blues.
Those are great, man. Those are awesome.
They got some holes on them. Yeah, that
was the best. Those are the best stuff. Little little medical tape wrapped around him.
Yep. Yep, that’s great versions of it.
If I’ve got a bunch of pairs, but I like to rock my old coax or add a star so Oh, yeah. Yeah,
yeah. Once all the real tough guys wore fancy colored ones.
I don’t I’ve got I got two pairs. I got black and white ones. But
so for everyone that doesn’t know kids used to rock like a neon green, yellow. Just disgusting, but yeah, badass.
Yeah. So Well, listen, man, this has been great. Thanks so much. Let’s stay connected, man. Appreciate the opportunity. Thanks so much,
man. Take care. Thank you for listening to retail retold. If you want to share a story about a retail real estate deal that you were a part of on our show. Please reach out to us at retail retold at DLC mgmt.com This show highlights the stories behind the deals from all perspectives. So it doesn’t matter if you are a retailer, broker, entrepreneur, architect or an attorney. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to retail retold so you don’t miss out on next Thursday’s episode