• This week's Let's Blog Off title is If you can’t afford the tip, you can’t afford the meal and the topic is Price vs. Value, or "what are we willing to pay for products and services, and what do we expect to get in return?" Like all small businesses, it's something we think about often here at Historic Shed. Clearly we are not your typical shed maker, but how specialized can we afford to be without pricing ourselves out of our market or not being able to afford to cover our expenses?  It's a balance we are always trying to maintain, and one that will get more difficult as we continue to grow. Some thoughts on value added, or what extras you get from Historic Shed: We are sticklers for authentic historic detail. Even if you are not an old building specialist, you can tell when windows have been replaced or an addition has been built onto a historic house incorrectly. Our outbuildings make architectural historians do a double take (and no, it's not faking history or going against the Secretary of the Interior's Standard for Historic Preservation, but that's for another post) and we take great pride in this. Our buildings look right at home in any historic district. We offer design services for all our products at no charge, even for customization. Construction drawings even for small outbuildings can cost from $500 to $3000, and are needed whenever a permit is required. Sometimes we forget to emphasize this service. And the quality and experience of our designer. We choose to build with quality materials that will last. We could built a shed with lesser quality wood for framing and roof sheathing, which reduce our costs (and be much lighter for delivery) but we wouldn't feel good about the longevity of our product. We received a call not too long ago from a woman who bought a manufactured shed from another company. The doors were rotting in less than 2 years and she hoped to install a pair of our doors as a replacement. I told her we'd gladly sell her new doors, but we'd have to look at her existing shed to see if it was built sturdy enough for our much heavier-duty shed doors. Less than 2 years of service from her shed seems like a poor return on her investment. A few months ago we added an "economy" shed to our product line. The shed looks like a historically accurate board and batten shed, and is as durable as our regular sheds, but we use exterior grade plywood sheathing instead of true boards for the exterior. We have slightly lower material costs, but much quicker assembly so we can offer it for substantially less than our regular shed line. The trade-off is that the shed may not have the same exterior materials as the main house on the lot. We choose to build our sheds in a warehouse instead of on site. This gives us much better quality control during construction, allows us to service a larger area from our central location, and reduces set-up time on site. This gives us an advantage over site built contractors who would show up at your house every day for weeks, or even months to build structures like ours. We typically take 2-3 days to set up a shed, 1-2 weeks for a garage , and 2-3 weeks for a finished cottage. We are very amenable to customization. We know every old house is unique and our sheds, cottages and garages reflect this. We paint our outbuildings to your color choice at our shop. Not only does this give you a completed shed, ready to use as soon as we finish set-up, but it helps the longevity of our product by applying a proper protective coating on your building under a controlled setting. Our business model from day one has been to create attractive, historically appropriate outbuildings that will last as long as the historic buildings they complement. We hope to be in business for many years with many happy customers who feel like they got a good return on their investment.  

  • My husband loves to tell everyone and anyone that I am not a great cook. It's part of his regular humor routine.  I always go along with the jokes because quite honestly I don't try particularly hard at the task; I would gladly defer all meal making to local pizza parlors, take-out restaurants and any free food event I can find. We're trying to build a successful custom shed business, have two kids growing up before our eyes and I try to help out some non-profit organizations along the way. Being a Gourmet Cook, much like Keeping a Spotless House, is not on my current list of goals, and might just be the item that tips me over the edge if I added it to the To Do List. Maybe someday I'll find the joy of cooking, but right now it's just a task that has to be done well enough not to poison anyone. That said, Craig does rave about one item I cook: my Sour Cream Apple Pie. Since it is one of the few items I will be contributing to Thursday's dinner (my mother's cooking the turkey and most of the sides), I thought I'd share the one thing that bails out my otherwise unimpressive array of food offerings. Maybe it will help you out too.   Sour Cream Apple Pie 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1/4 teaspoon salt 3/4 cup white sugar 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1 egg 1 cup sour cream 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 3 cups apples, peeled and chopped (2-3 apples) 9 inch single crust pie Topping 1/3 cup white sugar 1/3 cup all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 2 tablespoons butter Stir together 2 tablespoons flour, salt, 3/4 cup sugar and nutmeg in bowl. Combine egg, sour cream and vanilla in another bowl; mix well. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients; mix well. Stir in apples and spoon mixture into unbaked pie shell. Bake in a preheated 400 degree F (205 degrees C) oven 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and bake 30 minutes more. Remove pie from oven. Increase temperature to 400 degree F (205 degrees C). To Make Cinnamon Topping: Combine 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon in bowl. Cut in 2 tablespoons butter or regular margarine until crumbly. Prepare cinnamon topping and sprinkle over pie. Return to oven and bake 10 minutes more. Cool on rack. This blog post is part of Let’s Blog Off, a twice-monthly event where bloggers from all aspects of life blog on a single post topic. This week’s topic is "It’s Thanksgiving, so let’s blog about food".

  • When I was a child my mother bought a "School Memories" book that allowed you to record specifics for each school year. There were spaces for teacher's names, student height and weight, and a place for the annual school photo - wallet sized.  There were also places where you wrote your favorite food, favorite subject, and other hopes and dreams for the year. In Kindergarten my mother dutifully interviewed me and filled in the blanks. In future years I took it over and filled in the blanks myself, giving great thought to my answers each year, if not to my penmanship. I remember coming across the book several years after I stopped filling in the blanks during my senior year of high school. I don't remember most of the answers to the questions in the book, except for the one that asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I enjoyed reading as my aspirations went from Artist to Librarian to Teacher to Scientist and back again to Artist over the years. By this point in my life, I had decided that someone who that wanted to be a Librarian-Teaching-Scientist-Artist should study Architecture. What else could possibly blend all my interests? I applied to architecture school and found that it stimulated all my diverse interests, except that I was missing one major element that seemed critical to my studies - I had no idea how to build a building. I didn't think this would be a problem when I entered school, but surprisingly it's the one thing they don't teach you in architecture school - they teach lots of abstract theory of design (I had Freshman assignments to design "aleatory space" and to draw the inside of an egg), but not how to actually construct a wall. It turns out that I had a practical side that needed to know the nuts and bolts before the theory could interest me. This problem got worse each year in college, and even though I spent my summers working in the construction industry, I ended up switching from the 5-year full Architecture degree program to the (less abstract) 4-year Building Science degree program. This left me again with a blank line to fill in regarding what I wanted to be when I grew up - without the architecture degree I could not sit for my licensing exam and ever become a real Architect. When I graduated, we were in a building recession and jobs for my degree were few and uninspiring (one of my few interviews was for a construction manager position in a drywall company - even the interview was boring). So I did what most lost college graduates  do - I went to graduate school. During one of my summer jobs I had gotten access to some of the grand Victorian homes in my hometown and had been amazed at the architectural details (none of which were taught or even discussed during architecture school) and had gotten a case of Pretty House Syndrome. So I decided the next stage in life would be studying Historic Preservation. Now, I must admit, I had no idea what one did with a degree in historic preservation, but it seemed preferable to estimating endless sheets of drywall. It turned out that while I didn't love abstract architectural theory, I loved learning, studying and theorizing about historic buildings. I loved learning how preserving historic buildings  protected community identity, fostered good neighbors, was true sustainable building and made economic sense. And because I'd been so focused on learning the nuts and bolts of how to build during architecture school, I found that learning how to treat and repair historic buildings came naturally. Since then, I've been able to use what I learned both in college and grad school to be a teacher, an artist, a scientist and spend lots of time in libraries. And it turns out that being a historic preservationist suits me. This blog post is part of Let's Blog Off, a twice-monthly event where bloggers from all aspects of life blog on a single post topic. This week's topic is "What did you want to be when you grew up?"