What do you see when you spot an abandoned building or a closed business?
The trick of being a successful entrepreneur, especially a commercial real estate investor, is to see opportunity where others see failure.
This fact was brought home to me by the recent closing of the Sonic Drive-In in the small town where I spend most of my time these days. This being a Small Town, the closure was a big deal and sent the small town grapevine into overtime. All kinds of reasons for the failure were floated until another business closed for failure to pay sales taxes to the state. (We know this because the state is auctioning off all their assets.)
But the one thing that nobody talked about in either case was: “What’s going to happen to the building?” Okay. Nobody talked about the loss of a handful of sub-minimum-wage jobs, either, and they certainly should have. Finding new jobs in a rural small town is no easy matter.
In kind of a combination of those two thoughts, my initial reaction on seeing the sign at the Sonic (I learned about the other closure much later) was, “I wonder what kind of business could go in that location.” You see, a drive-in is a very special-purpose building. There aren’t a lot of other options for using it. In fact, there are so few options and it is so costly to build that Sonic has a program to repurpose other commercial buildings as drive-ins.