Laughing Planet Café has become over the last decade a wholesome local food option in Porland and beyond. With a mantra of “At the intersection of fast and healthy” and with their whimsical and welcoming décor and more importantly some of the best locally sourced food ingredients and some really innovative and always changing menu (I love their specials), Laughing Plane has really has hit a much needed sweet spot for tasty, organic and innovative dining options. Led by Franz Spielvogel (great name) who has healthy creative and healthy food ideas oozing out of his DNA, Laughing Planet has grown to now 16 stores down the valley and into Vancouver. As they have grown, their facility infrastructure has struggled to keep up. They have operated out of a cobbled together commissary kitchen and headquarters space in close Northeast off Sandy Blvd for far too long as it has been obsolete for years now so going forward their facilities have become a real impediment to further growth and efficiency “As we have grown, our current space has become really inefficient and a bit frustrating. Plus parking and congestion in this neighborhood is and will only get worse so we have been on the hunt for a larger building for yeats to do some really innovative things, but it has been difficult to find the right fit.” Said Franz more than once. So when presented with a cool older 25,000 sf bow strung roof warehouse in outer Northeast with good bones and some very usable food characteristics with floor drains and better yet a fairly new large cooler and freezer, it was the perfect canvas for Franz to relocate his burgeoning Laughing Planet operations and to give him the opportunity to try some new ideas. As mentioned Franz is a guy not afraid to take some risks when coming to how to bring fresh, tasty ingredients into the mainstream food world. So besides moving his commissary kitchen and administrative offices, he is also going to undertake an interior highly inefficient vegetable growing operation and a small craft brewery to make beers for all their stores. “By being efficient and using a modicum of technology, we figure we can grow a bulk of the vegetables we use in our restaurants in a relatively small warehouse space and it is the freshest and best tasting produce you will ever have” offers Franz. Yup this idea works and is proven where a 2000 sf warehouse space can provide year round amazing produce that would take an acre or more outside to do not to mention the vagaries of weather, insects, rodents and more.
I sold this 25,000 sf located at 1313 North Lombard (right off Columbia Blvd)warehouse 10 years ago to a small businessman, Casey Jonquil who had another somewhat esoteric food company called United Foragers and his vocation was distributing all sorts of mostly hard to find gourmet mushrooms to grocery stores and restaurants all over the world but his big customer was Whole Foods. Over the years, I helped Casey with some market information, a refinance of the building then doing some small leases in the building with a neighboring company and a growing cider company and then when he sold his business last year it was time to strategize about what to do with this great warehouse asset. Thinking he would keep the building and lease it out, he soon figured that in order to do that and keep his existing tenants it would involve significant time and money commitments and headaches that he just was not willing to accept. He rather be fishing or travelling was the logical thinking. With warehouse prices at all-time highs and older but still very functional buildings in this size range even more desirable, the timing was to go find a buyer. Having known and talked to Franz over the last couple years and knew he was itching to find a bigger and better space, I knew it could be a great fit with freezer and cooler, loading and power not to mention I knew that Casey and Franz had similar attitudes and philosophies about food, treating people right and being a positive part of the community. Admittedly Franz was a bit reticent at first thinking this building could work and maybe was too big of a space and commitment for a growing company. He soon came around understanding that buildings like this don’t come around too often and did I mention the building was blocks from where he lived…those little things help. “We had pursued so many other building alternatives over the year, I was a bit gun shy when we first saw the Lombard Building but we came to realize that it was perfect match on some many levels such a size, location, flexibility to do some new things and an owner that we really connected with” says Franz. Casey and Franz hit it off immediately being both foodies and having run small companies and together we were able to craft a great win-win deal that hit everyone’s needs and expectations. Casey and Laughing Planet signed a 3 year lease to get them into the building with the idea of building out their space while they work on their financing package to buy the building sometime next year.