While strolling through the recent entries to our online shop gallery, I spotted some pretty novel designs as well as a couple of fun videos worth taking a look at. From brilliant solutions for tight spaces, to novel repurposing of department store display racks, there were plenty of interesting elements to the eight shops listed in my February round-up. By the way, if you’ve already seen our art director’s video tour of his redesigned garage shop (Mike’s Garage Shop), you can go ahead and skip it. If not however, it’s really worth a look!
Food in bear country… When I was in *real* bear country, like in the Sierras, I always kept my food and scented items in the provided bear lockers. Any of the trail heads or camping areas will have bear lockers. Other than that I never really worried about. Just kept it in the cab, yeah. But the Sierras were the only place I went with any considerable bear problems.

Alternately, a detached shop can often be located closer to your property line and offers you a bit more freedom in terms of the type of foundation you can use. It may give you a sense of welcome separation from your home and open up yard space or allow a deck on the back of your house that would otherwise be lost behind your shop. In an urban setting, if you would like to have a wood stove in your shop you may find it more challenging to find an insurance carrier that allows one in an outbuilding. Also, outbuildings can be subject to more stringent height regulations than additions.


Cutting thick, rough, warped hardwood can be cumbersome and dangerous. To provide some control over this process, I built a chop-saw station with wings that extend to support long boards. Again, anytime you make something that consumes shop space, make a shelf underneath to gain storage. The chop saw sits in a recess so that the deck of the saw is at the same height as the workstation deck.
If you want that homey cabin feel inside your van, then lining the walls and/or ceiling with tongue-and-groove paneling is a good choice. Paneling looks awesome - the cedar paneling on our ceiling is one of the defining features of our van. And we cut ours to random lengths and stained it several colors to really give it that mismatched, rustic look.

Well, we’ve managed to put together the workshop I’ve always wanted. One that’s practical, functional and neat, well at least for the moment. We have plenty of light, plenty of power, lots of work surfaces and enough cabinets, shelves and hangers to organize all of the tools we’ll be using here. I’ve even managed to do a little creative workshop decorating along the way to remind me of how I got started in this business in the first place.
A track saw, such as those by Festool and DeWalt, makes things even easier and offers greater accuracy, but these saws are also quite a bit costlier. With a circular saw, you have to keep the shoe pressed against a guide while pushing the saw forward. Track saws, on the other hand, pop onto their tracks and need only to be pushed forward. Track saws often feature splinter guards to help reduce tearout as well for smoother and straighter edges.
To simplify this process, hire professionals with experience helping business owners by assessing their needs, developing their budget, and negotiating their commercial lease. Managed by Q is a company that not only assists with pre-lease planning, but also provides help with renovation project management, space planning, and even administrative support. Managed by Q offers an array of services that can help save you time and money. Click here to set up a free account and get started.

The kind of apps that fall into this app type are extensive. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, WhatsApp, Pinterest, and YouTube are all examples. Remember that some of these apps have been worked on for many, many years. Thus, a v1.0 social app or social networking app will likely not offer all of the same features. For instance, Snapchat did not start with videos, filters, or their "Stories" functionality. A social app would, however, include user authentication, friending, favoriting (or other data interaction), some sort of messaging, and comparable "baseline" functionality.
To avoid buyer’s block, define the core characteristics you absolutely need in your business. Write them down in a prioritized list ranked from ‘deal breaker’ to ‘would be nice to have.’ Now cross off the bottom five and focus only on the ones that are left. Compromising is essential in choosing a commercial space, especially in popular neighborhoods. Besides, you’d be surprised how what once seemed like a less than stellar storefront can become your dream location once you get those creative juices flowing.
The ARB fridge 50-Qt Fridge is the best of the best. ARB is an Australian 4x4 accessories company, and all of their products are built to withstand just about anything. The ARB fridge is extremely rugged, and features powder-coated zinc steel construction for the ultimate in durability. It can take a beating, and works just fine on inclines up to 30°.
Wide aisles also prevent the dreaded butt brush, a term coined by top retail consultant Paco Underhill. His studies show that both women and men avoid tight or crowded aisles where they might brush bottoms with other shoppers. Really, this is a thing! Learn more about Paco’s retail research and insights in his book, Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping.
We cut the supports 16 in. long, but you can place the second shelf at whatever height you like. Screw the end supports to the walls at each end. Use drywall anchors if you can’t hit a stud. Then mark the position of the middle supports onto the top and bottom shelves with a square and drill 5/32-in. clearance holes through the shelves. Drive 1-5/8-in. screws through the shelf into the supports. You can apply this same concept to garage storage. See how to build double-decker garage storage shelves here.
As Kizer & Bender always tell retailers: Put it on paper. If you haven’t settled on your store layout—or even if you have—the first thing you need to do is work your plan out on paper before you start moving things around in your store. Putting it on paper helps give you a clearer picture of the desired result and any potential issues before getting started. Remember, many small retailers find that a mix of floor plan and layout styles works best.
You can see in this step how I notched each rafter to fit more securely to the walls.  I also used a metal hurricane strap to secure each rafter to the wall.  Even though this was not required by code, I felt my tools were far to valuable to be left to chance over such an inexpensive solution.  The walls are a simple board and batten system.  The 1x3 trim covers the joints of the 4x8 OSB.  They make much more high quality sheets goods to use as siding.  However, the cheapest I found was $35 a sheet and the OSB was about $5 a sheet.  I sealed the OSB and painted it with exterior paint.  If I run into problems in the future, I can just add a second layer of more durable material or simply have siding installed.  It has held up very well over the past couple years and I see no need to spend more money on it now.
Amenities and Services – You’ll want to understand the full range of amenities offered by a commercial space. These amenities and services may include such things as communal rooms, free Wi-Fi, loading bays and docks, dining options, outdoor space, sewage and utilities, on-site security, and more. The zoning of your business will often dictate the type of amenities and services you require.
Seems simple right? Well, yes and no. Inventory management can become very complicated once you factor in issues like product lifecycle (how quickly do the apples go bad?), variable amounts of raw goods in a single item (how many apples went into that apple turnover you sold?), delivery times (how quickly you can get new apples?), and variable wholesale apple costs (how much did you pay for that particular bunch of apples?).
However, another critical component to small business success is being self aware. With a variety of tools at your fingertips, tracking basic accounting can be fairly simple. Still, in order to be strategic about how you spend your money, properly leveraging these tools will still require a little bit of legwork. What used to take you eight hours might now only take one hour. But if you’re not willing or able to run through your financial tasks on a regular basis, bringing in a bookkeeper or accountant might be your best option.
For many new small business owners, the additional expense and bureaucratic hoopla involved in obtaining the correct paperwork often leaves them dragging their heels. This attitude, however, can result in stiff financial penalties, or worse, having your permission to do business revoked. Before we jump into the why and how of obtaining your business permit or license, it’s important for you to understand the difference.
You can typically find paneling in pine and cedar. Pine is cheapest, looks fine, and will do the job. Cedar is more expensive, but it looks and smells awesome - and it’s resistant to mold and mildew. Paneling comes in different thicknesses, but we recommend using ¼” (5/16”). Thinner paneling weighs less, costs less, takes away less interior space, and will bend with your van’s contours.
You know I can remember my very first workshop, and the very first power tool I ever bought when I was nine years old. Well, I have still have it, doesn’t work anymore but it lasted for 20 years, and I bought it from a mail order catalog for $11.41. I’ve held onto it all these years, because I knew I would find some special place sooner or later that it needs to rest. Well here’s a nice spot right here, I think that’s where it’ll end up.
So what’s the downside? Well, for starters, RV conversions aren’t exactly known for quality. Most manufacturers use cheap (i.e. shitty) materials, and just don’t build their vehicles to withstand the stresses of full time living. You’re also locked into a pre-designed layout, so it will be a lot more difficult to customize how everything functions.
Everything from the way the customer is greeted as they walk through the door to the way your products are presented following a sale matters. The smallest details can make the biggest difference. Early on when just starting your small business, you as an owner, will be able to exert a lot of direct control over these details. But as you grow, you will come to recognize the value of a well-trained and motivated staff.
But if you want to do a lot of stealth camping in cities, a cargo van is your best option. There are so many of them on the road that people just don’t notice them, and they have a lot of floor space to play around with your perfect layout. But if you don’t plan on stealth camping and you value storage space and headroom, there may be better choices.
Great article, Ryan! I love the detailed explanations of the various options for sleeping. I consider myself a veteran “light-duty traveler” who stumbled across some of these things by accident over the years. My needs are different than yours (I’m usually traveling long distances for days and weeks at a time for work or vacation, so I usually don’t hunker down in a base camp very often), but I have a few questions and points to share:
It is particularly important that you think about your customer’s experience holistically. Big-box retailers have long understood that people have five senses and that those senses affect decision making in a profound way. Whether it’s through intelligent lighting, the right music selection, or the careful piping in of a beautiful scent, smart retailers have learned the art of manipulating customer mood — whether they need you excited about a sale or relaxed and in the mood to hang around.
Do you have a business license? Do you have a permit to open a food service establishment issued by the local health department? Are you applying for a permit to modify the building you wish to occupy? Do you have a health permit from the county health department? Do you have a signage permit? How about an alarm permit from your city or county fire or police departments? These are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself.
Without organization, living in a van can feel cluttered and chaotic, so you'll want to make the most of your storage space. This is a good time to make sure you've paired down your belongings to a reasonable amount and to make sure everything has a place. (As a former engineer who loves making things as efficient and optimized as possible, this was Ben's favorite step!) 
We do not recommend using Reflectix to insulate your walls or ceiling. Without an air gap, the R-value of Reflectix is about R-1. Even if you have the recommended ¾” air gap next to the Reflectix, the R-value per inch is less than R-3. There are much more efficient and cost-effective insulation materials out there for these purposes - you’ll be better off filling the space with rigid foam board.

The level of sophistication in a $250 shop is significantly less than a $2,500 shop.  But keep in mind even a $2,500 budget is entry level.  Acquiring a shop full of the perfect tools for each and every job takes a life time.  But that doesn't mean that producing quality work takes a lifetime.  One of the most enjoyable aspects of this hobby is the constant need to solve problems in order to produce good work.

The Best Prices for Tools – Ralph shows you where to get the beast deals for the tools and equipment you need. You could buy them yourself from popular outlets like Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Amazon, but the Ultimate Small Shop guide shows you where to get these tools and equipment at cheaper prices. Of course, cheaper isn’t always better. These aren’t just cheap tools that are ineffective. Just good value for money on good tools.
When Julie Owen bought Cocobolo Interiors in 2008, she set about adding more contemporary items to the Armonk, N.Y., shop. But with only 3,000 square feet, she struggled to figure out where to put her expanding line of furniture, lighting fixtures and accessories. Her solution: create sections within the shop and arrange the furniture the way customers might imagine it at home, using low bookcases and folding screens as dividers.
Ryan, I have the same (almost) 90’s Toyota Pickup and love it! this is so helpful, and I will definitely be using this method. my main concern is that 1/2′ plywood sagging. do you notice it sags quite a bit or does it mostly hold up? my thought was to build the vertical bins a little wider, so that the plywood bed platform wouldn’t be under so much stress. the second issue im running into is wrapping my head around trying to organize and compartmentalize things appropriately. what do you typically put where so it is easy to reach and use?
Setting up and running a small business is awesome, especially if it’s your first business. Is it tough at times? Yes. But if you don’t build your dreams, who will? In 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 27.9 million small businesses nationwide. This number has trended upwards over the last decade, accounting for 64% of net new jobs created between 1993 and 2011. In a world that appears to be dominated by today’s retail giants, it’s easy to overlook the huge impact that starting a small businesses can have on our U.S. economy. However, these numbers illustrate something that we strongly believe at ShopKeep – that the brave folks who open new businesses are the backbone of the nation’s economy and the lifeblood of our local communities.
For example, on your dual battery, the farm just purchased a brand new 2013 Chevy 3500HD with a dump bed. It has dual batteries. How was it installed? They grounded both batteries to the frame and connected the positives with a very large fuse. ~15k later its still working. While its not recommended to do it this way, I think it would work fine in your case. Add the marine battery somewhere in your shell and run a heavy positive from the original battery. Put a large fuse in it(I’d research to see the number, I can’t remember off the top of my head) and your isolator switch inline (probably 2nd battery side of the fuse).
I didn’t want to get a truck with a million miles on it. I am not a trucker by trade; I got my CDL specifically for this project. I didn’t want to get into a truck and then have to worry about its structure, engine, and transmission—and then start building Optimus on top of it. That’s why I got a brand-new truck custom-built from Western Star to become Optimus Prime.

I want the shop to be big! Not only do I have a lot of tools, but I tend to frequently bring tools in for testing. As you probably know by now, I also do a lot of filming. So I need a space big enough to allow for full movement around most of the tools. My tripod has a pretty good-sized footprint and having more room allows me to get the best vantage point possible. More space will also allow me to stage larger pieces of furniture, whether for the show or for jobs I take on locally.
Once you have your space secured, hang some pictures in the windows that illustrate what’s to come. It’s also a good idea to provide leaflets that people can take away with them and hang a clipboard and pen on the front door where people can sign up to hear more about your business. This list is pure gold! So once you have it, why not stage a launch party and invite the local community (and local journalists). The first step for any business is always getting people to try out your products!
If you don’t have the time (or interest!) in building your own conversion but you still want to give van life a test drive, we’ve got an idea for you! We’d recommend getting a rental vehicle from Escape Campervans. They have 10 different locations across North America and come fully loaded with all the gear you need for an epic road trip. Plus, their rates are fair and affordable.
We cut the supports 16 in. long, but you can place the second shelf at whatever height you like. Screw the end supports to the walls at each end. Use drywall anchors if you can’t hit a stud. Then mark the position of the middle supports onto the top and bottom shelves with a square and drill 5/32-in. clearance holes through the shelves. Drive 1-5/8-in. screws through the shelf into the supports. You can apply this same concept to garage storage. See how to build double-decker garage storage shelves here.
So what’s the downside? Well, for starters, RV conversions aren’t exactly known for quality. Most manufacturers use cheap (i.e. shitty) materials, and just don’t build their vehicles to withstand the stresses of full time living. You’re also locked into a pre-designed layout, so it will be a lot more difficult to customize how everything functions.
Ebates.com - Ebates is something I'll check after I've already found a deal that I'm going to bite on.  The rewards aren't usually good enough to compel me to purchase on their own.  But if you get an extra 3-5% cash back over your entire $250 budget, it can add up to an extra hand tool for doing nothing more than using their link to an online store.
We've also chronicled how Android and iOS have become more and more similar in their approaches. The "Android tax," as we've referred to it in the past, no longer exists. Generally, Android and iOS apps can now be built with the same quality, with comparable timelines, and budgets. While that doesn't necessarily mean we suggest building platforms in parallel, it's a huge relief for people creating apps.
The beauty of a portable A/C unit is that you don’t have to heft it into a window and block off a valuable source of fresh air for keeping paint fumes at bay. Instead, choose a model with a low profile that you can tuck under a table or against a wall when not in use — a model with casters for maximum maneuverability is ideal. Choose a high-powered unit that will condition at least 400 square feet of space and move it where you need it for maximum comfort as you work.
Do you carry items that bring your customers back time and time again? Consider placing these primary and similar secondary product lines toward the back of your store. Or, if your stock is constantly changing and you don’t carry replenishing goods, place your sale items toward the back. That way, customers must pass your new items and promotional displays on their way to check out the deals in back.
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