Business awakens at ex-mattress factory
Dozens of enterprises take root in Newburgh
January 23, 2016
CITY OF NEWBURGH — The shuttered Resnick’s Mattress factory between Spring and South Williams streets has become home to a hive of small businesses in two years.
Nearly three dozen enterprises range from a company that advocates for solar energy to a maker of soaps, oils and balms. There’s a book binder, a product designer and more than a few artists. The largest tenant is also the landlord, Atlas Industries, a high-end custom furniture maker. Overall, there are about 50 people at work and 70 percent of the building is occupied.
Atlas owners Thomas Wright and Joseph Fratesi bought the three-floor, 54,000-square-foot building in May 2012. They found it was an affordable alternative to ever-rising rents in Brooklyn. An investment of about $2 million followed. That turned cavernous space into studios of 300- to 1,600-square-feet, knocked away bricks concealing cathedral-height windows, and modernized heat and electrical systems.
“Our story is potentially repeated over and over again,” Wright said. “Businesses are getting priced out of Brooklyn. At a certain point you move farther out on Long Island, or move to a place like Newburgh.”
He cites the same attributes the Orange County Partnership does when promoting the area to businesses looking to relocate: proximity to the New York City market, highways and transportation hubs like Stewart International Airport.
Urban neighborhoods overlooking majestic Hudson River views add to the draw.
“This certainly makes it attractive to anyone who loves New York City for what it offers as an urban center — walkability, access to restaurants and culture — but who may be overwhelmed by what life in New York City can mean,” Wright said.
Newburgh Mayor Judy Kennedy has said investments like Atlas’ are what’s needed to attract other businesses. That can mean revenue and jobs for a city that has long found both in short supply.
“Our clients come here and we go to lunch,” said Alice Vaughan, owner of Hudson River Bindery. “Sometimes they’re afraid to come to Newburgh, but we tell them we’re near Washington’s Headquarters, and they all know where that is.”
She came to her 8-foot-wide, 40-foot-deep space in August. The 14-foot-high ceiling makes it seem bigger, she said.
“There’s an aura of industry here,” Vaughan says, ticking off an inventory of neighbors.
Steve Gerberich works behind a door decorated with a horseshoe of plastic trinkets. There are spacemen and rocket ships, vegetables and a building from his native Iowa.
Gerberich is still unpacking truckloads of flea market finds for his interactive mechanical sculpture business Gerb-O-Matic, which opened at the building in August. His work is regularly featured at science and regional museums. It brought life to Manhattan storefronts including Bloomingdale’s.
“All of my work is mechanical and hopefully interactive,” he said after biking to work one morning. “Push a button, turn a crank and something happens.”
The word community comes up often when speaking with landlord Wright and his tenants. Wright talks about a chamber music concert held in the building every other month. Barbara Smith Gioia speaks of an annual Open Studios event organized by Grant Street's Newburgh Art Supply. It brings visitors to the working spaces of artists around the city.
“I had over 100 people come to my studio in October,” Gioia said.
Traditional office space was found by the Energy Improvement Corp. operator of the Energize NY program that encourages solar-energy conversions with government grants and incentives. Director Tom Bregman expects to have about four workers there regularly.
“I like the commute,” said Bregman of Cornwall, “but I was also interested in positioning ourselves away from the perception that this was just for wealthy people in Westchester. I think it represents our dedication to low- to moderate-income communities.”