In Focus: Erik Guthrie
Erik Guthrie, proprietor of The White Knight’s Game Room, Inc. and Erik’s Edibles, has just expanded his ground floor retail space in the factory. Not only does he sell his homemade pickles and sauces there (40 different kinds—including “Sweet Curry Pickles” and “Forgive Me Insanely Hot Peppers”—sold in green markets and specialty stores throughout Pennsylvania) but he also runs the White Knight’s Game Room. His gaming room focuses on all those games you won’t find at WalMart, and his space is packed with gamers each night. As he describes it, the gaming encourages people to interact/socialize—a skill sometimes lost in the world of Internet gaming today. Erik also grows many of his own vegetables and herbs for use in his pickle recipes and is currently busy preparing a spice garden for the Pajama Factory courtyard. Maybe he’ll even name one of his pickle offerings after the Pajama Factory!
It was a mild but long winter and, until just today, we’ve been bundled up with heaters going strong at the Pajama Factory. Yet, as we sat on our studio couch this morning with the warm sun streaming in, we actually opened a window! The solar powered ‘sun catcher’ we have stuck on one of the window panes was busy rotating and casting rainbows around our studio space—a pretty nice place to sit with our morning coffee!
There are also a few signs in the courtyard that spring is really here; the crocuses and daffodils are beginning to bloom, and there are more people hanging out in the courtyard—catching up, eating their lunches, enjoying the sun.
Spring, with the promise of new beginnings, also harkens to the official opening of our new 3rd and 4th floor studios in the next month. And we are continuing to seek out ways to maintain momentum with improvements and ongoing new beginnings at the building. As such, we are reaching out to friends of the factory with a great opportunity to invest in this wonderful cause while earning a significant return on investment. Just reach out to Mark if you’d like more details and, whether or not you choose to invest, we continue to thank everyone for your ongoing support.
– Mark and Susie Winkelman
Our big news is that we are well on the way towards completing the 3rd and 4th floor studio construction project in building 10. We are subdividing the open floors into 27 individual studios and 11 storerooms. In addition to the 10’ and 12’ high gypsum board walls, the studios all get oversized steel doors (which were just delivered this week) as well as their own electric service from sub-panels featuring 120 and 220 volt power.
The 7’ X 7’-6” steel windows are an historical feature of the factory, and, although it is a challenge, we are committed to preserving them. We are spending a lot of time on the windows, all 75 of them, on the two floors. Of the approximately 2000 individual window panes, about 150 broken panes need to be replaced on the 3rd floor and only about 50 require replacement on the 4th — guess the local kids couldn’t easily throw the stones 12 feet higher! The operable sashes get foam gasketing to help keep out winter winds. Loose glazing putty is scraped away and the glass to steel joint is then sealed with a bead of modern silicone sealant to keep the water out. A foam rod is inserted into the window joint at the steel columns, the other brick-to-window joints are caulked and finally, all of the south, east, and west windows get solar shades installed. The shades will be manufactured on-site by Equinox, one of our longstanding tenants. All other work is being done in-house as well by Pajama Factory construction staff, some of whom are also tenants.
Around the Factory
The highlight of the April 1st Friday arts celebration at the Pajama Factory was the soft opening of the Williamsport Community Woodshop, a project of the non-profit Center for Creativity. There was a great deal of interest; from the seasoned folks who are familiar with woodworking to others who are interested in learning a new craft—all excited about the possibilities of what they can create. The Woodshop includes table saws, drill presses, shapers, joiners, planers and over two dozen machines with experts there to help guide and teach proper handling of these tools. Undoubtedly, we will hear the hum of saws more often and we look forward to seeing some of the great projects as yet to be built. (And thanks to all the donors to the Raise the Region initiative last month – with the matching funds the Woodshop was able to raise $27,000!!)
With new studios come new tenants – so a warm welcome goes out to them. Hemlock Print and Design has taken over a new and much larger space to house their expanding tee shirt design and printing company. Tommy Grieco and Holly Patton Shull are painters; April Line writes, blogs, and edits; Adam Gunderson is a custom woodworker and cabinetmaker; Alyssa Allen is an actor, painter, and jazz singer; Andrea McDonough Varner is a teacher and artist in mixed media; and finally, to keep us all looking good, Karen Goodrich and Melisa Flick are opening a one chair salon.
A big thank you to our current group of private investors who have funded our latest round of studio construction. The Pajama Factory is not a typical real estate project. With the multitude of small spaces and relatively short-term commercial leases, the project does not fit neatly into commercial lending parameters, especially in these post financial crisis times. Consequently, we have been forced to look for private money rather than going to commercial banks for the development funds that we need. The investors to date have provided $250,000 through a private debt offering that was prepared by McNees Wallace & Nurick, a big Harrisburg law firm. We have been making monthly payments to each of these investors for the last six months (1% interest per month or 12% annually).
We are now looking for a second round of funding to complete the 3rd and 4th floors with new bathrooms and to ‘fix-out’ some of the bigger ground floor spaces to attract a diner, restaurant or some other bigger retail businesses. With the completion of the new studios, rent from those that have been preleased more than covers the interest payments for the offering. So please reach out to Mark if you’d like more information. It is a great investment opportunity that helps support the arts – a win win.
And finally, we end this letter on a sad note as we reflect on the passing of one of the Pajama Factory artists, Steve Hirsch. While many of our tenants are younger folks just starting their businesses or careers in the arts, Steve arrived after retiring from his second career. He began as a Graphic Designer and Art Director on the West coast and then, after earning a Masters Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Pennsylvania, he spent 16 years as a Professor of Graphic Design at Penn College.
After he retired, Steve returned to Williamsport because the Pajama Factory offered affordable rents and a supportive creative community. Bringing a life’s worth of experience Steve was looked up to by many of us in the factory and he will be sorely missed. The Pajama Factory recently hosted a memorial service and exhibit of his work.
Of his time spent at the Pajama Factory, Hirsch reflected, "Emotionally, I’m a lot better … This is a special place. You won’t find many places with these elements - carefree, motivation, conversation. Here, there are no egos. It’s the idea of, let’s just produce images. Let’s just produce art."
Steve we couldn’t say it any better!
– Mark and Susie Winkelman