Hatching up a new vision for Frost Street
"It's a club in search of a clubhouse," said Tom Bodett, of Dummerston.
Bodett, a well-known author and humorist, is one of the co-founders of The Hatch, an organization that was founded to produce live events "with the goal of reaching minds and hearts while generating funds to support the social and cultural infrastructure of the greater Brattleboro area and Vermont." While The Hatch is on a temporary hiatus, it most recently organized a series of story-telling events — Storytellers on A Mission — similar to NPR's The Moth.
Bodett's latest brainstorm is The HatchSpace, a membership work space where craftspeople, beginning with woodworkers, "exercise, share and move toward mastery of their craft."
According to its website, "The HatchSpace will operate as a community resource by subscription or membership for the use of local craftspeople, tuned to woodworking in the beginning and incorporating other crafts areas over time."
"This isn't for me," said Bodett, who partnered up with local cabinetmaker Greg Goodman on the project. "I've got a woodworking shop. I don't need another shop."
The HatchSpace "will provide on-site training and support, stationary machines not available to the beginner or home hobbyist, and eventually, access to other disciplines such as ceramics, glass, metal, and leather. The space will provide a gathering place for area craftspeople to exchange knowledge, ideas and fellowship."
A shared workspace
The idea for The HatchSpace has been rattling around in Bodett's brain for a while, but finding a location has been problematic. Until, that is, Ellen and Pierre Capy purchased a warehouse on Flat Street to store coffee beans and serve as a roastery for their Mocha Joe's Roasting Company. The warehouse, at 35 Frost St., was built in 2011 by Cultural Intrigue and had been foreclosed upon in October 2017. However, the 19,000-square-foot warehouse was much too big for Mocha Joe's and the Capys began casting around for tenants.
"We wanted to stay downtown and support local businesses," Pierre Capy said. "Greg and Tom had the same idea."
Bodett, who's been churning out projects in his own woodworking shop to give away to family and friends, connected with Goodman, who has been a professional cabinetmaker for more than 30 years.
"We first got together with the idea for a high-end, handmade furniture galley," said Bodett. "From there, over the past year-and-a-half, we have evolved into the idea of a woodworking school and a member-supported wood shop where people can come in and do their work, and learn from other woodworkers and master woodworkers we bring in for workshops and classes."
Goodman has an MFA degree from Long Island University and is a master furniture maker with the Guild of Vermont Furniture Makers. He said he is winding down his cabinet making business to focus on being the executive director of HatchSpace.
"We want to make it accessible to as many people as possible," said Goodman. "We really want to continue the tradition of handcrafting and provide a public space where people can take classes and practice and have access to machines they can't keep at home or are too expensive to purchase."
HatchSpace will cater to every level of woodworker, said Goodman, from beginner to expert.
"It's important to have it in a downtown location where people can congregate," he said.
In addition to providing space for The HatchSpace, Recycle Away is renting office space.
"It's beautiful, light and airy," said Michael Alexander, who founded Recycle Away. Alexander and his 13 employees "provide superior customer service to meet the demands of organizations, municipalities, and corporations seeking recycling and waste solutions," according to its website.
"Pierre is an amazing partner," said Alexander. "It's wonderful to see this building coming back to life. His vision is spot on and we are happy to be sharing space with Tom and Greg, too."
'Frost Street Revival'
Next door to the Mocha Joe's new roastery, David Hiler and Tim and Amy Brady, owners of the Whetstone Station Brewery, purchased a former auto repair shop and are converting it into a brewery and tasting room.
"This is almost the same feeling I had when we opened the Whetstone," said Tim Brady, during a get-together Wednesday celebrating the purchase of the old Glenwood Collision building. "This is an area that's not quite hip yet, but will be soon. It's great to be part of something awesome."
"The vision is to have this corner of Frost Street be a center of activity, with the warehouse hosting tours and tastings and the brewery drawing its own crowd," said Capy.
Hiler said he and the Bradys were looking around for more space, but hadn't really settled on whether they wanted to open a new cafe or retail space. When they found the Glenwood Collision space, they decided it would be a great place to brew more beer, offer growlers to their customers and host tastings.
"This allows us to make even more beer," said Hiler. "We were turning down opportunities, such as the Mount Snow Brewers Festival, because we couldn't make enough beer."
Next door to Glenwood Collision stands a two-story, yellow house, just purchased by Jennifer and Jeff Parker and Heidi Kinley. The building is being managed as an air BnB and the new owners plan to continue with that business.
"Ellen Capy is one of my best friends," said Jennifer Parker, who owns D&E Tree Company in Brattleboro. Parker said when the Capys were talking about purchasing the former Cultural Intrigue warehouse, she learned that the air BnB was for sale. This was before she learned the Bradys and Hiler were considering the Glenwood Collision building for additional brewery space.
"We have been talking about collaborating with David and Tim and Amy," said Parker. "But we didn't purchase the house with that in mind. When I learned about their plans, I got even more excited. It's all coming together."
"I really like what's happening in downtown Brattleboro," said Bodett. "It has its own challenges, but it also has its own opportunities. I think it's the coolest downtown, ever."
In 2014, at 75 Elliot St., Bodett, Nathan Rupard, Temple Peterson, Bo Foard, Rich Korson and Steven Vakaros opened Hazel, a restaurant featuring pizza, barbecue and beer.
Finding inspiration at BMAC
Bodett said he also received inspiration from the historical art collection at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center. In January 2017, BMAC accepted a donation from the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation of 313 historical art objects — Ancient Near Eastern, Chinese, Korean, Byzantine, Islamic, and Pre-Columbian American ceramics, stoneware, earthenware, wood, bronze, gold, and textiles created between 2000 B.C.E. and 1850. The objects were collected over a period of 50 years by the late physician and philanthropist Arthur M. Sackler.
"We are hoping to build some curriculum around what people were making 3,000 years ago and how similar it is to what we are doing today," said Bodett.
Bodett and Goodman don't want to stay focused on just woodworking, said Bodett. "We really hope as we are successful, to expand into other disciplines, such as ceramics. Our mission is very important — to instill a respect for the work of human hands and the lives behind them. Just as with ancient artifacts, there are real people who made these things. Three thousand years ago, someone put a little pot down and said 'I did that.' They had the same sense of satisfaction we we would have."
This venture goes along with The Moth and Storytellers on A Mission, said Bodett, in that at The HatchSpace, people will have the space to talk about what they do and how they came to their trades.
"We live in a world where everything is made for us," said Bodett. "We crave at some level the benefit of making things for ourselves and with our hands, just like we crave somebody telling us a story. Making things is good for the soul and it's good for the community."
Goodman said the makers space phenomenon is happening all over the country.
"Each one is a reflection of their own community," he said.
In Brattleboro, said Goodman, HatchSpace will be combination craft school and makers space.
"These skills are valuable and worth preserving," he said.
Woodworking, coffee roasting and brewing beer all have something in common, said Capy.
"It's all craft oriented and all done by hand," he said.
Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 151, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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