From the outside, it’s just another hulking Philadelphia warehouse.
This one, which straddles the border between Kensington and Port Richmond, doesn’t look abandoned. But there were few signs of life outside what its new owners are calling “The Loom at Richmond Mills” — very little to suggest the dozens of artisans and manufacturers inside the bustling shared workspace.
With its 80 tenants in the 250,000 sq.ft. space at roughly Frankford and Allegheny Avenues, The Loom hosts “the largest collection of artisans in the city,” said The Loom’s Director of Partnership and Special Projects Martin Montero.
Below, take a peek at some workspaces inside The Loom. Due to the building’s scale, the availability of tenants and the desire of some businesses to remain private, this is in no way an exhaustive photo tour.
Tenants range from those that have been there for decades (the building was 50 percent occupied when Loom owner Chris Dardaris and his former business partner purchased it in 2006, Montero said), like a book binder and a stovetop cover manufacturer, to newer, more boutique tenants like Rival Brothers Coffee, which roasts its coffee beans at The Loom, and printshop Fireball Printing.
The Loom’s management wants to cultivate a community inside the building, which can be more difficult than doing so in a smaller, more conventional coworking space, since each Loom tenant has its own private workspace.
That’s part of the reason the owners plan to open a cafe inside the building, Montero said: to offer a common space for its tenants.
The space is currently at 95 percent capacity, Montero said, but once some of the older companies’ leases are up, management will think more strategically about who it wants as members of The Loom.
“Not everyone fits the culture,” he said.
On the one day Technically Philly visited, there was a noticeable difference between the longtime tenants and the new ones. For one, there was a difference in how a reporter’s presence was received. Most of the tenants that had been there for decades, with the exception of the Ceramic Shop and bookbinders Allen L. Geiser and Son, made it clear they wanted to keep to themselves. Of course, this was just one experience we had with the handful of tenants that were available that day.
It was not unlike Frankford’s Globe Dye Works, an enormous campus of industrial buildings that in the last four years has been transitioning from closed factory to cultural hub. There seems to be a different sense of community in sprawling industrial buildings and so a different sense of privacy.
The Loom’s owners have a socially-minded goal, too, they say. They hope to train community members in various trades to play a part in what Montero calls “the renaissance of American manufacturing.” Loom management has already purchased a shuttered, nearby school building and hopes to turn it into a vocational school, Montero said. Because of it’s rich industrial history, Montero said Loom management believes “there’s still some of that skill left here.” It just needs to be nurtured.
For more on The Loom, check out this Flying Kite feature.
Photos by Aidan Un