A Work in Progress
This past weekend we proudly released a volume of photos that showed the progression of the build-out happening at our future commercial space: C-5 Shipway Place. At this point in time, the project is about fifty percent of the way to completion. While it’s been at times overwhelming to manage a large scale commercial renovation project, concurrently with the launch of an e-commerce store [EncoreApparel.com], from the beginning it was a major goal for us to have a ‘real’ commercial space for the business.
The reality of running an apparel start-up out of a two bedroom apartment, while a fun story, immediately became challenging logistically. Just ask my wife how much she has enjoyed climbing over and around numerous boxes stacked haphazardly between toddler toys and all our furniture. Actually on second thought, don’t ask that question!
We knew in order to do things ‘right’ a move was necessary, but how did it come to pass that the growing Encore Apparel Co. operation was to be based at C-5 Shipway place? Having had two different stints living in Charlestown over the past eight years helped immensely in recognizing the potential of the area. Even with the massive residential boom the past five years, it seemed that commercial development had lagged and would eventually have to ‘catch up’. Instead of jumping into a crushing rental lease downtown, the thinking became let’s stick close to home and bet on the future of Charlestown.
For those of you unfamiliar with Charlestown (yes it’s the same neighborhood the Ben Affleck made a movie called The Town about) it’s a small, close-knit community located about a 25 minute walk from downtown Boston. As you stroll the quaint narrow streets, history seems to almost ooze from the old brick and wooden townhouse style houses that line the charming cityscape. Just the look and feel of the place (let alone the history) warranted a movie.
Running smack across the middle of Charlestown you’ll find the historic Freedom Trail which starts at Boston Common, runs through the North End, and eventually snakes its way up past the old training field before ending at the majestic Bunker Hill Monument. In case those American history lessons have dissipated into your brain’s gray matter, let this be a friendly reminder that the monument was erected to commemorate the Battle of Bunker Hill (even though most of the fighting took place on neighboring Breed’s Hill). This historic battle, fought on June 17th, 1775 was the first major conflict between the British and Patriot soldiers in the American Revolutionary War.
Although the British eventually took the hill as part of the Siege on Boston, the massive casualties they incurred during the three attempts needed to overcome the fortified positon of the Revolutionists, reinforced the Minutemen belief that they could stand up to the supposedly superior British army in battle. Bunker Hill gave the colonists the necessary encouragement to continue to wage ahead with their revolution.
Moving south away from the monument, you’ll discover The Charlestown Navy Yard which sits right on Boston Harbor. From the time of the American Revolution until 1975 the area was used by the U.S. Navy for shipbuilding, repair and storage purposes. Today you’ll find the USS Constitution dry-docked there as a popular tourist attraction, alongside a bustling marina and many high end luxury condominiums. Thousands of visitors are drawn to Pier 1 every year to view ‘Old Ironsides’ in her final resting spot.
Shipway Place is located a few blocks away from the USS Constitution National Historical Park and is a perfect representation of old world Charlestown and all the modern development that has transformed the area over the past twenty years. The building itself was actually originally used for shipbuilding activities as is clearly evident by the sloping concrete frame above the nine commercial units situated at ground level. Stacked above the building’s original concrete frame you’ll see a multitude of newer high-end residential condos.
Both the history of the Shipway building and the overall familiarity with Charlestown led to us choosing this site as the place to base the E.A.C. business. As alluded to earlier, retail rental leases in Boston’s traditional shopping areas like Newbury Street, Harvard Sq. and Faneuil Hall are astronomically expensive. Like take your breath away expensive. Even commercial rents in other developing shopping areas like Fan Pier, Union Sq. and West End are very pricey for an apparel business that is just launching. We investigated opportunities in all these areas, including an old auto garage that we thought would make a cool conversion; that is until we found out the asking price on the lease was $10k per month. Unbelievable.
It soon dawned on us that the ‘smartest’ move was to find a place where we could store the inventory, handle all fulfilment of online sales, hold an occasional private event and be accessible enough where the occasional random person would be able to seek us out. Having never been in the world of retail, targeting a non-traditional location like Shipway Place just seemed like the most logical business decision for what we were doing.
The fact that we’re an apparel company that draws inspiration from classic rock & roll music, both in terms of aesthetics and attitude, meant the Charlestown Navy Yard, filled with history and gorgeous old architecture, was a great fit for the business. We’ve always enjoyed vintage style things – whether that’s clothing, buildings, materials, or music – as the character captured in most older world items are priceless. Being that C-5 Shipway was located in a beautiful historic building, but had the interior of an ugly 1980’s office build-out with drop ceilings, dated fluorescent lights and a closed-off, almost suffocating layout, it just screamed “you gotta turn this space into something better!”
From the unique concrete ceiling beams to the vintage barn board wood pulled from a local supplier, our goal has been to give the space a working industrial look that also feels warm and inviting. Various classic music memorabilia that we’ve collected over the years will eventually dot the walls in the space. Even though we launched the E.A.C. commercial website over six weeks ago, I think the day the C-5 Shipway space officially opens, is when reality will hit that Encore Apparel Company is an actual living entity. Having always been drawn to tangible things, this space will truly be a physical embodiment of what we set-out to create.
As we have moved along with the Shipway project, some unexpected and exciting news began to be announced for our area. In October, headlines popped up that a new +100 slip state-of-the-art marina would be soon coming to pier 7 and 8 (about ½ block from where we will be located). Details surrounding the new marina can be viewed on the Bostinno link at the end of this entry.
Another great development came two months later with word that a long abandoned monstrosity of a building, a warehouse where the Navy used to make chain years ago, will be converted into a 230 room hotel in the coming years. That massive project is located about ½ block in the other direction from C-5 Shipway. While we like to think we had some great foresight in picking this area, sometimes you just get lucky. Both developments promise to bring a significant increase in foot traffic and should lead to even more commercial development.
The current timeline for completion of the C-5 Shipway project is roughly February 15th. We really hope that friends, family and all our early supporters will find a time to come over and check out our new home. The plan is to have a low-key launch event later this spring, but in the meantime our door is always open for anyone who just wants to swing by for a chat. As further progress is made we’ll post another volume of photos showing the second half of construction and implementation of all finishing touches. We look forward to sharing the completed project with you all very soon!
From 1980’s Office to Gut Renovation: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.606176819487202.1073741838.531501943621357&type=1
A New Neighbor, Shipyard Quarters Marina: http://bostinno.streetwise.co/2014/10/01/charlestown-shipyard-quarters-marina-to-be-sold/
More Good News, Planning Begins for Chain Forge Hotel: http://www.bizjournals.com/boston/real_estate/2014/12/anchors-away-230-room-hotel-proposed-at-former.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+industry_20+%28Industry+Commercial+Real+Estate%29&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher
One of Best Commercials Ever, Maybe Someday C-5 Shipway Will Be Viewed Similarly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vFuKhk_T04