Should You Set Up Your Design Business in a Vacation Hot Spot?

Experiencing something of its own creative renaissance, Aspen has also become an important destination for galleries catering to a captive audience. A few years back, Mexico City–based design world impresarios Rodman Primack and Rudy Weissenberg mounted a pop-up of their AGO Projects gallery initiative in the vacation hot spot. “We both grew up in mountain towns,” Primack says. “It was nice to return, but also nice to access the town’s interest in contemporary art by introducing collectible design.” The duo infused the temporary setup—on view form July 2020 through to winter 2021—with works by many of the talents working in Latin America that they’d come to know and love. This pop-up was a way for Primack and Weissenberg to test out the market and connect with new collectors.

The RBW team

Photo: Dean Liaw

Bigger and better things

In the heart of Kingston, New York’s emerging Arts District, lighting brand Rich Brilliant Willing (RBW) is putting the finishing touches on a new, 100,000-square-foot production facility, which they plan to open in early fall. Founders Alex Williams, Charles Brill, and Theo Richardson established the brand in 2007 in a small Lower East Side workshop with one drill press. As the business grew, they relocated to industrial spaces in Brooklyn’s Gowanus neighborhood and, eventually, Industry City. In 2019, however, it was time to take a significant step, mirror the company’s rapid expansion, and accommodate its new B-corp-driven culture objectives. While Williams has been a resident of Ulster County since 2019, Brill relocated to Dutchess County in 2021 and Richardson is planning a move later this year. All are committed to becoming active members of their respective communities.

“Developing the RBW Factory has allowed us the opportunity to implement our complete vision,” says cofounder Brill, who is also RBW’s managing partner. This ethos required that they move to a facility significantly larger than their previous premises, which they reconfigured multiple times over the years but still presented them with physical limitations regardless. “Designing a space for eight times our previous capacity has created new potential of scale for innovation of product, process, and service.”

The Barlis Wedlick office in upstate New York

Photo: Jenn Morse

Getting involved in the community

Farther upstate, New York City–based architecture practice Barlis Wedlick recently opened a second office in Hudson, New York. “One of the major advantages is the small-town feel,” says Alan Barlis, a principal at the firm. “You’re constantly bumping into people on the street and taking casual coffee meetings.” The firm has taken advantage of having to host different kinds of community programming: art walks and exhibitions; the Design Hudson Showcase; meetings for Columbia County Habitat for Humanity, the Young Farmers Coalition, and the Columbia Land Conservancy. Strategically positioned in this rural-adjacent town, the new outpost has allowed BarlisWedlick to take on new types of projects: boutique hotels, hospitality projects, fishing lodges, distilleries, Habitat for Humanity housing, and large family compounds. Getting embedded into the year-round community and not just catering to vacation-goers is a crucial part of ensuring sustained success.

The exterior of the Barlis Wedlick office

Photo: Elliot Kaufman

“If you have the bandwidth and drive, establishing a second location is a wonderful way to expand your vision and connect with a broader audience,” Primack says. He adds that, like any new venture, it’s crucial to have your ducks in a row and make sure that you have the time, stamina, and financial backing to make these dreams a reality. “Try to keep the costs down so that it is additive. Don’t think it’s an easy thing to do and that it won’t take much time. It’s a huge commitment, and you have to be there to make it work.” For Frampton, it comes down to “having a specific purpose and complete openness in equal measure.”

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