Need to set up your design business in a hot vacation spot?

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

The RBW team

Photo: Dean Liau

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 they plan to open in early fall. Founders Alex Williams, Charles Brill and Theo Richardson started the brand in 2007 in a small workshop on the Lower East Side with a single drill press. As the business grew, they moved into industrial space in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn and eventually Industry City. In 2019, however, it was time to take a significant step, reflecting the company’s rapid growth and aligning with its new B-corp-led cultural goals. While Williams has been a resident of Ulster County since 2019, Brill moved to Dutchess County in 2021 and Richardson plans to move later this year. All are committed to becoming active members of their respective communities.

“The development of the RBW factory enabled us to realize our overall vision,” says co-founder Brill, who is also RBW’s managing partner. This ethos required them to move into a facility significantly larger than their previous premises, which they reconfigured many times over the years, but nevertheless imposed upon them with physical limitations. “Designing a space with eight times our previous capacity has created new potential for scale for product, process and service innovation.”

BarlisWedlick’s upstate New York office

Photo: Jen Morse

Community involvement

Above, New York-based architecture practice BarlisWedlick recently opened a second office in Hudson, New York. “One of the main advantages is the small-town feel,” says Alan Barlis, the firm’s director. “You’re constantly bumping into people on the street and having random coffee meetings.” The firm has taken advantage of the need to host various types of community programs: art walks and exhibitions; Design Hudson Showcase; meetings for Columbia County Habitat for Humanity, the Young Farmers Coalition and the Columbia Land Conservancy. Strategically located 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 complexes. Incorporating into the year-round community, not just catering to vacationers, is a critical part of ensuring sustainable success.

The exterior of BarlisWedlick’s office

Photo: Eliot Kaufman

“If you have the bandwidth and drive, establishing a second location is a great way to expand your vision and connect with a wider audience,” says Primack. He adds that like any new venture, it’s critical to have your ducks in a row and make sure you have the time, stamina and financial backing to make those dreams a reality. “Try to keep the cost low so it’s additive. Do not think that it is easy to do and that it will not 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 total openness in equal measure.”

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