When Deborah first told me of her intentions to sell her building, it wasn’t a surprise. Selling a building after 27 years of investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into restoring and maintaining it is obviously a retirement plan.
What was a surprise, however, was my immediate emotional reaction to the news: I was sad that I wouldn’t see Deborah (nearly) every day. Deborah has become part of my life. My little Yoda. And she’s other people’s Yoda too. From one business woman to another, I value her more than she knows. That’s why I am so excited for her to be releasing her building to a new “caretaker owner,” as she calls her future prospect, whomever that may be. Maybe another woman! Who knows.
In The Beginning (well… for me)
Filling the space of the front office in the Telephone Building was a dream that occurred to me while attending the going-away party for the Nixie Sparrows. Remember those two creative birds? WOW, did a lot of creativity come out of that office - now this office that I sit in. I’ve been working in the digital space here in this building for two years as a website designer, blogger, motivator, and teacher. Occupying a physical space isn’t necessary for us digital artists, but when you’re mainly prancing on a keyboard, the desire for physical creation and connection grows.
The first space in Beacon that actually cracked into my brain as a potential work home was the tiny hallway of space next to the Beacon Hotel (and I’m not alone… many people have fantasized about having a retail something in that space). The former Howling At The Edge Of Chaos (blessings), and prior to that, it had been something else whimsical. I’d gotten word that it was becoming available, and I considered occupying it for my blogging headquarters. And hey, maybe I’d also rent it out for pop-up shops, since those are so fun in Beacon. And then the Nixie Sparrows flew the coop, and I began stalking their landlord: Deborah Bigelow.
About Deborah Bigelow
Deborah Bigelow is a very small person physically, but a ginormous person in her field, which is the gilded and preservation arts (covering things in gold leaf and restoring anything). Before I even met her, I knew of her via Instagram as @gildedtwig. In fact, she gilded a pumpkin for an article on A Little Beacon Blog once. I never knew at that point that she was the owner of the Telephone Building.
When Deborah interviewed me to take the space, she had other suitors. This room is a very desirable space. It’s very bright, and the Nixies had strung lights and commissioned a really cool metal/wood bar for the room (which I bought from them in order to keep in the space… and it even has a love story connected to it!). So I had to impress Deborah and hope that she liked what I wanted to do with the space.
The Beginning Of A Little Beacon Space
I wanted to use the space for pop-up shops, workshops and retreats. She warned me over and over of the lack of foot traffic (it has since picked up over the years that I’ve been here). I didn’t care. I’m from the digital world, so I’m used to working for every person that walks through the door. I don’t just hang my shingle and wait for the people to come in. I hang my shingle, and the work has just begun. It’s why I named my marketing education business Tin Shingle. Tin is a resilient metal, and Shingle is a store sign. It’s the first of many steps to bring people in.
And A Little Beacon Space has done that. It has brought people in for all kinds of reasons. From the private book club I did a year ago for The Artist’s Way, and formed incredible bonds with a handful of women, to the pop-up shops that have set up amazing displays in here, and had tremendous results. Better than they expected. In fact, one of possibly your favorite little shops in Beacon, Artifact, started as a pop-up shop here and now has their own brick-and-mortar spot near Dogwood. We even did kids’ hair cuts with Salon Dae! And now I go to Audrina for my cut and color.
Back To Deborah
The more I learned about Deborah, and her years here as a landlord and as a restoration artist, the more I couldn’t believe that more people didn’t know about her. I mean - super-local people know her from diligently sweeping the Telephone Building’s steps and using a toothbrush to clean cigar spit from her limestone steps. The owner of Cafe Amarcord is one of her silent protectors, as he’s been watching for years as she picks up the trash people leave around the place, and the challenges she’s faced from those with a little too much moxie out on the sidewalk.
I call Deborah a “restoration artist.” She tells me that it’s not an official term, but she’ll accept it if I call her that. She has binders filled with notes of history of what has happened in the building - from tenants’ agreements to notes to evidence of tomfoolery (really nice word for criminal behavior) that she’s endured over the years. She is one of the founding participators in Beacon Speaks Out, which had been working toward involving the community with the police department. She even has detailed notes on how the Nixies strung the lights on the ceiling here in the office, in case we need to replace them.
Deborah is a very calm and planned person. She’s from Pennsylvania and extremely respectful of others, and an up-lifter of the spirit. When I took this space, it was on a wing and a prayer. She supported me every step of the way. If I was feeling down or doubtful, she was there to lift me up.
Therefore, it is with great pleasure that I watch her reach her point in “retirement” and move into her own next steps. She is selling the building directly herself, and has a website for it that gives plenty of information, like pictures and numbers. You can even see Before and After photos of her renovation. She has listed the building in A Little Beacon Blog’s Real Estate Guide, and when she handed me the layout of photos for the listing (she wanted them in exactly a planned way… so Deborah!) she did so with tears welling up in her eyes. As I took the piece of paper from her hands, I brushed away our tears and kept our eyes on the future.
“You’re Staying… Right?”
My own children asked me this question when I told them the news. Friends on the street who are hearing the news are asking it as well. I’m asking it of myself!
I’m on a month-to-month lease right now. This is actually an exciting prospect to me. I like change. It sparks new creativity. It unplugs some clogs that I didn’t know were there, and makes things flow freely again. It reveals thoughts and priorities that often sit silently on the back burner, being ignored.
So here’s the thing. I don’t know where A Little Beacon Space will be. There are many scenarios that could play out. A new owner could buy the building, and not need the rent money, and keep my rent the same. As you can imagine, this building was bought 27 years ago, and Deborah has been very kind to us for rents. For a storefront space on Main Street in the heart of Beacon, with two walls of windows that let in glorious natural light from historically renovated windows, my rent is below market value at $1,260. If it increased, could I sustain it? Possibly.
Math from a new mortgage tells me that my rent would need to change. Unless the new owner is a collector, and likes to keep things the way they are and can afford to do that! But, if that doesn’t happen, then a few other scenarios could play out. Like…
Buy the Building? While my first thought was to assume that I’d exit out of the building, my next thought was to buy the building. My husband and I considered this, as a handful of people around us have expressed interest in investing in Beacon. The first building we seriously thought of buying was actually the yellow house with the warehouse behind it, formerly Trendy Tots. That’s what hooked us into Beacon in the first place. It was $450K at the time, and sold for nearly a million! Kicking ourselves! Presented with a perfect building such as the Telephone Building, getting together the down payment would still be tricky and involve me finding grants, such as women-owned business grants or historic building grants, and that’s a lot of homework that is not my specialty. The business model would also be tricky, but could involve me starting a podcast production studio in the basement - to add audio to media available from A Little Beacon Blog with different podcast shows. Writers and production for the web version of A Little Beacon Blog could also come in for shared office hours and write and be a team together. I would keep my current space as a fancier event space for rental income, which it is now.
Weather the Rent Increase: Possibly. If the new building owner(s) wanted A Little Beacon Blog and Tin Shingle to stay there and continue to offer the space as a venue for creatives and community, I would take a harder look at my marketing plans.
A Little Beacon Trailer! I really love trucks and trailers. I would love to tow my office behind my ginormous, un-eco-friendly car that can tow 9,000 pounds. What about a mobile office? I discovered the people at Flexetail, and aren’t those trailers gorgeous!?! My friend Sh* That I Knit got one, and when my girl here in Beacon, April from La Mère Clothing and Goods got her trailer for La Mère Petite, I couldn’t take it anymore. I need one. Maybe A Little Beacon Space would be a vendor down at Long Dock and have pop-ups sometimes?!
Little Beacon Spaces (as in more than one)? Maybe there could be more than one Little Beacon Space… There certainly is a demand for office space and I would love to be a provider of it…This is a bigger project, but is in Research Phase.
Go Home? I worked from home for 11 years. I could do it again. I’ve worked from my car from parking lots at Panera, skimming their wifi. But maybe I should stay out here in Brick and Mortar Land. What do they say? Go big or go home?
So I’m going to Go Big for now. A Little Beacon Space is going to market like gangbusters to rent out our space for workshops, retreats, photo shoots and pop-ups. Tell your friends! We’re only booking two months in advance until things become clearer of what is happening. Details and to book online are always at www.alittlebeaconspace.com.
Thank you for listening. While change creates uncertainty, please join me in wishing Deborah the best as she enters into this new phase.