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The Present

What is the Shirt Factory Today?

The Present
The Shirt Factory

The Shirt Factory is an ongoing evolution. The building as you see it today is not the result of a magical, overnight transformation, it has been a slow, gradual process. Rehabilitating and preserving the space wasn’t done with government finding or tax breaks, it’s taken a lot of time to get to this point. The path to where we are now was not mapped out ahead, not entirely. There was an idea, but it was a loose idea, allowing for flexibility as things change.  The same is true of our future. We have some ideas, as we continue adapting to the world, while being directed by passion and following dreams.

It all began in 1996 when the current owner, Eric Unkauf, visited the property for an auction and fell in love with the building and its history. He began work to preserve the building, which had begun to show signs of neglect and abandonment.

It would be three years before his purchase of the property was finalized. His intention at that time was to move his machine shop here and bring in a few other industrial tenants to share the space. To his surprise, once he began advertising space for rent, the responses were not primarily industrial, as he had imagined, but local artists. 

Attracted by the natural light and inexpensive rent, artists of all kinds began began pouring in, bringing with them ideas, passion, and energy. At that time, the building still needed a lot of polishing, and the rents was a bargain basement rate.

When Eric first acquired the building, each floor was wide open, with few, if any walls diving it up. Slowly, each floor was divided up piecemeal, according the needs of those early tenants. Even today, the space continues to change as needs change. This piecemeal approach has created a maze here that can be equally frustrating and exciting!

Early tenants requested large open spaces. A few of these studios remain today, but the recent demand has been for smaller spaces, with a few folk beginning small and slowly taking down walls as they expand into larger spaces.  For the most part though, many of those large spaces have been broken into smaller studios.

Today the building features 77 unique studios, home to more than 100 different individuals. With so many people in one location, the building offers a wide range of opportunities for visitors! Don’t take out word for it, though, check out our full directory to see who is here! If a listing is missing information, let the individual know when you touch base when them.

Next door in The Shirt Factory Annex (on Curran Lane), you will also find a Glens Falls Distilling, K Fanciullo Photography, Sweet Side Records, Rockhill Bake House, Freedom Machines and Dakine Cuisine.

Events at The Shirt Factory

Holiday Open House

In 2001, a group of tenants asked Eric if they could hold a holiday event and invite guest vendors in to set up in the halls. Initially the intent was to raise money for a cooperative gallery that would showcase the work of artists at the building. Ultimately, tenants were not able to save enough money for this, but Eric created the Shirt Factory Gallery space in 2012 for this purpose. While we no longer run this as a cooperative gallery space, it is home to North Country Arts and used for events.

Since 2001, the Holiday Open House’s have remained a favorite event! Every year these are held on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving, and again two weeks later on Saturday and Sunday. Visitors find open studios on all four floors, as well as guest vendors throughout the building. With so many folks here, it’s easy to fill your Christmas list with unique, handmade gifts. If that’s not reason enough for you, there’s one more  highlight of these events. Each day of Open House, we hold an raffle. When you’re done shopping for the day, bring all of your receipts from the building to the volunteers who will total them. For every $25 spent at the building, you will receive a raffle ticket for a chance to win that day’s basket. Each basket is valued at about $300 and is filled with items from the studios at the building and vendors participating in the event.  We have been celebrating the joys of supporting local makers long before it was cool!

Other Events

The holiday open house was just the beginning, since then we have tried a variety of events here, some of which have been more successful than others.

Currently our on-going annual events are:

Valentine’s Day One Stop Shop

Winter Meltdown Spicy Food Festival

Spring is Sweet, Maple in April

Thursday Market and Food Truck Corral

Apple vs Pumpkin Fall Throwdown

Holiday Open House

To read more about these events and find the links to the current vendor applications, please visit our annual event page.  To read more about the current event features and vendors, please check out our event listing.

As we have had repeated success with certain events, others have reached out, asking to hold their events here too. For events not listed on our event page, we are not organizing the event. Please contact the event coordinator with all questions on those events. 

In the News

We haven’t kept up with adding articles to this list, but here’s a list of several pieces written about the building and it’s tenants over the years.

Read what others are saying

One woman’s recollections of working at The McMullen-Leaven’s Factory:

Seamstress reflects on 80-year career, where she rubbed elbows with starsThe Post-Star, December 2014

About this old factory’s transformation and it’s role in the community:
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