Last Thursday I caught up with metalworker Jason Roberts at his new building over in Frankford Valley. When Roberts struck out to start his own metalsmith shop, he turned into the Globe Dye Works‘ very first tenant back in January of 2008. But he always had it in his mind to work out of his own property.
In Febtruary 2010, he bought the former John Komada Wire Company at 2331 Duncan Street. According to Roberts, the wire company was a family run business since the late 19th century. It finally shut down one day in mid 2009. It specialized in custom commercial displays. As Jason relates it, the owners now in their 80s, walked out into the shop floor one day and told what was left of it’s staff to finish what they were doing and retired at the end of the day never to open up again.
Roberts bought the building and its entire contents six months later. On his reasons for settling in Frankford as opposed to other Philly neighborhoods, “I liked the practicality of the location, it’s in great proximity to my suppliers”. And he noted that in Port Richmond and Kensington you’d get a building in terrible shape and for more money. He followed up with the thought that “it’s the bang for the buck up here, that’s really it”.
Jason is bullish on his future. He went from 2600 square feet in the Dye Works to near 8000 square feet in his new place. He can see a time soon where he may take on apprentices.
And on which neighborhood he thinks he’s in? He called the location, the section east of the train tracks bordered by Church Street and Harbison Ave a “Bermuda Triangle”. My father chimed in saying he’d always grown up thinking it was Bridesburg. I call it Frankford Valley and the city and UPenn just call it Frankford. But wherever it is, I’m thrilled he’s settled in there. And it’s gotta be for a while, because as Jason said of all his heavy machinery, “if you’re gonna move it, you only move it once”.
You can check Jason’s shop out, along with other Frankford Artists during the POST studio tours the weekend of October 15th and 16th.