Former mill businesses find new homes

Former mill businesses find new homes

Paula-Marie Hogge, owner of Frolicking Goddess, stands by the window in her new space overlooking the Stadium Theatre. (Valley Breeze Photo by Sandy Seoane)

WOONSOCKET - It has been nearly two months since National Grid cut power to 68 South Main St., leaving some 20 city businesses in the dark.

And as of this week, many of the companies from the mill building known as Le Moulin have relocated, and some are thriving in new locations, despite the loss of business caused by the unexpected power outage and the city-mandated closure of the building for code violations that followed.

"We had three days to clear out or there was a possibility that a padlock would have been put on the door," said Paula-Marie Hogge, owner of the Frolicking Goddess, a craft studio that had made its home in the front building at Le Moulin for more than a year before it was condemned.

Hogge not only teaches the art of crafting - from beading and embroidery to knitting and crocheting - but also aims to provide a safe and relaxing environment where her guests can master the art. Her second floor studio at Le Moulin was teeming not only with supplies, but also the typical comforts of home, from pillows, lounge chairs, sofas and a dining room table, to coffees, teas, plants and tapestries.

Moving, she says, wasn't easy.

"It was really quite an experience because of the decision making that was required," said Hogge. "My first thought was 'Is this a sign? Am I done?' I feel like I still have something to offer the city and that my work here is not done."

The "goddess's" new space is on the second floor of 2 Monument Square, overlooking The Stadium Theatre, and it's every bit as cozy as her old home. The building offers parking in back on Hogge's level for patrons who are unable to conquer the steep staircase exiting to Main Street.

"I love my new location, and I love my view," said Hogge, who estimates that the move cost her at least $2,000 in unexpected expenses.

Another Le Moulin business, Blackstone Valley Fencing Academy, had to cancel two weeks of classes before securing temporary space at the VFW Hall on School Street in North Smithfield.

Next week, the business will move to a new permanent home at 179 Front St.

Anne Olson, who has operated the business in Woonsocket since 2001 with husband Michael Olson, said that, fortunately, her clients have stayed loyal throughout the episode, and the financial toll has not been too devastating.

"We definitely lost money," Olson said. "But it was more of a disruption in our own lives."

The small space at the VFW where the couple operated for the last month had to be set up and broken down daily, with equipment hauled in and out.

"We were kind of living out of our truck," Anne said.

Marc Morelle, owner of CMM Picture Frame and Gallery had been in business at Le Moulin for only one month when the power was turned off.

"I lost money in the process, there's no doubt," he said.

CCM offers affordable custom picture framing, and makes reproductions for artists looking to sell prints of their work. Morelle also creates digital collages for special events like birthdays, anniversaries and weddings, and sells many of his own paintings from the shop.

The business's new home is at 1300 Park Ave., right next to Park Square Florist, in a space that became open after Metlife moved to a smaller area on the other side of the business complex. The large, bright, two-story studio is visible to drivers traveling through a busy Park Square.

"It's a much better space," Morelle said.

CMM held a grand opening May 17, and Morelle says business is picking up.

"People are starting to know I'm here," he said.

In an extra room upstairs, he hopes to set up more gallery space to give exposure to local artists, and is inviting them to bring in their work.

RiverzEdge Arts Project, an award-winning youth development program that has occupied a massive space in the back of the now-condemned building for several years, suffered devastating effects from the closure.

"Losing one month of business revenue and grant expenditure put significant strain on an already lean budget," said Executive Director Rebekah Greenwald Speck in a newsletter to supporters.

The organization runs paid workforce training projects with five studios providing jobs in art, design and humanities to the city's underserved teen population, and also offers several additional free training programs and events for the community. Speck said that 700 kindergarten through 12th-grade youth and their parents from across the state are served by programs that are run out of the organization's headquarters.

In early May, RiverzEdge secured a temporary home at the long abandoned Second Avenue School with the help of city officials, but had to shell out immediate funds for the relocation. The former school building at 196 Second Ave. had sat abandoned for more than a decade and required significant electrical and plumbing upgrades and repairs to a leaky roof. The organization estimates that they lost or delayed some $30,000 in revenue while the work was complete.

On May 19, the students were finally able to return.

When it's all said and done, the building closure will cost RiverzEdge more than $65,000 by the time full programming and business resumes.

Speck has launched a fundraising campaign to help cover emergency moving costs and repairs, and has raised $10,475 so far.

On June 5, Riverzedge will be back to business as usual, celebrating the program's graduating seniors and showing off their new home with an open house from 5 to 7 p.m.

Donations to Riverzedge can be made at http://riverzedgearts.org/involved/donate.html .