Posts Tagged ‘Fox Industries’

Fox Hunting

March 24, 2017

It’s cool going through old factories that have been mostly gutted out and prepped for a resurgence as some fancy “historic” this or that. Just to see the bones of the old place, to imagine what the developers see in that ratty old skeleton. And when the factory dealt with some pretty nasty substances and there are slimy remnants of them splattered up and down the beautiful support beams, that can take some pretty good imagination. Still, five years from now no one will remember what was.

So we were in the guts of the old Fox Building, most recently known as the home of Simpson Strong-Tie. These were companies that made protective coatings for construction materials. We’d long had a feeling and more recently had learned of concrete plans to convert the old factory—where Noxzema face cream was first mass produced!—into something like 95 apartments. Our initial inkling had come during a work break one day out on the rusty old loading dock, looking beyond the trees at the Jones Falls and the skyline of downtown Baltimore. Shop Boy can’t remember whether he or Mary said it first: “This is the next place in Hampden to go condo.” It was pretty obviously a prime perch on a hill.

We moved Typecast Press (or almost all of it, anyway) to another factory—the Mill Centre, as you know—as quickly as we could and were hardly out the door five minutes when the Fox apartments deal was announced. What had been our “windmill room” at Fox was now a storage space with a Vandercook, a C&P and a bunch of smaller presses and all the ephemera that goes with having spent more than a decade in the letterpress biz. We were given a date when all of our remaining stuff needed to be gone. That date is in two weeks.

Two yard sales have come and gone, the presses are all spoken for, and we’re down to a manageable pile of letterpress extras. The movers are lined up to take that over to a new little hoarder space we’ve added at the Mill Centre, because what else would you do? Meantime we’d run into a building manager who explained that the Fox and Simpson folks had taken all they were going to pull out of the building. We could go spelunking if we wanted, and if we found something and could carry it, we owned it now.

That hoarder space isn’t going to fill itself, am I right?

Crazy old paper towel holder? Check. Weird thing on the wall that held a key or something? Check. Folding yellow “danger” fence? You try to say no to that. Chemical hazard pants with yellow suspenders and matching boot covers? Shop Boy was all over that action. Some dude named Nick left a pile of his freshly laundered (me-sized) Simpson work shirts behind? We did not. A roll of plastic “Flammable Liquid” tape? You kidding me?

Seriously, I often meet people who own some strange but very cool object or other—a strip club neon sign, a merry-go-round pony or, say, hazard pants—and wonder, “How in heck did they end up owning that?” There’s your answer.

Of course, we did end up pulling a couple of lockers from a creepy back restroom that were unimaginably … clean. They’re clearly enchanted or something to stay so (relatively) untouched by so many years of grubby work clothes and worrisome air quality. We did a quick spritz with Simple Green, high-fived and called it a day.

I measured them each at a hair over 12 inches wide, 18 inches deep and 7 feet tall. We’d need to figure out how to fit them in the new print shop, which is laid out pretty intricately. Oh, there’s that narrow space between the metal shelves and the chest that holds the old McCormick spices cuts and such. And there’s that slender spot between the plate maker and the cabinet across the room that holds old die-cutting forms. Hmm.

For now, we stowed the lockers in our own space at Fox, then stopped at the new shop on the way home to measure. The gap between the metal shelves and the chest came in at a little over 12 inches wide and 18 inches deep with 7 feet-plus of clearance up the wall. OK, so I guess that works. Across the room, we measured the similar furniture gap at 11.75 inches. Dang. We’d have to nudge the cabinet over a whole .275 inches to make our evil plan work.

Meant to be? No. We should have left well enough alone. (Did I mention the two yard sales?) But we do now have one locker with shelves to hold our ink supply (currently stuck in a box or piled somewhat less than elegantly beneath the inking stone) and one locker with a rack to hold all of Nick’s shirts, so there you go.

Letterpress List No. 64: The Grass Is Greener

December 9, 2008

“Look what I got!” Mary beamed as she bounced in from the farmer’s market. “Snake plants! Where should we put them?”

“How about here?” Shop Boy deadpanned, holding out a trash bag. “It’ll save us some time.”

“Oh, don’t listen to him,” Mary reassured the plants. But I believe that the plants knew, even as she set them in the pretty stand, that their days were numbered. Snake plants don’t need much of anything to survive. But neither does a cactus. And Shop Boy’s lobbed a few floppy, mushy, dead cacti into the trash in our time together.

So, when Mary showed me the gift a client had brought, a perky little evergreen with tiny holiday decorations, Shop Boy was blunt.

“Ain’t gonna see Christmas.”

“You’re wrong this time, Shop Boy,” an offended Mary responded. Then she put her finger into the potting soil (now dust). “Oops. Better water this.”

Mary loves plants and flowers — loves having green stuff around her living and working spaces. So the best news we’ve had recently was the pronouncement of our new fellow tenants at the Fox Industries building, Deb and Gab of Peyton Home, that they’d like to “green up” the lobby, and perhaps even add landscaping to the building’s fairly grim exterior and loading dock.

Of course, Shop Boy had grown kind of partial to the plastic centerpiece set upon the dusty wicker furniture in the lobby. But I can adjust. Especially with Deb and Gab, who sell home furnishings, booting the wicker in favor of a living room look. Visitors will get to relax a bit. And Peyton is going to sell stuff from its studio, which means more foot traffic, which means, potentially, more jobs for Typecast Press.

As you might expect, though, the merging of grease/metal and lavendar/lace is going to produce its share of uncomfortable moments.

Take this weekend’s party and holiday sale. To get to Peyton Home, visitors must enter by the loading dock, then walk down a hallway past Typecast Press’ studio spaces. So, your high-end holiday sale customers might be greeted, let’s say, by a grunting, sweaty, stinky fellow in a black smock with a monkey patch dragging a dirty printing press across that hallway. By himself.

Shop Boy tried to be discreet. Believe me. Until the press got stuck halfway. Then I merely ran for my truck, grabbed a section of rope — neon purple, natch — dashed back inside, lassooed the press in the sturdiest spots, hoisted it onto carpets remnants and tugged with everything I had. Despite backing into the door jam and expelling an involuntary “Uuungh!,” Shop Boy was fairly successful in removing the press from the hall without destruction of property or disruption of party.

There were two witness by my count, but they’re not talking. (Speechless, I’m sure.)

Now, a bigger threat to the party/holiday sale arrived soon after Mary did. (Shop Boy had come early to do some cleaning … and to move the press by myself before Mary could tell me not to do it by myself.) We needed to finish one job on the Heidelberg Windmill and begin another. Let me tell you, when that three-phase electricity adapter gets its metallic singing voice warmed up and the Windmill starts huffing and puffing, it’s a bit tough to hear inside the Land of the Giants, which is what I like to think of the studio that holds our biggest presses as.

The Peyton Home Showroom, fancily decorated for the occasion, is separated by locked, thin double doors with glass windows covered only by cheap paper shades on our side.

“You ready to disturb some peace?” Shop Boy asked Mary.

Dang, we were loud. Not running-the-paper-cutter loud, mind you, but yikes. Shop Boy kept waiting for that knock on the door.

And then there it was.

“Oh, no,” I called to Mary as she went to answer the knock. When our roommate Chris Hartlove popped his head in, I expected him to say, “Do you guys know how loud this is next door?” Instead, he said he’d come for the party and to shop a bit and didn’t hear us working until he walked past the studio door.

Turns out the noise we make travels the other way!

Shop Boy thought about firing up the paper cutter to celebrate. You know, like how some folks express glee by shooting machine guns and stuff into the air.

But why push our luck?

Instead, we shed our smocks and strolled next door for our own peek at the furniture and decorator goods. Pretty cool things. But we couldn’t linger. We couldn’t hear our Heidelberg calling, and that worried us. It was too quiet …

So we said our hellos, made polite chatter and then walked back to our studio thinking that maybe this cohabitation can work. We’re all for a prettier hallway/lobby with better furniture and houseplants. And landscaping sounds grand. A fancy sign? Cool. Maybe we’ll get one, too.

And while we’re at it, Shop Boy’s thinking about Deb and Gab’s need for a little more space to store their wares when they’re not on display. Mainly I’m thinking, if they know how to keep plants alive, maybe they should have a little space at Mary and Shop Boy’s house.

Just an idea.


Letterpress List No. 64

How about an hour’s worth of music to landscape, drag a press, dispose of a dead houseplant or enjoy a holiday party by? Most of the tunes should be available in the usual places. Goofy or great videos are from YouTube.

Dead Flowersthe Rolling Stones (As younger guns.)
Nearly Lost You Screaming Trees (Out on a limb.)
It’s Oh So Quiet Bjork (Odd duck. But she’s just so winning in the video, as if she’d just purchased snake plants at the farmer’s market or something.)
Come on OverShania Twain (Make yourself comfortable. Help yourself to the watering can.)
AlivePearl Jam (A temporary situation.)
I Love It LoudKiss (No compromise.)
RosesOutkast (So bad it’s irresistible.)
Who Can It Be Now?Men at Work (Whew!)
Fade to BlackMetallica (Shop Boy was not really a Metallica fan until this song. I thought, “Wow, it’s an orchestra piece, with movements rather then riffs. Kinda like Beethoven, or something.”)
Asking for Flowers Kathleen Edwards (I wonder if Deb and Gab know that Mary often sends Shop Boy into the ladies room — which has a deeper sink — to change the water in the flower vase …)
Ha Ha You’re DeadGreen Day (Houseplants, you have been warned.)
Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road Loudon Wainright (Letterpress roadkill in the middle of the hallway.)
Can You Hear MeEnrique Iglesias (Just for the title, folks. Swear.)
Hip-Hop Is Dead Nas (Not if they keep making songs this cool.)
Another Body DropsCypress Hill (Ditto.)
I Wanna Live the Ramones (Not going quietly.)
Rock ‘n’ Roll Ain’t Noise PollutionAC/DC (Indeed.)
Get the Party Started Pink (She’s ready.)
Let It Snow!Dean Martin (Let’s get that party started, shall we?”