Common Folk 'Shoots for The Moon' With Drive to Buy Its Space
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Common Folk Artist Collective has surpassed its $20,000 fundraising goal and has stretched it to $30,000 by Friday in a quest to buy its current location.
With just days left to reach the goal, the group has already raised more than $25,000 on the crowdfunding website Patronicity. Another $20,000 of that will be matched by a Biz-M-Power grant facilitated by the Massachusettes Growth Capital Corp.
The campaign is called "Shoot for The Moon," in reference to the group making a dream happen.
"It's been going even more successfully than we had even anticipated and we knew it would go really well," said Jessica Sweeney, a founder and co-owner.
"We didn't anticipate being able to offer a stretch goal, though, so we're really excited about that."
The 40-member artist collective inhabits a storefront at 12 Holden St., a relocation from its previous spot on Main Street due to costs. It was a good move six years ago because members wound up loving the space.
A few months ago, Common Folk contacted landlord David Carver for possible lease renewal and was informed that another party was interested in purchasing the space. Carver gave the group the first right of refusal and Sweeney found out about the grant opportunity at the same time.
"We kind of looked around and we were like, 'this might be the perfect time to do this,’" She said.
Before the campaign and grant application, Common Folk did a pre-pledge phase to assess how much support could be rallied and very quickly had 50 percent of the original $20,000 goal pledged.
Local businesses Prix Fixe Accounting, Tourists, Bright Ideas Brewing, and an anonymous Common Folk member also collectively pledged a $4,000 donation if $26,000 is reached by the goal date.
"It's really, really awesome to have our local businesses be sort of rallying around us like that," Sweeney said.
With $30,000 and the $20,000 match from MGCC, the group has just under half of its mortgage paid.
Alternative to monetary capital, Sweeney feels this campaign has proven the amount of "social capital" that Common Folk has in its community. This purchase has the added bonus of preserving real estate for small businesses in the community.
"We kind of serve a pretty important role to be strong advocates for that in the community, so when we're looking at this purchase, we're not just looking at this purchase from the lens of using the space for ourselves, we're really looking at this as like, we are now preserving downtown retail space for the community," she explained.
"And so if we decide to pursue a bigger space that makes sense for us, we would still maintain the space and an offer it to small businesses, at rates that they can afford, so we kind of look at this as like, we're investing in being stakeholders in a different way downtown."
On one hand, the growth of development in North Adams has made the group's store more successful but on the other hand, it gives the possibility of small businesses being priced out of downtown. It is a toss up between gratefulness and fear.
Common Folk began in 2011, not establishing a physical space until around 2015, and has moved five times since. Because that was often because of competitive rental offers, the drive to purchase a stable space intensified.
"Whether it’s outer space or our local economy, we refuse to let the economically privileged claim it all," The campaign statement reads.
Sweeney said the budget would not support a "bidding war" and emphasized the importance of this opportunity, as the collective would not be able to buy the space without.
"It really like sets us in a very sustainable path, which is relieving because it's taken us 10 years for us to get to where we are," she added.
"We literally started from scratch and like I can't express to people what I mean by that, there was zero investment money, there were zero donors it was just a group of us sitting around the table being like, ‘what do we want to do?’"
The Patronicity campaign will close on Friday but it is not the only fundraising effort that Common Folk has going on though it is the largest.
For example, the group is figuring out what to do with its studio space, which is currently in the back of the storefront. With the money saved from buying, studio rental spaces can be closer to a feasible possibility.
Sweeney explained that by supporting the fundraising efforts, people are also supporting the 40 creators who make up the collective.
"The community saying that they are invested in us says more than just about supporting a small business, they're essentially supporting 40 small businesses," she said.
"Because each of our members, some of them have businesses in town, others have their own art practices, whether full time or part time, so this basically says that the community wants to help incubate those 40 people in this community and that's a big deal."