A lot of the divisiveness that surfaced during the Hudson mayoral race suggests that, among certain quarters, there is far less faith in the new “creative” economy—one based on aesthetic, environmental, and cultural forces—than in the older industrial one, even though the former led to a stunning revival of the town in the last decade or so and the latter essentially abandoned it decades before that. (Or wanted to usurp it completely with oversized projects like the St. Lawrence Cement Plant.)
It’s true that the creative economy tends to be small in scale, comprising mostly of individual mom and pop (or mom and mom and pop and pop) stores and b&bs. When you put it all together, however, it comprises an ensemble that not only brought the city’s tax base up from close to zero but also resulted in one of the most dazzling renaissances in all of upstate (bringing restaurants, clubs, and thousands of tourists here). The ability of the vintage and antiques retail trade, which can hang on a thread even in the best of times, essentially spun magic out of thin air, through taste and appreciation for everything beautiful yet unacknowledged all around us, rescuing a neglected town in the process.
While looking good in a pinch is a great first step in getting yourself up, dusting yourself off and starting all over again, it’s always great to see signs of a diversifying business base. Two fabulous examples, which grew from the mother starter dough of the decorative arts trade: Lotus Energy, the solar and renewable energy systems company at 703 Warren Street, and Digifabshop, a self-described “digital fabrication company that specializes in residential and commercial woodwork, furniture, sculpture, reproductions and prototyping.” Lotus does consulting and installation of solar systems and helps with the application for state and federal tax credits. (Customers can get up to $12,250 back from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority alone.) Digifabshop, hidden away in the former L B furniture building near the waterfront, is something I didn’t know anything about before reading the following article in last week’s Home section, A Minimalist Loft, With Touches of Chipotle. I almost feel nachas for Hudson when I see work that looks so good. —Scott Baldinger