Joseph Fratesi and Thomas Wright first connected in the early ’90s, when both were working in an NYC bar. They bonded immediately over their shared interest in design: Fratesi had recently completed his degree from the University of Illinois, and Wright had moved to NYC in 1991 after earning an architecture degree from UC Berkeley.
The pair soon founded the design firm Atlas Industries. Now, about a quarter-century later, they’re enjoying success in Newburgh.
Their studio was originally in Gowanus, Brooklyn. Cramped and sick of dealing with New York City, “we were maxed-out in that space,” says Fratesi. “When Thomas was looking for a home in Beacon, we took a drive around Newburgh and were just blown away. That really started our love affair with the city.”
They landed on a 55,000 sq ft former worsted-yarn factory, drawn by its high ceilings, tall windows, and prime location a couple streets off the river. “It was a perfect opportunity for development,” says Wright. They purchased the building in 2012 and relocated their firm to the newly christened Atlas Studios a year later. From 2013–2016, they renovated the remainder of the building for other tenants.
Photo by Wolfgang Wesener
Atlas Industries operates in 20,000 sq ft of the space, in a lofted, light-filled office with dogs scampering about the floor. Their company originally did all kinds of work, from fabricating the designs of others to contracted architecture and interior design work. Nowadays they focus entirely on their own designs: their signature item is the AS4 Modular Furniture System, a handmade wall unit that can be configured into almost anything that would typically be accomplished with custom casework.
Atlas Studios is now home to 45 small creative businesses and artists. It includes a 1,500 sq ft gallery space for art exhibits, film screenings, dance and music performances, and other art-related events. Additionally, it hosts a literary series and a jazz series.
“We always wanted to set aside space for art,” says Wright. Among the tenants are artists like Ruth Freeman, as well as photographers, fashion designers and other design studios, architects, a bookbinder, and a pottery studio.
photo by Meredith Heuer
They’ve allowed the building’s tenants to help them define the space. Early developments, like art shows and a chamber music series, were organized by tenants; the jazz series is hosted by Ben Young of Triple Point Records. Last fall, Atlas Industries employee Stella Lee Prowse organized a winter market, and followed it up this spring with a horticulture-themed market. “We have an open approach,” says Wright. “If someone has the right idea, we’re ready for it.”
The pair has watched as more NYC people choose to relocate to Newburgh, and the area around Atlas Studios houses brand-new cafés and restaurants. “What we can do for the community directly around us, and the community of Newburgh, is hugely gratifying,” says Wright.