Tom Marchetty considers the state of craftsmanship in this county and he’s appalled; made in China this, prefabricated that. People can barely handle a power drill, much less tackle making their own furniture.
It’s time to reclaim our crafty ways, South Jersey, and Marchetty is ready to lead you to the promised land with his upcoming venture, The Factory.
Marchetty and a small crew are busy transforming the empty Collingswood Theatre into a creative paradise. When it’s complete, The Factory will be place for people to make their own furniture (using industrial-grade equipment), throw a pot in the ceramics studio, jam with their band and craft jewelry and metal designs.
If you can create it, it has a place at The Factory.
It all started, unfortunately, with the recession. Marchetty, a Haddon Township native, fixes machine shop equipment for a living, but his clients started going out of business in droves. Even high school shop programs shut down.
As the go-to repair tech, Marchetty got first dibs at the discarded equipment. But then his wife put her foot down—time to clear out his overflowing garage of the shop equipment.
“I hate selling it because this stuff is so valuable. But no one has access to this kind of equipment," Marchetty said.
"So I started thinking, what if I put all of this equipment into a location for people that don’t have a garage or basement? They don’t have a place to build and create, and now they can come here and actually make their dreams into reality.
“That’s why I call it The Factory," he said. "We produce and make whatever we want. Anything you want to make or build, you can do it here.”
‘Nobody’s going to have a shop like this’
If The Factory is difficult to wrap your head around immediately, that’s because so few people have access to something like it.
“Nobody’s going to have a shop like this,” Marchetty promised; he knows of only a handful nationwide.
The concept works on several levels. First, there are the professionals or the 9-to-5 office workers with an artist’s heart. They can rent out studio space as a dedicated place to paint, work on graphic design, throw pottery, even design iPhone covers.
Then there are the members, people who may want to build furniture or hone their metalworking skills, but don’t have room for serious tools. For a flat monthly fee, they’ll have access to The Factory’s equipment.
“There’s more than $200,000 worth of equipment here,” Marchetty said, checking off as he walked by the machinery. “Here’s a wood lathe duplicator, we have a planer, we have a drill press, panel saws, wood band saws.”
Maybe you’re overwhelmed by all of that, but are still itching to build a bookcase or weld contemporary furniture. The Factory will offer workshops to help members connect their inner artisans with the necessary know-how.
“It’s time to bring this kind of work back to America,” Marchetty said. “Right now, no one knows how to run a planer. We need to get back to that level of creating.”
The new feel of a historic space
Collingswood has a reputation as an artists’ enclave, but each medium tends to have its own physical space. Marchetty wanted a more collective feel. He and business partner Josh Longsdorf found a home for The Factory in the historic Collingswood Theatre, a 13,000-square-foot 1920s movie theater that went out of commission in 1962.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the theater has acted as a photography studio, practice space for the Philadelphia Orchestra and more, but its sprawling murals, ornate carvings and soaring ceilings have been closed to the public for some time.
“I grew up around the corner in Haddon Township and I had no idea this was here,” said Marchetty, who now lives in Cherry Hill with his wife, Amy, and their infant twins.
“I really wanted a place for everyone to be together—just feel the vibe in here, it’s a great feeling.”
Anyone who remembers the old theater may well be shocked at the transformation. The seating area is a woodworking floor, where Marchetty’s equipment collection has found a new home. The projection rooms and all-stone storage rooms upstairs will soon become practice rooms and recording studios for bands, while the backstage is the new studio space for artists.
As for the theater’s focal point, the stage? It’s staying as-is and will double as a gallery at The Factory.
“Say you’re a member of the woodworking gallery or the ceramics studio—people can display their jewelry, display their art, display the coffee table they made and sell it,” Marchetty said.
“People can make money here. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
When Factory members take a break or wait for their creative juices to flow, there is a kitchen (BYOB encouraged) and courtyard for hanging out, plus a loft lounge area that retains the complex column and mural carvings from the old theater.
New year, new opening
The past seven weeks have been a whirlwind of tearing out old flooring, stripping down walls and setting up The Factory floor. Marchetty doesn’t anticipate much of a break as The Factory nears a New Year’s Eve grand opening. The open house (tentatively scheduled for 8 p.m.-12:30 a.m.) will give Collinsgwood its first peek at the new business and the possibilities that await within.
In keeping with his back-to-basics attitude, Marchetty said The Factory doesn’t have a website. Anyone who wants more information on joining The Factory or just learning what it’s all about can stop by 13 Fern Ave. and talk with him or Longsdorf; or, in a small concession to technology, email Marchetty at email@example.com.