There was an auction in Kingston, and Joe Deegan, knowing a commercial property on Broadway was on the block, decided to attend. And having gone, Deegan couldn’t resist bidding. There was only one competitor for the property, and to his surprise Deegan ended up the high bidder at $160,000.
What would he tell his business partner, Bob Ryan, who was in Cape Cod at the time of the auction? The two had discussed how much this large building in midtown Kingston that hadn’t been properly maintained for decades would need in terms of additional investment. They had decided $150,000 should be their upper limit at the auction.
Deegan called Ryan.
“It went for one-sixty, Bob,” Deegan reported. “Would you have bid that much?”
Ryan replied yes, he probably would have.
“Well, that’s good,” said Deegan, “because I did it.”
And that’s part of the story of how Deegan and Ryan came to be the owners of 572 Broadway, at which an exhibit space will be created on Thursday, December 12 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. for 33 —and counting — local businesses, many arts-related, to strut their stuff. Deegan and Ryan have incorporated the former Ulster Lighting building as New Lights on Broadway (Kingston), LLC.
In its heyday, the building was the local hall of the Knights of Pythias, a fraternal organization. Later it housed the Kingston Central Pharmacy and then Ulster Electric. Deegan described stripping away the renovations of the 1950s and underneath them the improvements of the 1930s. Underneath it all, he said, were “great bones.” (Deegan and Ryan would like anyone who has a picture of the original building to contact them.)
“A vacant storefront on Broadway will begin a new chapter in December when it becomes a showcase, temporarily, for all things made in Kingston,” said a press release from Pat Courtney-Strong, guiding light behind the Kingston event and its chief organizer. “The former Ulster Lighting retail store at 572 Broadway will be transformed into an exhibit space for the December 12 Made In Kingston event, a project of New Lights On Broadway LLC and the Business Alliance of Kingston.”
Real-estate broker Deegan and insurance man Ryan have been doubling down on investments in commercial real estate in Kingston over the past two decades. This volatile investment niche is not for the faint-hearted, particularly in a small market such as Kingston. The pair have endured with tenacity its ups and downs, including the recent Great Recession, in which commercial values fell even more steeply in Kingston than in most of the rest of Ulster County.
Because City of Kingston property taxes for non-residential (“non-homestead”) properties are about double what they are for residential properties, commercial real estate is particularly risky. Because of the tax load and other reasons, initial prices tend not to be high. But the high tax level eats away at expectations of capital appreciation.
The revival of the national market for commercial property has been uneven. Large metropolitan markets in general and particular regions have been recovering. Activity in individual small markets like Kingston has often been spotty.
Born and bred in Kingston, Deegan and Ryan are believers. They see signs of recovery everywhere. “We’re not in this for the short term,” explained Ryan. “We’re long-term investors.”
“Very long-term,” added Deegan, emphasizing the word “very” in a way to leave no doubt of something other than a track record of uninterrupted success.
The pair wants to restore 572 Broadway to its original grandeur. “If you do the right thing in the first place …” began Ryan. Deegan finished the sentence, “… it’ll work out in the very long term.”
Ryan, who has four teenage children, may have found this deeply felt optimistic statement a tad ambitious. With his daughter Micaela sitting next to him in the booth at the Broadway Lights Diner at 713 Broadway, Ryan leaned across the table and whispered conspiratorially, “We do employ child labor.”
Generational continuity, whether of people, buildings or communities, is very important for these investors. Their grandparents knew each other. Their parents are friends. Deegan and Ryan have been pals “at least since the eighth grade.” And of course their children now know each other, too.
True believers gather
Made In Kingston started with a September discussion of a vacant storefront marketing program by the Kingston Land Trust, the Business Alliance of Kingston, and Gregg Swanzey of Kingston’s city government. An art exhibit at Cedar Street and Broadway received positive feedback, and landlord Tim Charest of 585 Broadway has gotten good inquiries on the space.
Meeting with Joe Deegan and Bob Ryan, Pat Courtney-Strong hit on Made in Kingston as an event that would be good for the community and would give the owners a chance to show the space to a lot of people. What better strategy could there be for the true believers in Kingston’s Broadway corridor than getting a couple of hundred of Pat Courtney’s closest business friends together in this temporary exhibit space on December 12?
The list of participants as of this week included Adirondack Creamery, Agustsson Gallery, American Made Monster Studio, Art Craft Camera, Milne’s At Home Antiques, Bailey Pottery Equipment Corp., Baron’s International Kitchen, Susan Basch Studio, Blackcreek Mercantile & Trading Co., Jane Bloodgood-Abrams, Catskill Woodworking, Coppersea Distilling, Frank Guido’s Little Italy, Historic Kingston Waterfront Properties, Lara Hope, Hudson Made NY, Karmabee, Keegan Ales, LayerXLayer, Louvel, Luminary Publishing/Chronogram, Dermot Mahoney’s Pub, On The Hill At Skilly, Pirate Upholstery, R&F Handmade Paints, Savona’s Trattoria, The Storefront Gallery, Tri-State Litho, Tonner Dolls, The Trolley Museum, Ulster County Tourism and Wishbone Letterpress. Organizational support is coming from Kingston Uptown Business Association, the Rondout Business Association and the Kingston Midtown Business Association (united under the Business Alliance of Kingston umbrella).
New Lights on Broadway LLC (Kingston) hopes to find a tenant “to add to the growing collection of businesses along Broadway that are arts-oriented or complementary to Kingston’s evolving arts scene.” Deegan and Ryan said they had collaborated with Courtney-Strong because they “wanted to take time out to celebrate the people and organizations who are making that happen.”
The showcase seems to have grown beyond the initial focus on artists and arts manufacturers to a broader universe of Kingston businesses, a venue for “all things made in Kingston.” Courtney-Strong estimates that a third of the participants manufacture, another third are artists more like sole proprietors, and the balance are in support, such as four restaurants, Ulster Tourism and stores that sell locally produced goods. “It’s a great cross-section of people who have been here for years like Tonner Dolls, R&F Paints, Bailey Pottery, and Keegan Ales,” she said, “and people who just arrived, such as Hudson Made NY, which moved here this fall from Brooklyn because the owner felt he couldn’t scale the business in that expensive real-estate market.”
It’s not too late to participate in the showcase. For information, contact courtneystrong.com or call 331-2238.