One of the reasons I started this project is that I was alarmed at how fleeting so much of the underground can be. The people who drive the creative classes are focused on creating, on making art and beauty and enhancing underground culture, which tends to result in less of a focus on trivialities like leases and fire codes and the law in general. I seem to be constantly hearing about the unceremonious demise of so many brilliant spaces—the 123 Community Center being forced out by their landlord, Bushwick Project for the Arts getting evicted by the city, House of Yes (in its original incarnation) burning down, Silent Barn being ransacked, Monkeytown and Change You Want to See defeated by endless rent hikes.
But there are other ways for a space to come to an end. Sometimes it’s intentional, for one reason or another, and in the best case it’s on the creators’ own terms. So it is with 6 Charles Place. The Bushwick warehouse used to be called Semi-Legit, and was known for underground events. Passion Faction threw dance parties with DJ Spanky spinning and Nicky Digital taking pix, Team San San had an art show, there were anarchist benefits and lectures, and plenty of musicians came through, including Nomadic War Machine, Rosa Apatrida, Shady Hawkins, Anchorites, Krunk Pony, Ash Borer, and Woe.
Nick has been operating Running Rebel since October 2011. It’s a big, private, very malleable space, and they’ve done a lot of different work already, including photos for Nylon and Inked magazines, fashion shoots for Olcay Gulsen and Arrojo Soho, and music videos for Imaginary Friends and Rosie Vanier.
brooklyn spaces: What made you shift from throwing parties to running a business?
Nick: I thought we could make something profitable, since no one can get jobs now and you have to do everything yourself in order to survive.
brooklyn spaces: Was it hard to get it up and running?
Nick: It was a lot of work. I renovated the entire thing, painted the entire ceiling by hand, painted every single brick, twice, because the first coat got so disgusting and dirty. I built a bathroom and changing room. And I got all this equipment, including a nineteen-foot cyc wall.
brooklyn spaces: What’s your business philosophy?
Nick: I try to be friendly with everyone. I don’t think that pissing people off is the right way to go about anything, especially when you’re trying to develop relationships. I’d rather take a loss now and have someone come back again later, rather than ripping them off and having them hate us forever.
brooklyn spaces: Is running a photo studio something you always planned to do?
Nick: No. I have a degree in German. But I had the idea and ran with it. This is cool, it’s strange. It’s fine for now. I can live, I can eat. What else do you need?
And then there’s Proliferation Publishing, New York’s only twenty-four-hour print shop, run by Adam. They use really cool old machines from the sixties and seventies that they’ve acquired at auctions and garage sales, including one that was used to print NYU’s diplomas for years. And they bought what probably amounts to a lifetime supply of ink for about $60. They print everything from take-out menus to wedding invitations to vinyl banners.
brooklyn spaces: How do you know how to work all this stuff? Did you know how to use the machines when you bought them?
Adam: No, we just bought them on impulse. Then we found PDFs and guides and shit online and taught ourselves in our garage. We have this one incredible troubleshooting manual written by this hippie guy in the sixties. The book starts, “Around 1950 I was searching for Nirvana in the woods in New Mexico.”
brooklyn spaces: How do you find your clients?
Adam: We go and bother pizza places and shit and we’re like “Hey we can print menus for cheaper than what you’re paying now,” and they’re like, “Okay, cool.” And people come in to print album covers for their bands, business cards, political posters, stuff like that.
brooklyn spaces: What are your goals for the future?
Adam: I want to do books eventually, but not right now. We’ve got to get a book binder and a paper cutter first. We’re also going to start offering photo-printing services, so people can shoot photos at Running Rebel and then print them here. This could be a full-time gig, and it probably will be eventually. But we’re in it for the long haul, so we’re taking our time.
Both Adam and Nick were kind enough to offer discounts for Brooklyn Spaces readers. At Running Rebel they’ll give you a full-day weekday photo shoot for $300, and at Proliferation Publishing you can get 1,000 business cards or stickers for $75. Go support Bushwick small businesses! Email them at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.