Halfmoon Works Finds New Home Downtown

Halfmoon Works Finds New Home Downtown

Halfmoon Works finds new home downtown
Woodworking business hires young adults with special needs
BY BETHANY BUMP Gazette Reporter

Reach Gazette reporter Bethany Bump at 395-3107, bbump@dailygazette.net   or @BethanyBump on Twitter.
A company with a cause is coming to Schenectady’s lower State Street neighborhood, taking the space of a handbag business that recently shuttered.

Halfmoon Works, a small woodworking shop that employs young adults with special needs, is planning to relocate from its Halfmoon location to a building at 131 State St. in Schenectady. The employees design and make by hand everything from cutting boards and wooden wine acces- sories to Adirondack chairs and cedar birdhouses.

“There’s a big transportation piece to this,” said founder Tony Hynes, who also runs Precision Valve and Automation in Latham. “Lower State Street is on a bus line, and transportation up to Halfmoon has always been an issue. Kids either had to be able to drive on their own or have family members transport them, or sometimes we would. But it was a big hurdle.”

Hynes founded the company in 2011, inspired by a nonprofit he and his brother created years earlier, Fast Break Fund, which offers sports clinics to children with developmental disabilities.

“You start out working with them as kids, and all of a sudden, the next thing you know you’re looking up at a 20-yearold who doesn’t need an athletic opportunity anymore; he needs job training,” Hynes said.

Many of the young adults actually live in Schenectady County, so the relocation will also put them closer to home, he said.

The new space is also in a downtown setting, meaning the company can finally open its own retail storefront. Halfmoon Works currently sells some of its pieces at Artique, a co-op with locations in Clifton Park and Colonie Center that provides local small businesses the space to sell their products in a large retail setting. It also sells custom-made pieces directly to businesses — like wine caddies and cutting boards for Saratoga Olive Oil, or display cases for RAD Soap in Albany and Saratoga Cracker Co.

The Halfmoon location is in an industrial park off Exit 9 of the Northway, not exactly an ideal spot for foot traffic or a storefront.

“We sell online, too, which is pretty useful, and we’ve got our foot in these two retail spots,” Hynes said. “But it’d be nice to have an area where we can set stuff up permanently.”

The lower State Street building, next to the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corp., has windows facing State Street but will need some renovations to make it an actual storefront. Hynes said he’s planning renovations that could run anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000. The building will also need electrical work to accommodate the company’s woodworking equipment.

The building was last renovated in 2012, when Madison Handbags moved its production facility and 40 employees from Troy to the space previously occupied by Girl Scout district offices. The Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority gave the company $40,000 to put toward renovations. That grant may have to be paid back now that the company has gone out of business, said Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen, though he couldn’t say for certain Friday afternoon without tracking down the original grant agreement.

Founded in 2005 by Trish Rost, Madison Handbags changed its name to Monet Handbags last summer as part of a company rebrand. It appeared to be too little, too late for the company, which relied on direct selling through a home party business model to sell its handbags. The company officially closed Dec. 31, but promised to continue filling orders that were received up until that day.

Company officials did not return calls for comment Friday.

A few years ago, Madison boasted about 500 design consultants across 40 states. During the rebranding announcement last summer, Rost said the company had produced more than 1 million bags for customers nationwide. She also announced an online handbag designer that would allow customers to build a bag online and see their creationbefore purchasing it.

“We are sorry to see Trish Rost and Monet Handbags wind down operations,” Gillen said.

Not only did the company renovate a vacant building, he said, but it also paid more than $65,000 in taxes on a building that was previously tax-exempt under Girl Scouts ownership.

“The one disappointment we had was that there was never any retail component to the building,” Gillen said. “Tony has something that utilizes both the production aspect of the building and something that will give it a retail presence on the street as we continue to revitalize lower State Street.”

Halfmoon Works currently has six employees, but will hire more to handle the retail storefront — adding another skill set beyond manufacturing for the young adults who wind up at the shop, Hynes said.

Local officials are adamant about establishing more ground-floor retail in downtown Schenectady. One block up from 131 State St., Prime Companies is planning a $1.2 million, mixed-use development that will feature retail space on the first floor.

“We’re starting to see a momentum here,” Gillen said.