NORTHAMPTON — As a teenager, Justin Brown relished visiting downtown with his friends. On a number of occasions, the Westfield native could be found hanging out in front of the former Iris Photo & Digital waiting for photos to be developed.
Little did Brown know that a few decades later, he would again be waiting out front of the four-story, circa 1880s building. Only this past Friday, he waited alongside Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra to cut the ribbon to officially open his retail business, Assemble Made and Curated, at its new location.
Brown, who has been a member of the Northampton business community since 1995, moved his store from space occupied on the lower level of Thornes Marketplace at 150 Main St. in Northampton to a larger space at 164 Main St.
“The first time I walked in the (new) space, about a year ago now, it just felt like the right place for us,” Brown said. “Thornes was great for us. We did great there for six years, and we’re looking forward to the visibility of the corner of Main and Old South streets.”
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Brown and his boyfriend and co-owner Joe Romanos as well as the four other staff members were joined by Jody Doele from Thornes Marketplace and representatives from Valley Community Development, the Downtown Northampton Association, and the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce.
Throughout its lifetime, Brown’s new Main Street space has been home to a number of businesses, including Sherman Jewelers and a Benetton clothing store. Most recently, the space was occupied by Glenn Alper’s musical instrument store Birdhouse Music, which has since joined his new venture with Easthampton’s Marigold Theater, Bar & Cabaret.
The move was made possible through a Patronicity crowdfunding campaign, which reaped more than $20,000 from nearly 200 patrons, and $40,000 through a matching grant program through the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation.
The Biz-M-Power program gave the Northampton company $2 for every $1 raised. The program offers small businesses like Assemble financial assistance through this program in an effort to help companies expand with an acquisition, improvement or lease of a facility, purchase or capital lease of equipment, or other capital improvements. The Biz-M-Power program gives preference to low to moderate-income brick-and-mortar small businesses owned by women, minorities, immigrants, non-native English speakers, U.S. military veterans, disabled individuals, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. The program also provides preference to businesses operating in the state’s Gateway cities.