When its digs went up for sale, the owners of a commercial bakery were first in line to purchase the three commercial buildings in West Concord that now make up Factory 152.
The purchase took a lot of work, first holding the landlord to a signed right of first refusal and then putting together a group of investors and securing additional financing.
They did it.
The investors, who supplied 25% of the purchase price get 7% on their funds and 50% of the equity in the building, said John Gates, who with Stu Whitt co-founded and owns Slow-Rise Breads from Nashoba Brook Bakery.
The two founders and their partner in Factory 152, Matthew Curtis, own the other 50% of the equity. The partnership took out a loan for roughly 75% of the $3.9 million price tag on the Commonwealth Avenue buildings.
“Financially, it has not been rewarding for the three of us,” Gates said. “The partners have not taken a dollar out of the project.”
Part of the challenge is a vow they made to the tenants. “Artists and makers have a place in West Concord… We promised we’re going to hold the rent down,” Gates said.
The rent has increased since January 2019, when they assumed ownership of the building, but is still below market rate, Gates said. The interest on the loan will bump up soon, but he is confident rents will not jump up considerably.
The baker is proud of the variety of businesses under the roofs. Artwork from studios lines the upstairs halls in the largest building that houses the bakery and café on the ground floor.
Tenants include manufacturers too. Potager Soap sends its scents through the neighborhood. Inriver Tank and Boat manufactures indoor rowing tanks for competitive teams.
The bakery has grown since 1998 when it rented a third of the ground floor. Now, it uses the entire floor, partnering with other businesses to sell the 8,000 sourdough loaves baked each day.
The café is a popular spot.
The building was originally used as a leather shop, Gates said. They did extensive testing, including drilling to ensure there were no environmental concerns.
Although a plan to build apartments could not be realized, Gates foresees a strong future for Factory 152 that may include housing.
Since they bought the building, occupancy has remained close to 100%. One empty unit is available now and another is coming in January.
“In the long term, there’s value here. We know we’re in a good spot,” he said. “We are proud of keeping our commitment to provide affordable space in West Concord for artists, makers, and small businesspeople.”