Electrical shop worker Kevin Keath puts the finishing touches on electrical cable at Creative Stage Lighting. The company is looking to expand and considering its options.
Though approaching the final stages of approval for a new Chestertown site for Creative Stage Lighting, owner George Studnicky III said the cost of building on the site needs more consideration.
“It’s a challenging site, so it’s going to be expensive,” Studnicky said.
The property has a lot of elevation differences, so intensive landscaping will need to happen before they can put up a new building. Studnicky said they’d do their best to make it an attractive home for their business. They’re even thinking about adding a waterfall.
“If we do it, it will look gorgeous,” he said.
The company has applied with the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) for construction permits, and Studnicky doesn’t think they should have much of a problem. Plans now call for a facility that’s low visibility from the road.
They’ve completed all of their hearings with the town of Chester and received final approval for their proposal at the Nov. 21 planning board meeting.
The new building site is 2.2 miles north of Creative Stage's current home in North Creek. Studnicky owns a large parcel of land across the street from the Bokus sand and gravel pit, just past Byrne Road.
Preliminary plans call for a 73,000-square-foot building on the heavily wooded lot. This would more than double the current building’s 30,000-square-foot spread. If it were a perfect square, it would run nearly as long as a football field on each side.
The building would have a 450-foot setback, and the many trees should keep the building hidden from the road and neighboring homes.
Drainage will be funneled into a pond and eventually to a wetland on the property. It should be adequate for 100-year events like those this spring and summer.
Building construction should take about 10 months and would begin with a 9,000-square-foot area for administration.
Traffic on a busy day could include three large trucks with six panel truck visits and the passenger cars and trucks of the currently 41-person staff, expected to expand.
Need for expansion
The impetus for growth is a new focus on Creative Stage Lighting’s manufacturing efforts. Their electrical shop crew builds power supply racks and computer racks for performance installations. They also make custom cable arrays to power their equipment, which includes a large supply of lighting and ambient effect equipment for sale or rent.
They keep four types of racks on the shelf to meet orders, and ability to turn orders around by the end of the day can make or break a sale.
“It's so by the seat of your pants,” said electrical shop head Bill Couzens.
Extra room, especially for finishing cable arrays, would greatly increase the speed they can complete an order, allowing them to accept those last-minute fulfillments.
More room would also give them options for improved equipment. Among Couzens' wish list was a metal-bending machine and a computer-controlled router.
Creative Stage needed to apply for a height variance with the Chester Planning Board to accommodate a taller ceiling for demonstrations of their lighting rigs. They've lost business because customers can’t see a demonstration, as Creative Stage can’t raise a stage-sized lighting truss in their current space. This is also a thorn in the side of lighting directors, who may want to come and do some programming with the equipment before it goes to the performance venue.
Studnicky told the Chester Planning Board that he didn’t want to commit to new business demands unless he knew there was a customer base for it. They’ve turned down consistent work that they could’ve had with a bigger facility, and Studnicky is confident that expansion is the right course for his business.
They’d still be behind competitors when it comes to demonstration of their equipment but will be able to do full- or half-scale testing of their offerings.
Studnicky said they’d like to keep expansion local, but they’ve been mulling over a satellite facility in the western U.S.
A distant facility would allow them to keep their staff working in North Creek, and if the new office was strategically placed somewhere like Nevada, they’d achieve much faster delivery dates. Right now, order fulfillment can take five or six days to faraway places. With a western facility, they’d be within three days of any destination.
Good for economy
Staff mostly lives within a 15-minute drive of work, Studnicky told the planning board. That’s something of a rarity in the Adirondack Park, said Warren County Economic Development Corporation President Vicky Prett-Gerbino.
Her office is under a lot of pressure in Warren County to get jobs in rural areas, she told the planning board. Town supervisors tell her about the treks their constituents must undertake to return from work to pick up a sick child. These inconveniences add up and can drive families away from small towns.
Keeping community business local, especially when they want to expand, is a major priority, she said.
“That is where we should be spending 80 percent of our time,” said Prett-Gerbino.
Studnicky started the company in 1977 in New Jersey and moved to North Creek when they decided to move away from local supply into mail-order deliveries. His parents honeymooned in North Creek and promised they’d retire there. After they made good on that promise, Studnicky visited them in the hamlet and fell in love with it, too.
Staying as close to the current facility as they can is important to Studnicky. He has a strong sense of community identity with his company supporting a scholarship with Johnsburg Central and contributing to the Hudson Headwaters Healthcare Network.
“As we look at the expansion, we don't want to ask people to pull up their roots an move to the other side of the state,” he said.
They’re also working to cultivate support from government organizations. They’re working with the Warren County EDC and applying to the center for economic growth and Empire State Development.
They currently have 41 employees and are looking to expand by 25 over the next five years.
They manufacture lighting production sets and systems, power systems for lighting and are wholesale distributors for equipment. They also assign technicians to run those systems from a day to several years.
“At the end of the day, we needed space for our manufacturing efforts,” said Studnicky.