Week 6 it is! + LAWS of our SNS Part II

Morning observation to Fitz the other day, ” You know, soon, we’re going to have to give this place away – to everyone else.”

Followed by my, “Are you ready for that?”

Followed by… silence. Even Miles, our red bear, had less to say than usual.

Every day ushers in more progress, bringing us ever-closer to reality… to an open business, public-facing, with real live people in our space doing real life things… like spilling + dropping, breaking + scratching, marring + marking… all along their pathway to eager consumption. Not to mention stealing… which, according to everyone, is the first thing that will happen. Hungry, opportunistic cafe goers will rush our business on Day 1, swooping in to take what isn’t theirs – a cool grab-able antique, an overlooked book, an accessible piece of art… not to mention the spoon enthusiasts who will go ga-ga over our gold demitasse spoons… This place becomes theirs for the taking. Which is: Sad. Right? Sad that we must prepare for the inevitable sticky fingers of our patrons, staining the great and unique ideas of our space. But, better to be prepared for the worst while still – secretly – hoping for the best in our community of patrons. I bet so many good ideas get shot down in the world of commercial enterprise by the rationale observation, “Yeah but it will get stolen in, like, the first week” … or “Totally great idea but it will fall apart with use. Customers don’t care about your things the way you do.”

One can only imagine the amazing-ness that doesn’t materialize because of a few bad seeds. Boo!

So, we try to tow the line between amazing and controllable, between pure innocence and complete mis-trust of fellow humans. And we put as much intention into what we do leave in the space as possible, in a hope that it will be met with the respect it warrants. We combat the problem with ill-perceived material ownership from another angle, one of utmost care and craft in the face of potential threat. Naive? Oh, sure. But it’s a value-system we whole-heartedly believe in.

We’re officially 1 week behind schedule! But we’ve known that for awhile. I hesitated to announce it too early but it has held true – which is both good and bad. Bad: 1 week behind schedule. Good: Holding steady at only 1 week behind! Our juice bottles will arrive from China the second week of May, putting our opening date later that same week… something like May 10-12ish? Originally we were aiming for May 3. But we don’t want to open without the bottles and, honestly, work-wise we’re running about a week behind in the final threads. So it looks like it will all line up – as it always does – just how it should. 🙂

More about the cafe prep in another post… I’ve got a long story to finish here about the renovation, so let’s get to it!

LAWS of our SNS?! I mean: Long + Winding Story of our Straight + Narrow Staircase! Part II.

Part I focused on acquiring the staircase railing and left you with a cliff-hanger… namely that the staircase railing didn’t fit! But, I also left you with the assurance that it ends (finally) with success. So let’s tell the rest.

First up: Fix the newal posts! The first one never really took hold… a pretty key ingredient for the piece of wood that holds up our massive railing. So it’s back to the drawing board with a better-engineered design… and (bonus!) one that takes into account the final “trim pieces” with the seasoned knowledge only acquired after a multiple year renovation.

Building the newal posts:

Then: the FINAL BAR TILES can go in place! Oh, how long we waited to set these!

Then… a trim off the stair itself… oops!


Angle grinder to the rescue!

And the entrance of the ol’ #5 board… a great find from our friend, Casey’s, barn! Fitz designed these great black painted wood receiver pieces at the top and bottom of the board – to fit our continually quirky space and its one-of-a-kind requirements. I think it worked out really well. And, later, the board is perfectly trimmed in aluminum by master in-house designer/contractor, Fitzpatrick!


All well and good, but what about the railing?!

Haha… oh… how much to tell? Where to start? Ok, as you know, the railing doesn’t fit. We need a metal worker to MAKE it fit. We don’t want to spend thousands of dollars. We must convince someone to do exactly what we want (and not 9 million other things) for a logical, affordable price.

So… we court a few professional welders – with shops – and trucks – and, typically, t-shirts/jackets with logo. Way too expensive. Way. (The railing continues to sit on the stairs).

Put ad on CraigsList. Enter — Chris. Nice enough guy. Then we gave him $660. Then he never came back. Bad guy actually. (The railing continues to sit on the stairs).

Fast-forward a year, a few calls to his ex-wife, a stop by his house to talk to him… and lots of hemming and hawing… still no refund from him buuuut that’s partly because he’s IN JAIL for 4 DUIs in 6 months… and we aren’t the only ones he’s scammed on Craig’s List… and he was obviously using the money to fuel his drinking habit… and he’s only a year older than Fitz. How do these things happen?!

Ok – so professional welders are out. Craigslist is out. (The railing continues to sit on the stairs.) Now what? Ask a friend of a friend? Ok… sure… Enter — Lorie. A friend of a friend who knows how to weld. Great! We hire Lorie to —> w-e-l-d. After about 2 weeks of circuitous conversation that went on entirely too long, involving way too many explanations of what to do (by us) to her (the “expert”) we find out she doesn’t actually have welding equipment!


So, after a few failed attempts to get welding equipment – by her and us – we sent her on her way.

Alrighty, now what? (The railing continues to sit on the stairs.)

Another Craigslist ad? Um…. ok? Your guess is as good as mine at this point! Enter —> Matt. Matt…. Matt!

“Matt, we need you to get this done in the next week.” (This is in August.)

“I have a wedding to go to next week. Can we make it 2?”

“2 weeks? Sure, no problem.” We’re laid back. We’re flexible. We’re eeeeeeasy-going.

3 – months – l-a-t-e-r…. “Matt! (It’s November). Bring me back my railing!!”

He does. It’s welded. It looks great:


Awesome additional spindles added into the railing!

We had him add the thinner pieces to jumble up your eye a bit when looking for “plumb” – straight up and down on a crazy zig zag staircase. When this gets installed, the thin pieces will be plumb – and the thick ones will be at an angle. On the original staircase, the thick pieces were straight up and down – but that was at a VERY different angle than our building (thus the last year of problems, yes?).

Great, so now we’ll paint it and you, Matt, yes you will be back next week to install it?

“Yes, Em. I will be back next week.”


Matt! We are leaving Northampton for several weeks. If you do not come now, I will go insane. So, literally, the DAY before we left Northampton for Christmas (and the ensuing family travel adventure), Matt arrives with the Library railing. We spent the entire day working on installation… some things were great, most things were pretty wrong or left undone. He didn’t finish the job as agreed upon and managed to request $50 extra. But, you know what? We had the railings. We can take it from here, professional metal worker. No problem! That’s certainly what we’re here for! Fixing other people’s mistakes! 😀

Whew! Now that the vent session is over, let me back up a bit to the pictures. First up, painting the staircase railing (after Matt dropped it off, welded, in November).

So a year does a lot to shape one’s aesthetic… and a black railing was really no longer going to cut it here. No. Now we need COLOR and lots of it!

A surprising turn in our design aesthetic but a welcome juxtaposition to the muted tones of steel and iron… now we get graphic with some bright colored spray paint to punch up the look and give it some depth.

Heavy railing —> outside you go!

Matt requested no pictures during installation, making everyone wonder why — and then promptly moving on and just being thankful he was here… with the railings. So, just imagine it, dear readers.

Now, with the railing in place the day before our trip, we had to leave the rest of the project for March. Fast-forward to 5 weeks ago… our re-entry to Amber Lane… and first on our list: finishing the railing project!

Next up, fix Matt’s (many) mistakes on the Libary railing… paint it… install it! For this one, we had to paint it in place because, once upstairs, it wasn’t coming back down. Yep, that means SPRAY paint it in our FINISHED Library. No problem. 😉

And, now, I proudly unveil our FINISHED STAIRCASE and LIBRARY RAILING SYSTEM!!



One comment

  1. Pingback: Gallery Window + An Obscene # of Weeks Later… | eliza spelled backwards

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