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April 9, 2011

 

Building has new lease on life

Businesses incubate in Cortland Corset building

By MATTHEW NOJIRI
Staff Reporter
mnojiri@cortlandstandard.news.net

When Scott Hopko moved his design business into the third-floor of the Cortland Corset Co. building about five years ago, he hoped to see other enterprising business owners join him at the 150-year-old building.
“We were the first ones in, the guinea pigs,” Hopko said.
In the last three years, a biofuels company, a fitness center, as well as yoga and photography studios and some other businesses have also moved into the Corset building at 75 E. Court St.
With ample space, proximity to Interstate 81 and affordable rent, the Corset building has become a business-incubator, Hopko said.
“It’s pretty extraordinary,” he said of the transformation of the Corset building. “To take an old building like this and have this space for businesses has been great.”
For years, the building has housed Cortland Foundations, a manufacturer of women’s undergarments. Hopko said the 42,000-square-foot building now has eight tenants, including Cortland Foundations, and is about two-thirds full.
One of the tenants in the building is GoVo Biofuels, which focuses on converting waste vegetable oil into petroleum alternatives.
The company owned by Seth Mulligan takes vegetable oil from about 50 Central New York restaurants, including Pita Gourmet, Uncle Louie’s Backyard, China City and The Study Hall. The company purifies the vegetable oil and then uses it as a replacement for petroleum.
About three years ago, Mulligan converted a boiler in the building to use vegetable oil.
The move to vegetable fuel saves between $15,000 to $20,000 a year in heating costs at the Corset Building, Mulligan said.
Mulligan said the advantage of using vegetable oil is that it reduces the amount of nitrogen emissions released into the atmosphere.
“We’re trying to advocate that we make better choices of stuff to burn so we get reduced emissions,” Mulligan said.
The Corset building uses about 20,000 gallons of vegetable oil a year, he said.
Mulligan said he’s enjoyed watching the building grow into a location for start-up companies like his own.
“When I first came in I was one of the earlier tenants,” said Mulligan, who has been at the Corset building for two and a half years. “Since that time, a few other businesses have come in and there’s been increased foot traffic to the building. It’s been great.”
Other renovations at the building including 70 greenhouse coverings on third-floor windows that reduce drafts and block out ultraviolet rays.
Mulligan credited the owners of the building, Peter Muehlbauer and John Dailey, for looking for ways to grow.
“Many people would say, ‘Oh this is an old building let it go,’” Mulligan said. “But they’re trying to be creative and grow the tenants in the building.”
Last year, the building added the Acupuncture Chiropractic Center of Cortland and Pure & Simple Yoga. The store Beads and Beyond also has a space in the building.
State Sen. Jim Seward (R-Milford) toured the Corset building Friday and said he was impressed with its growth as a business incubator.
“It’s a great place for small businesses to find space and grow,” Seward said.”There are so many pluses. It’s a tremendous asset for the Cortland business community.”
Peter Wageck, owner of Cortland Foundations, said it has been exciting to see new businesses come into the building. Wageck used to own the building with Muehlbauer and Dailey.
Roger William Theise, owner of Roger William Photography, said the Corset building was the perfect place to grow his business. He moved into the building about three years ago.
He said working across from Hopko Designs allowed for opportunities to collaborate and exchange ideas about projects.
“The space is really cool,” Theise said. “It’s unique. There’s no other photographer that’s going to have a brick loft studio in the area.”
Both Hopko and Theise said they enjoyed working in the space, with its high ceilings, brick walls, wood floors and large windows.
“An old factory can be a really hip place to hang out,” Theise said.

 

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