VOL. 131 | NO. 198 | Tuesday, October 4, 2016
Carpenter St. Workshop in Binghampton Graduates First Students
By Andy Meek
On his first day on the job a couple of weeks ago, one of Clark Butcher’s newest employees at Victory Bicycle Studio built a $2,100 mountain bike in addition to assembling a $500 hybrid. Both Butcher and the employee, Donte Davis, were proud for reasons that extended beyond the top-notch set of wheels.
Donte Davis, left, a new service assistant at Victory Bicycle Studio (shown with Victory CEO Clark Butcher), is one of the first two graduates of Binghampton’s Carpenter St. Workshop, a program that opened its doors in June and teaches bike manufacturing and repair skills.
Davis and Ta Clark are the first graduates of Binghampton’s Carpenter St. Workshop, a program located on Carpenter Street across from the Carpenter Art Garden. The program – the brainchild of Butcher and Carpenter Art Garden founder Erin Harris – opened its doors in June and teaches certain vocational skills, those of bike manufacture and repair.
Their reward for successfully completing the program was paid positions at Victory for Davis, who’s working in the back of the shop, and Clark, a sales assistant who essentially shadows Butcher up front. Clark’s position includes helping greet customers and guide them toward their purchase and checking out, while Davis, a service assistant, works with Victory’s full-time mechanic and is learning everything from building bikes to adjusting and tuning them.
“Almost two years ago, the idea came about – what if, because kids had been showing a lot of interest in working on bikes – we did a community bike shop, but let’s do something different,” explained Butcher, who’s also a board member of the Carpenter Art Garden. “Let’s give these kids real equity, a real chance at a job.
“Selfishly, I need trained, quality employees, especially ones that aren’t going to move on me. So I helped write this curriculum to help deliver kids who are ready, willing and able to go to work in a bike retail setting.”
That need for quality employees got amped up when the international brand 3T Cycling chose Victory to be a repair and customer service center for 3T wheels in the U.S. Butcher needed more staff to handle the influx of service and repair jobs, something the workshop helped provide by tapping local talent from the Binghampton neighborhood.
Carpenter St. Workshop graduate Ta Clark works as a sales assistant at Victory Bicycle Studio, shadowing CEO Clark Butcher, in addition to helping greet customers and guide them toward their purchase.
Thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Plough Foundation, a home across the street from the art garden was purchased and gutted to transform into a work space.
“Since then,” Butcher said, “we hired a gentleman from Nashville to lead the curriculum as director. We started with four and culminated with two graduates who graduated in mid-August and are now official employees of Victory.”
Butcher was adamant that Clark and Davis interviewed for jobs at Victory after they finished the workshop. He wanted them to go through the process to make clear it was something they earned.
Davis, for his part, is already looking forward to what comes next. In addition to his pride at the bikes he built on his first day, he’s already anticipating being able to soon build some of “the most high-end bikes in the country.”
The program that supplied him and Clark to Victory is also rolling along. The Carpenter St. Workshop has already chosen four new Binghampton-area students to go through the new cycle of the program.
Classes began on Sept. 27.
Earlier this year as the workshop was being put together, Harris enthused about its prospects: “It’s just another way that the Carpenter Art Garden team keeps cranking out hope and opportunity.”