Sometimes finding one’s destiny is as simple as placing a compass on a map and drawing a circle. That’s how printer Luke Ives Pontifell wound up moving his company, Thornwillow Press, to Newburgh, NY, a city only 55 miles north of Manhattan.
Pontifell had been looking for a place to consolidate his limited edition, custom book and stationery business, which was spread across the world in England, Florida and the Czech Republic. One day, his wife drew a one-hour radius around their home in NYC, and they set off visiting locations in Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Nothing felt quite right until, guided by the New York State Economic Development Corporation, they arrived in Newburgh and came upon a massive 19th-century warehouse that used to function as a coat factory.
Pontifell was drawn in by Newburgh’s edgy beauty and historic architecture, and thought it was the kind of place where his books and paper gifts — along with his company’s handmade ethos — would be right at home. There was also plenty of space, which is what his growing publishing enterprise needed most. There was an available complex of former factory buildings totaling 80,000 sq ft. that spanned roughly the length of two New York City blocks, with an underground tunnel connecting various buildings. Soon it became home to Thornwillow’s 32 printing presses, which churn out all manner of historic and literary volumes ranging from John Updike special editions to President Obama’s inaugural address. There was even room for Thornwillow Press to make its own paper.
In Newburgh, Pontifell also found a community of craftspersons similarly devoted to making objects of enduring quality. “It’s the glassblowers, the foundries, the artists, the furniture restorers,” Pontifill said, “all of whom have been finding a place in this immediate community a place where they can do their work and practice their craft.” His neighbor is Atlas Industries, a high-end furniture maker that migrated north from Brooklyn.
While Pontifell still lives in Manhattan, where Thornwillow has a boutique in the St. Regis hotel, the daily commute isn’t bad at all. He gets up at sunrise, gets a MetroNorth train from Grand Central to Beacon, then takes ”the same ride as in Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest.” In Beacon, he catches the ferry to Newburgh. “Every morning I’m on a boat for five minutes, which is kind of fantastic,” he said.
When it comes to Newburgh, it’s fair to call him a convert. “See it with your own eyes,” he urges. “Be taken in by the incredible opportunity that exists here.” To think it all started with a circle on a map.
To learn more about business opportunities in Newburgh, check out “The River of Opportunities – the City of Newburgh” website.