Globe Dye Works, the former yarn-dyeing factory turned live-work-manufacturing and design space in Frankford continues to write its own history.
The 1.7-acre, 11-building manufacturing complex at 4500 Worth Street, which dates back to 1867, was owned and operated by the Greenwood family for five generations until 2005. Globe Development Group purchased the building from the family in December 2007 and began their ambitious multi-pronged renovation dreams to convert the former workshop of the world into contemporary manufacturing spaces, offices, artist studios, and apartments. "When we first came in, it was like they hung up their coats and walked out. And that’s what really sucked us in," Charlie Abdo, one of Globe's owners, told Hidden City Philadelphia in 2012. "It was a beautiful place. There was some newer machinery but mostly vintage machines."
The owners moved steadily forward. By 2012 the building boasted 25 tenants, and in 2013, Globe Dye became one of the nine sites for the Hidden City Festival. Globe Dye Works continues its design-build-create legacy, housing several businesses including Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory, Pink’s Inks, and Irwin Art Frames, as well as several local food manufacturers such as Rival Bros. Coffee, Weckerly’s Ice Cream, and Triangle Roasters. Several area organizations, including Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partners and Community Integrated Services, also call Globe Dye home.
Birchtree Catering, a sustainable women-owned company, started as a two-person operation in 2008. After working in rental kitchens and hosting roving supper clubs, owners Allegra Derengowski and Rasa Stirbys Benefico built their commercial kitchen in Globe Dye Works in 2012. The award-winning company, which sources from small, local vendors (including Globe Dye tenant Weckerly’s Ice Cream and former tenant Cake Life Bake Shop), became Globe Dye’s exclusive caterer and unveiled the newly rehabbed event venue in December 2018.
The facility’s latest achievement? Converting the old factory boiler room into a full-fledged event venue for weddings and parties.
The renovated space hearkens to the facility’s heritage with its original brick interior and dyeing equipment, and is outfitted with new walls, bathrooms, and metal railings. An open-air courtyard will become the entrance to the space this summer.
Derengowski doesn’t just run her business at Globe — it set the foundation for her family. "Globe Dye Works has been such an important backdrop to my personal and professional life," Derengowski said.
She met her husband, a metalsmith, there. She got married there. And, when their family grew, they moved from her husband's small live-work studio into a larger space. They got to know Frankford and joined the local business association and started volunteering at the food pantry to help close the gap between their food waste and those in need in the neighborhood. Their daughter will start Pre-K at Frankford Friends School in the fall, where the family attends Quaker meetings.
On top of that, Birchtree contracts with many fellow businesses in the building. "We feel like the community that we've built inside of Globe will last a lifetime," Derengowski said. "The relationships we've formed because of Globe will have long-reaching effects.
The final piece of the Globe puzzle: Globe Dye Works applied for and received a $1 million RACP grant in 2017 to convert over 20,000 square feet of undeveloped space into additional commercial and residential studios. The development team spent the past year working on fulfilling the requirements of the grant and construction is slated to begin later this year.