“We are intentional about cultivating a community space that embraces and celebrates the diversity, art, and enterprise of this and surrounding neighborhoods.”
The Substation is Roslindale’s new beer hall, event venue, and coworking space.
Yes, all of those things.
Laura Charles, the director of community and business development for Workhub at the Substation, explained, “We are looking forward to programming the space with unique community and arts programming, as well as other popups and entertainment during our beer hall hours on Fridays and Saturdays.”
Plus they also “operate a brewery residency program, where local breweries serve at the beer hall for four to five months.” with their “first resident brewer, Brockton Beer Company, serving on Fridays and Saturdays through July.”
Naturally, we are excited. And had many more questions, which we asked Charles …
So you’re a beer hall, a performance venue, and a workspace. But who wants to work if there is beer and music around?
I love this question. To be honest, our hope is that we have folks coming through who are interested in engaging in all of these things! But not all at once. Having witnessed previous business efforts from a restaurateur to brewers to a craft beer store, we have learned that in order for this beautiful historic building that is so central to Roslindale’s character to work in today’s economic reality, it needs multiple income streams.
So we have a three-pronged approach to our business: we operate a co-working space full-time on the lower level and during traditional business hours on the main level; we flip the main level to a beer hall that is open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays, and we also rent the space out for private events, pop-ups, community programming, and performances. Sometimes these things overlap, like an open mic night on Friday night and a weekly pop-up bookstore on Saturdays during beer service, and we even have a coworking member happy hour on Fridays before the beer hall opens to the public. For some events, we offer our coworking members discounts.
And some of our popup vendors become coworking members! Ultimately, we’re trying to keep the space activated as much as possible, in lots of unique ways, and to build community through our programming.
The lower level was built out as a coworking space in late 2019-early 2020. We were scheduled to open in March 2020, and we all know the story from there. We finally opened our original business concept, Workhub at the Substation, on the lower level in November 2020. It wasn’t until October 2021 that the main level became available to us, and we became the sole tenants of the building at that time, expanding our vision, programming, and brand as the Substation.
Tell us a little about Roslindale as you see it today and why something like this is needed.
Roslindale is an incredibly diverse community with a central “square” that has seen quite a bit of growth over the last decade. There is great potential for more nightlife and community programming here in Roslindale, to really put us on the map as a destination neighborhood. We have a comedy theater, Rozzie Square Theater, regularly scheduled live music at The Square Root and Birch Street Bistro, a fantastic brewery, Distraction, several great restaurants, and now an outdoor plaza on Birch Street.
The Substation, located right in the middle of the square, was rehabilitated in 2015 after being decommissioned in 1971 and boarded up for over 40 years. It has been begging to be activated as a community hub. With our programming, we are intentional about cultivating a community space that embraces and celebrates the diversity, art, and enterprise of this and surrounding neighborhoods. We highlight local entrepreneurs and artists, elevate racial equity, celebrate artistic expression, and provide much-needed community gathering space for our Boston community to realize their own events and visions. This, along with our co-working space, has become even more meaningful as we emerge from isolation due to the pandemic and continue to navigate shifts in how we work, socialize, and connect with our community.
You are partnering with other entities, like Brockton Beer Company. Tell us about how these relationships work.
Being a community oriented space with a mission of activating the building as much as possible by and for the community, we have to work collaboratively. We host a brewery residency program, various pop-ups, art installations from local artists, and partnerships with local arts and community organizations. Brockton Beer Company is our first resident brewery and one of the few Black-owned breweries in Massachusetts. Residencies last four to five months, and we plan to have two breweries per year.
As much as possible, we are hoping to work with brewers who are underrepresented in the industry and/or new to the Boston market to give them a space to engage with a new audience and grow their brands. We try to align pop-up vendors with our beer hall, working with partners and vendors who are looking for an engaged community like Roslindale to test their business concepts and grow their businesses.
Beyond the beer hall, we currently have established partnerships with Commonwealth Circus Center, who plans to perform at the Substation several times per year, and musiConnects, a local nonprofit music residency that uses the space for student and community performances. We donate the space quarterly to art and community organizations as well. We’ve made significant investments to the space to accommodate such programming: sound absorption panels on the ceiling, refinished floors, extensive electrical infrastructure, a thorough manual cleaning of all the interior walls and atmospheric lighting that now highlight the historical elements of the building.
What kinds of popups and entertainment do you have planned for the coming months?
This weekend is a big one – we have a full-length aerial ropes show, Gathering the Threads, on Thursday, June 2 and Sunday, June 5 at 7:30pm. The Boston Public Quartet is bringing their #notaconcert series to the Substation on Friday, June 3 at 6pm.
We of course have Brockton Beer Company serving every weekend on Fridays from 4-10pm and Saturdays from 12-10pm, and we are working to bring in more pop-ups and programming on those days, like food pop-ups, music, art vendors, and even kids programming. Rozzie Bound Co-op, a local, cooperatively owned bookstore pops up every Saturday from 9:30am-2:30pm. They host author signings and conversations nearly every weekend, and they are launching a quarterly Banned Book Club on Tuesday, June 14.
Just last Friday, we kicked off an open mic series with DJ Nomadik that will continue on the last Friday of every month, alongside the beer hall and a local food pop-up. The circus returns on July 10th, and a multi-media and classical music event, PrintWorks, will be here on August 21. We are currently working with other local breweries and community organizers to host a cross-neighborhood community racial equity training on September 10. We’re also working to schedule community programming, like yoga and dance classes. It’s ever evolving! Our events calendar is updated regularly here.
As for visual arts, we have the Substation gallery in our lower level hallway where we feature local artists for several months at a time. We recently commissioned a permanent art installation from local artist Gabriel Sosa on our back stairwell are in discussion with an artist who used to live in Roslindale about a 40-hour durational drawing to be installed on the elevator shaft of the main level. We’re not kidding when we say activating as much as possible! And all of this is only possible through collaboration and by inviting the community IN.
What is your ideal audience? Families? Adults? All of the above?
All of the above, depending on the programming. Our co-working space welcomes remote workers, freelancers, entrepreneurs, creatives, consultants, retirees – anyone looking for a space to focus, share top of the line office amenities, and even network with other professionals. The beer hall is family friendly, and our programming runs the gamut. Our ideal audience is one that is curious and engaged.
And are you also doing stuff at other venues and locations?
We’re not doing anything at other venues or locations at the moment, but our partners and co-working members sure are! We support and celebrate them as much as we can, like going to Brockton Beer’s soft opening of their own tap room last weekend.