There is no better view of downtown Lambertville than the view from the second floor of the 26Bridge Studio & Gallery. When Stephen and his business partner, Laura Pedrick, rented the place for their “underground” fine art photography gallery, they found the location irresistible. Their gallery’s large window hovers above the New Jersey side of the New Hope-Lambertville bridge that so famously connects the two downtowns. “Actually, Lambertville is a city, one of the smallest cities in the Garden State,” Stephen points out. He only moved here a few years ago but he seems very much embedded and a part of the Lambertville community.
Abstract & Humor
Writing about Stephen is not an easy task. He is constantly on the move developing new ideas and business projects. When I finally grab him for an interview, I notice that sitting still for few minutes is literally painful for him. Abstract, humor and constant evolvement are the leading theme in Stephen’s world. The 26Bridge Studio & Gallery is a “popup gallery” that opens for specific events, or by appointment or chance. In the morning, the space might be used by Laura for a photoshoot, in the afternoon it morphs into a setting for a lecture on photography or social media and at night, it might play host to a fun party, as the empty wine bottles on the window sill indicate.
When I asked Stephen to tell me about his business, the answer was much more intricate than I imagined it would be.
“I own Rivertown Photography, a real estate and commercial photography business. The real estate market is hot. There is a lot going on, so I have other photographers that work for me. We cover the entire state of New Jersey, LBI and Bucks County Pa. I also teach photography, here at the Gallery.”
He was born under a cactus in the Mojave Desert where his father was stationed in the Air Force. But Stephen really grew up in northern Jersey. He holds an MBA from the University of Connecticut. “I worked for giants like Exxon and Nabisco and ADP, as a Director of e business marketing & technology. I relocated to Atlanta for a couple of years and then moved back here where I started to work with small marketing agencies. I became an internet marketer, but then I started to sell software development solutions for an India based company. Out of that, I created another company “Cross Sea Partners” which is a technology sales business, where I work with development groups from around the world for high end clients in the United States.” I was having a hard time keeping up with all that he had managed to do in his life. But he kept going.
Wait a minute, there’s more?
He smiles and continues: “I’m just starting, I didn’t tell you about AMP. I came to Lambertville as a photographer, but quickly got involved with the Delaware River Towns Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau. I sat in meetings with local business owners, many of whom were struggling with their business. I thought that I could help them become more visible through social media marketing and amplify their marketing voice. With the help of a great collaborator, Melissa Elizabeth, I started a web PR and Social Media company called Amplify Your Voice. We run workshops, many of them for realtors, and work with some cool businesses from around the area. Fast forward a bit and I helped to open the 26Bridge Studio & Gallery. As an art enthusiast, I always wanted to own a gallery, though I thought it was going to be sometime in the far future. Then this cool space became available. Laura and I, we’re like the best business partners with this cosmic energy between us that feeds one other. We saw the place, realized its potential and got really excited, and we just went for it.”
And then there is the dragon boat.
Our river is such an amazing resource, and I enjoy being on it as much as possible. Usually in my yellow Kayak. As a new resident, I thought we should leverage the river to promote local business. Then the idea came to have an on-river competition. Laura Kent & Laurie McHugh, from Dragon Boat Adventures had the same idea and the New Hope vs. Lambertville Paddle Battle Dragon Boat Race was created. The dragon boat has 23 paddlers, a steerer and a leader who sits up front and keeps cadence with a bongo drum. For the race, we fill up the boats with two teams, mostly police, fire dept. and EMT personnel, plus the mayors of both towns as captains, and with the help of some amazing sponsors, we run this race on the river and raise money for charity every year. Last year we raised just under $9,000 for local charities On June 2nd (5:45pm) we will have our second Paddle Battle race – who will win? Naturally, I am pulling for Lambertville. New Hope won last year.
If you could invite anyone to participate, who would you choose to be on your boat?
George Washington! I think he would love it and I would even let him be our captain.
It gets really competitive and it is a lot of fun. We hold it on the first Friday of June. And I just finished working with New Hope Celebrates on a very cool Art Walk program.
Never a dull moment, huh?
I can’t stop. I’d go crazy if I did.”
Based on your experience as a business owner and from the work you’ve done with the Chamber of Commerce, is Lambertville a good place for businesses?
“The short answer, absolutely yes. If you own a business, and are passionate about your business, you will do well. You need to market your business, create a destination for your business, amplifying your business voice. Participate in local events, plug into the city government and chamber and work with your neighbor businesses. There is an influx of new businesses and money to New Hope and Lambertville. It’s a good sign. The towns are getting a lot of press and attention as a tourist, music, nature and art destination. Be passionate, be involved and good things will happen with your business!”
I’m still not sure I understand how you ended up in Lambertville.
Stephen pivots to the personal side of life and shares with me that he is divorced and his two daughters and son live in different locations, one in Vermont, the other two elsewhere in NJ.
“While living in Morris County New Jersey, my partner Rene and I loved coming down here. We had our first date at “The Landing” in New Hope. We came to the Shad festival in Lambertville, riding bikes on the paths and kayaked on the river. When an opportunity presented itself, we bought a house just a few blocks from the downtown area. We just love it here. Beautiful streets, great neighbors, a totally different experience with a sense of closeness with store owners, people in the community … the music and arts scene . . . it’s incredible here.
I save the toughest question for last: “So Stephen, if someone would ask you, “What are you?”, could you offer a simple answer?
“Hmm. . . I am . . .”, he ponders a bit and continues, “ I am a multifaceted, eclectic, energetic business owner . . . I wear many hats and I know that things are getting crazy sometimes, but the problem is that I take pride in all of these businesses. They are all alive and kicking and growing, so I can’t just focus on one and neglect the others. They all need my attention.”
Stephen’s Guide to Local Living
A Special Store to Visit
The People’s Store on the corner of Church and Union. It’s a consignment shop. Three floors where you can spend an entire day looking at antiques and art.
Best Place to Put In (a boat)
Start at Bulls Island about seven miles north of here and paddle downstream all the way to town. It’s a good 2-3 hour workout.
Best Spot to Take a Picture
Walk south on the canal from Lambertville Station and look for the graffiti train – an abandoned train with cool graffiti on them. Then continue on to the wing dam on the Delaware River.
Top Place to Dine
There are so many choices, however The Lambertville Station or The Landing are obvious choices.
The Lambertville House, a perfect place to eat or just have a drink right here on Bridge Street.
Must Thing to Do in Town
Visit the galleries. Give the galleries some love. Don’t be afraid to visit. It’s ok to just walk in and look.
For more information on 26Bridge Studio & Gallery: