GOSHEN — Unquestionably, the well-tempered combination of an Octoberfest atmosphere and unusually warm weather made First Fridays Homecoming feel like one last summer block party as Goshen’s streets swarmed even as the autumn sky over the Maple City beckoned poetically.
Many visited The Local, the former Jaxson Cleaners building at 211 S. Fifth St., which over the past five months has been converted into spaces for local craftsmen and artisans. Jesse Stoltzfus, an electrician and a maker of Blue Dog Light Craft custom canoes, was on hand to meet and greet as his blue Australian cattle dog kept new friends occupied by constantly retrieving a tennis ball with the skills of a major league shortstop.
Stoltzfus said that The Local “has about five or six core artists” who helped start the venture.
“The collaboration came out of a Wednesday morning meet-up of entrepreneurs and people that want to get together to exchange ideas and talk about business and what they’re trying to do, and then see if they can collaborate. Eric Kanagy, who is the building manager and owner of Red Post, really got it going and gave us all kind of the idea, and we just kind of ran with it,” said Stoltzfus.
Stoltzfus is passionate about the canoes he builds, which are “based on old Eskimo designs,” he said. “The Inuit and northern climes would have covered these boats with skin. Unfortunately in southern climates the skins rot, so I use nylon. It’s called skin on frame, and the boat is essentially lashed together. There are very few screws and glue used in the production of the boat.”
Several home brewers were set up outside The Local offering samples of their latest brews. Meanwhile, members of Heartland Country Cloggers of Northern Indiana brought the spirit of Appalachia to the fore.
Jeff Thomas and Gary Stieglitz have become friends through Gary’s wife, who Thomas works with, and have undertaken a home brewing venture together. “We started talking one evening, and Gary had been making wines for quite awhile, and had decided to start making some beer, so I had been making beer for about five years, and we decided to hook up” and form the Thomas-Stieglitz Brewing Co. “It was mutual interest, and we just struck it off from there, and as my wife said, ‘when are you going to get over this bromance’,” said Thomas.