The Gear Factory Syracuse

About The Gear Factory

Copy of Brown Lipe building new big picture.jpg

“I want to live in a place where people are outside, walking around, everywhere – all these people doing random stuff they’re super excited about. Just being in that type of place – you can’t help but want to do something yourself. People change a lot, but it’s rarely because something really good happens. It’s usually because something really bad happens. They need that energy to get moving. But then there’s this other place – when you go to an incredible music event, an art show – and you just want to go home and do something, make something. Instead of visiting that place – imagine living in that place. That’s where I want to be.” – Rick Destito

That’s what The Gear Factory is meant to be.

Envisioned by Rick Destito, originally from Sherrill, NY, The Gear Factory is meant to combine the creativity of artistic cities like Charleston, SC and Nashville, TN with the quality and reasonable cost of living of Central New York. While other cities are tied to pre-established art communities, Syracuse has the luxury of being up-and-coming, rife with bubbling opportunity and a wide horizon open to the progressive minds willing to grab hold.

“One thing about places like Nashville and Charleston is they’re very done up,” Destito says. “It’s somebody’s thing and you’re entering into it. Although it’s great and they’re really awesome places, it’s also really expensive…I realized I really love it up here {in Syracuse} and I haven’t complained about the weather since. I came back here with the intention of making CNY how so many of us want it to be. People think they have to wait for it. They don’t.”

Rick Destito, Owner


Destito grew up in the restaurant business, one traditional in his family since 1908. He was raised with the mindset that if there is a problem, “you don’t try to fix it,” he says. “You have to fix it.”

It’s with that mentality that Destito learned every facet of the family business and went on to study construction management at SUNY Canton, graduating in 1998, before leaving the northeast for three years.

Destito traveled extensively: South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Colorado and beyond. He got temporary jobs from place to place, realizing he was studying each, learning what he loved and didn’t love about every city, most of all from the people themselves.

“I did door to door magazine sales,” he says. “It was the best job because I got to go to every house and learn about the community from the community. I also learned how to deal with rejection and that you can’t sell something you don’t believe in.”

Destito carried those lessons back with him to CNY in 2001. He worked to renovate and rent living spaces in the area and in 2002 he set his sights on The Gear Factory. In 2005, a 27-year-old Destito bought the 60,000 sq. ft. building for $144,000.

Musicians and artists moved in, events took place and Destito remembers fondly walking up the back staircase, listening to the music morph as he rose and descended. Goth, pop and rock would fill the air and artists would fill the rooms. Destito estimates about 70 people actively used the building.

In 2008, Destito also took on another project, buying a Victorian house built in 1876 at 721 Otisco St. for $1. The house would take two years and $60,000 in renovation costs to transform it into something livable for he and his family.

But just around the time of completion of his house (and the birth of his second daughter), the fire department visited the Gear Factory and deemed it not in compliance with code. The building was shut down for several months while Destito worked to get it into acceptable shape.

“Giving up wasn’t an option,” he says of the obstacle. “When I was a teenager, my mom had cancer. She was in and out of the hospital for three years. That’s a problem. That’s a real problem. Dying is a real problem. Being sick is a real problem. There are lots of things that are real problems. The best thing you can hope for in life is that you have good problems. The building shutting down – yea, that sucks, but it’s not a bad problem considering all the other problems I could have.”

Since 2010, artists and musicians have filtered back into the building, inhabiting various parts of the space. But the work is far from done. In fact, it’s only beginning.

Plans for the Factory include converting the basement into 18 studios of various sizes to accommodate bands, both local and traveling, depending on size and budget. Stairwells will be renovated, windows will re-inhabit the their now-cemented holes and upper floor areas will be transformed into different types of workspaces, some shared and some private. Destito hopes he’ll also be able to create group working environments where artists can share equipment, leveling costs for everyone.

“Having a smaller space, that’s good for 90% of the stuff you want to do,” he explains. “But that extra 10%, those extras pieces of equipment…people who come out of school are used to having those $10,000 pieces of equipment at their fingertips. We need more community spaces where those pieces can be shared.”

The other benefit to these shared work environments is the gathering of creative minds that otherwise might not meet.

“People having to work around each other and deal with each other and interact with each other, that’s what makes a place vibrant,” he says. “I think, how can I help people use the building? And I hate the word help – it’s not charity. It’s working together with people. How can I add value to you being here? I want people to walk around, photographers to use their building as their backdrop. Whatever you want – go have at it.”

The space grows daily and Destito notes that he’s never had to search for renters. “I’ve never had a problem getting tenants,” he says. It speaks to the hunger of the area, one of youthful, energetic, creative people looking for a home – ready for a home. It’s the Gear Factory’s goal to welcome them in.

-Jess Novak