Looking for unique, memorable gifts for the holiday season? Well, this Sunday, our walking tour of the Brooklyn Army Terminal will feature a special visit to one of the facility’s largest tenants, online retailer UncommonGoods, which develops, sells, and ships fantastically creative, one-of-a-kind items from their headquarters in Sunset Park.
While most of our tours of the Terminal explore the waterfront and common areas of the facility, like the iconic atrium, this tour will give visitors a behind-the-scenes look inside one of the working spaces. Not only will we see how the stark warehouse spaces have been built out into modern offices and production lines, we will also learn about some of the products UncommonGoods sells, and how the company greatly expands during the busy holiday season, ramping up their workforce five-fold during the fourth quarter.
UncommonGoods specializes in selling unique, artistic, ethically-produced gifts, and they currently work with a roster of more than 450 artists to develop and sell about 2,000 different items. And their catalog is always changing – not only are they constantly scouring craft fairs and galleries across the country to find new items, but they also hold design competitions and work with artists directly to provide them with funding and technical assistance to help them ramp up their production and grow their own businesses.
Founded in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1999, UncommonGoods has called the Brooklyn Army Terminal home since 2006. The facility houses not only their warehouse, but also their headquarters, customer service, packaging, product development, and all other departments – it’s a one-stop shop for this growing company. Keeping everything under one roof, and keeping jobs in New York City, fits in well with the company’s overall mission to be a responsible, ethically-run business that cares not only about the bottom line, but its impact on employees, the environment, and society. That is why UncommonGoods is a pioneering member of B-Corporation, a non-profit organization that certifies for-profit businesses based on these impacts (read more about B-Corps here).
This ethic permeates every sector of their businesses. While they employ roughly 150 people for most of the year, this will often swell to more than 700 during the holiday season. And UncommonGoods is committed to providing everyone, event temporary workers, with a decent wage, paying the lowest-paid worker at least 66% above minimum wage. Not every item you purchase from them necessarily ships out of their Brooklyn base; when possible, UncommonGoods will ship directly from the producer, simplifying shipping and helping to reduce that item’s carbon footprint.
We have already gotten a jump on our holiday shopping this year by turning to the UncommonGoods catalog. One item we could not resist was their “Aquafarm,” a desktop version of an aquaponics farm. This three-gallon aquarium will be perfect for our three small fish, and their, ahem, waste fertilizes a small garden on top in a closed-loop, symbiotic ecosystem (you can see a full-scale commercial aquaponics farm at Oko Farms in East Williamsburg, which produces items like tilapia and basil for local restaurants and is featured on our Immigrant Foodways Tour). For our many math-obsessed friends, the Pi bottle opener will be hard to resist, and I don’t know a kid who wouldn’t love an anatomically-correct plush stomach or prostate to cuddle up with.
We look forward to sharing more of UncommonGoods’ story and exploring their space at the Brooklyn Army Terminal on our upcoming tour. We hope that when making your purchases this holiday season, you will consider this great Brooklyn-based business.
Turnstile Tours offers two-hour walking tours of the Brooklyn Army Terminal on select weekend days. These tours explore the past and present of the site, from its design by famed architect Cass Gilbert and its five decades of service to the Armed Forces, to its transformation into a thriving industrial park and the many innovative companies that today call the Army Terminal Home. This special tour with UncommonGoods will be offered Sunday, November 24 at 11am – please visit our tour page for information and to purchase tickets. All tours are offered in partnership with the Brooklyn Army Terminal and the New York City Economic Development Corporation.