Gavin DiRusso had a few challenges before opening Warehouse on Watts (WOW), “a grassroots events space” in North Philadelphia. Initially, he had purchased the space in late September of 2013 for its garage so that he could develop and work on his own projects. The purchase was made around the time that the city switched over their real estate tax methods. It took over a year and a half before getting things up to code.
“We’ve obviously had challenges, but for the most part I’ve been trying to keep things as organic as possible,” DiRusso said. Once DiRusso was able to get WOW operational, he opened up a few spaces for tenants which helped him get some consistent income so that he could invest it back into the space. WOW had started experiencing some success, until the city’s Licensing and Inspections noted that there were a few violations that needed to be addressed and all of DiRusso’s tenants were made to evacuate the building until all requirements had been met.
Luckily, DiRusso had a great community and a group of friends that rallied behind him. “They created a Gofundme for the space. We raised over, like $12,000 or $10,000, and that really opened up my eyes to the fact that people really need a space, like this, that’s not a club or a party venue,” DiRusso said. “It’s somewhere that we could gather as a community and offer different things that you might not find anywhere else.”
Dominique “Peak” Johnson is a North Philadelphia journalist. He is one of the founding editors and writers of the North Philly Metropolis. Currently he freelances for WHYY, Billy Penn and Citywide Stories. Click here to learn more about Peak.