The space was dusty, cluttered and dark.
It was also exactly what Ariel and Phillip Parillo were looking for.
The Amsterdam couple wanted their wedding venue to have an “old industrial vibe.” They wanted high ceilings, wooden floors, big beams and a spare, simple aesthetic that would make guests exclaim “whoa!” when they walked in the door.
The unused room at the Sanford Clock Tower offered all of that.
But first it needed to be spruced up in a major way.
Even the smallest wedding can be a significant undertaking.
Now imagine fixing up your own venue - painting, sanding the floor down, cleaning - and building your own bar and benches for guests to sit on out of wood.
Photo Provided by Due West Photography
The reception area Ariel and Philip Parillo created for their Oct. 12, 2019, wedding by renovating an unused room at the Sanford Clock Tower in Amsterdam.
That’s what the Parillos did in the months leading up to their big day last October - a labor of love detailed in a photo essay posted last week on the website Medium, titled “We Renovated An Old Carpet Mill for Our Wedding.”
The widely shared piece caught my eye, and made me interested in learning more about the couple who selected the hulking, six-story, brick-and-glass building that overlooks downtown Amsterdam for their nuptials.
“It was more than a wedding for us,” Ariel Parillo told me, when I met with the couple on the porch of their Locust Avenue home. “It was a celebration of our family, friends and our community.”
Their goal, the Parillos said, was to use their wedding to showcase Amsterdam’s potential by participating in the city’s renewal and reinvention.
“The renovation leading up to the wedding was an ambitious undertaking,” Ariel Parillo wrote, in her essay on Medium. “But we were determined to build something that gave others the confidence to create something in Amsterdam.”
Ariel and Phillip both grew up in Amsterdam. Ariel, 28, serves as creative director for Mohawk, the paper company in Cohoes. Phillip, 35, is a health education teacher at the high school he once attended.
Located just down the road from the Parillos house, the Sanford Clock Tower has an interesting history.
It was built in 1922 as a factory for carpet tycoon Stephen Sanford. In the 1970s and 1980s it served as headquarters for Coleco, the toy company that made Cabbage Patch Kids dolls and the ColecoVision video game console.
In 2001, entrepreneurs Brett McCarthy and Terry Barker acquired the Sanford Clock Tower, and the building now provides loft-style office space to a variety of tenants, including the wireless company GIANT Solutions and the game shop Prof. Bond’s Emporium.
The Parillos had hoped to be able to get friends and family together to look at their wedding video and photographs.
But COVID-19 put a damper on those plans. Hence, the post on Medium, which highlights the work that went into getting the space ready for the wedding and the event itself.
“My dad and I were in (the Sanford Clock Tower) five days a week the whole summer,” Phillip Parillo recalled. “We were still working the week before the wedding. … It was more work than I thought it would be. But it was worth it.”
“Change has to happen now,” Ariel Parillo told me. “We hope that what we put out there can spark something else to happen in Amsterdam.”
I hope so, too.
Too often, old industrial cities are depicted as ugly, decaying places.
The Parillo's wedding shows that there’s another side to the story - that there’s beauty, charm and character in these oft-neglected spaces. Hopefully more people will come to see this hidden potential, and transform it into something unique and timeless.
Reach Sara Foss at [email protected] Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper's.