Center Line Studios receives Phoenix Award

Founded in 1986 by Shelley and Roger Gray, Center Line Studios of New Windsor builds scenery for Broadway shows, opera, and television. Each year, the NYS Small Business Development Center (SBDC) network honors with the Phoenix Award entrepreneurs who rise from the ashes and survive catastrophic events. Shelley and Roger Gray were the honorees during the network’s 2013 Annual Staff Training Event recently held in Niagara Falls.

After 9/11, the scenery building industry went into a recession. Center Line Studios downsized the building they were renting in Cornwall to a smaller location. They were limited by physical space constraints and were unable to accept projects which would enable the company to grow. In March 2011, they purchased a large building. Vacant for many years, it needed substantial renovation and roof repair.

Center Line Studios spent the summer cleaning and doing construction. In August 2011, Hurricane Irene flooded the creek surrounding the new building and redirected its path, through the building, substantially delaying their move.

In January 2012, their small shop was involved in the massive, seven-alarm Mill Street Fire. In order to maintain business, they moved the business office to their dining room table. The shop continued to function both in a sublet shop and in a small area of the damaged shop which was salvageable.

In February 2012, Shelley and Roger met with Mid-Hudson SBDC adviser Myriam Bouchard with the goal of securing a loan to finish the renovations. A few months later, they moved the office out of their living room, and the shop out of the burned facility into their new headquarters located on Forge Hill Road in New Windsor. This was funded with a short-term loan from Fred Mills of Walden Savings, who, seeing the need, came forward to help facilitate the move.

The entire community has rallied to make this dream come true. Central Hudson gave a grant for increasing jobs in the community. The Town of New Windsor has helped Shelley and Roger navigate through each stage of the renovation making them feel welcomed in the town. April Volk from Key Bank carefully crafted the SBA 504 construction loan along with Tom McHale from the NYBDC. Marge LaPerle from the Orange County Partnership helped Center Line apply for the IDA Pilot Program.

These events highlight how the company has risen from the ashes: first from the recession, then from a flood, and finally, from a fire. Shelley and Roger Gray are the embodiment of the American entrepreneurship, for their relentless determination and sheer resilience to adversity. They have never surrendered to defeat, fighting their way through a recession and two major disasters. For these many reasons and more, they received the Phoenix Award 2013.
The Mid-Hudson Small Business Development Center offer no-cost professional and confidential business counseling for new or existing businesses and is hosted by SUNY Ulster.