How can a radio station in Seattle inspire a Belgian entrepreneur to open a restaurant, coffee bar and record shop all in one? When Quinten Cormenier navigated his car on the streets of this Pacific northwest city in the United States during a recent road trip, he was surprised to hear a KEXP jingle on his radio receiver. He had been avidly listening to this alternative rock radio station through the internet for years, but never registered where it was actually located. The next day Quinten visited the studio, which appeared to be part of a larger gathering space where one can order a coffee, study, buy record or just relax. Not much later the idea for The Manufactory was born.
The venue is located just around the corner of the Vrijdagmarkt in Ghent. A carrier bike with The Manufactory logo painted on reveals its baseline: “record bar / maker shop”. At the entrance a small booth built into the wall with a turntable and a selection of Belgian vinyl records welcomes visitors. The booth feels like a small private space, immersing those who enter fully into the music and record cover art. The bar area is wide and leads to a shop in the back, where ceramics, textiles, wearables, design articles and artworks are sold. This maker shop is the brainchild of Quinten’s girlfriend Joke Vandenabeele and third associate Evelien Vervecken. The three of them found common grounds in their appreciation for local products and creativity, whether it’s music or artworks and design. Quinten explains what drives them: “we strive to become a trigger for people to discover new talents and qualitative ideas. This is also the philosophy of our restaurant and bar where we mostly work with local suppliers.”
The idea for The Manufactory appears to have many layers and a long-term vision. Similar to the KEXP radio studios in Seattle, the gathering space philosophy is key. Quick lunches are possible, but it should be even more attractive to stay a bit longer or visit The Manufactory for a wide range of activities. It’s all about taking initiative and thinking out of the box for Quinten: “in the near future we’ll open ateliers and rehearsals spaces, we have a huge space in the back of the building reserved for it. Next to this we are a co-working space and we stay open until 20h to also be able to function as an after-working space with a beer or a glass of wine. And most importantly we believe in discovery and curation for open minded people. We organise several events such as listening and debate sessions, video screenings and radio recordings in collaboration with Urgent.fm to create a community and an open house.”
Curation and discovery are indeed very present in The Manufactory. On every table copies of music magazine “33-45” are to be consulted, another creative project developed by Quinten. Or what about a few small wooden crates with index cards on the counter. Every card presents a song in a dedicated playlist, “Happily In Love” for example, that is played through the speakers of the venue and has a Spotify code to scan on your phone. It’s all about small triggers, as Quinten calls it: “we are still a bar and want people to have a relaxing time, so we don’t want to constantly attack them with thrills. That’s why the music played in the bar is very carefully selected. Before noon we only stream full albums, the latest Balthazar for example has been played today. Every Friday we play all the new releases of the week. In the afternoon we play a more dynamic selection of tracks. Every track has been tossed and turned for you to enjoy.”
Words & pictures: Koen Galle