Follow up: Takk House

Takk House Heidi Benjamin and Frank Sicari

Heidi Benjamin and Frank Sicari

By Lauren Hittinger Hodgson

AOA is on summer break this week. So we'll have new follow-ups this week with people we've covered during the last few years.

Today we're revisiting Takk House, a wedding and event space in downtown Troy. When I first spoke with owners Heidi Benjamin and Frank Sicari, they were just getting started with the building, which many remember as a former Knights of Columbus building. In the last two years, they have put in countless hours renovating the building and have begun to host weddings, performances, and other events.

As Benjamin told me back at the beginning:

Funny story is that when we were looking up at the space a random person just announced to us in passing that it was 'the most beautiful building in all of Troy.' We both looked at each other puzzled and thought...this?
It wasn't until the showing that we completely fell head over heels in love with 55 3rd St. From the outside the space looks a bit rough due to the facade deteriorating. We never in a million years would have thought the inside would be so magnificent. It is like a hidden treasure. I think that is the best part of all.

I caught up with Benjamin and Sicari to see what it's been like to run Takk House, and got the word on their next business venture.

The last time I was here was before you hosted any events. What's been going on with Takk House since then?

Benjamin: How long have we been open?

Sicari: This is our second season. We're in our third year.

Benjamin: We're in our third year, so we've had two seasons. We have hosted probably like 40-45 weddings or something like that.

Sicari: Well, by the end of the season we'll be there, right now we're at more like 30. At the end of this year we'll be close to 40-45.

Benjamin: And then we've had like 10 of our own events.

Sicari: We had the Adult Prom, we had the Tacos at Takk House, we had...

Benjamin: Knotted -- two years of Knotted. We came up with our own Valentine's Day event that we do every year. We have Knotted, which is our wedding show. We started the Collar City Fall Ball, which we're going to do every year.

Sicari: That's the Adult Prom.

Takk House 2016-June ballroom

Benjamin: What else did we do? We did all the Albany Distilling Co. things, which they are no longer here. But we did that for a whole year. Now, they, with the whole Death Wish Coffee thing, they were like, 'We don't have time for you' (laughs). It was a mutual choice, actually.

We did the steampunk after party last year with Rasputina. We've done some concerts, I don't know, we've done like a million things.

Since you've been officially open, what have you learned?

Benjamin: There are some things that we can't say that we've learned. Although I kinda want to say them anyway.

I think, like, we've just learned that it's a lot of work, I mean we knew it was going to be a lot of work, but it's a lot of work. We've learned that we basically have to be OK with waking up at 6 am in the morning and not going to bed until 3 am. That needs to be a thing that's OK when we have events. We've also learned that exposure is not real money.

Sicari: We wanted to be this place where people come in and do whatever they wanted.

Benjamin: For everyone. But we've also learned that we need to stay alive, and that sometimes we have to turn away things because, you know...

Sicari: We have bills to pay. We can't just be everything for everybody.

Benjamin: I think the biggest thing is, like, we fell into that exposure thing a couple of times -- "Yeah, totally, we'll all work together, we get that you have no money," and then it's just not worth it at all.

What else have we learned... I think we knew a lot about weddings before, so we didn't learn anything about weddings.

Have you learned anything about repairing a historic building?

Benjamin: Yeah, we've definitely watched a lot of YouTube videos. We've had some incidents where we thought we knew what we were doing and we didn't. We exploded a toilet, lots of things we've hung up have fell down, we've had windows fall out. We had a major flood in our upstairs gym because I forgot to close the window during a rain storm.

Takk House 2016-June pre-wedding space

What has surprised you, either with running Takk House, or with the people that you work with?

Benjamin: Weddings in general are usually this stressful, crazy time. Everyone is very emotional, and sometimes that's good, sometimes that's bad. All the weddings we've booked here have been so great; the people are amazing. I don't know. We're somehow finding this small niche of people that are just, like, really kind and respectful.

Sicari: We've become friends with pretty much all of them, too.

Benjamin: They've been really great to work with and really nice to our space. They've been super respectful, so I think we've been really lucky in that. And the community has been really great too.

Sicari: Yeah, I don't think that was a surprise, we kinda expected it, we knew Troy was very close knit.

Benjamin: I think it's surprising, though, that so far, if we're saying we're about to hit 40-45 weddings, that I'd say 98 percent of them were a perfect match and we all jived together really well and we became friends with them -- that's really surprising. And we're still at a point where everyone is important, which is, not that it's surprising; we're at a point where we still remember everyone's names. Because opening a business like this where you kinda just pump people through, it could get, I don't know, you could get all kinds of people.

What's frustrated you about owning and operating Takk House?

Benjamin: What's frustrated you? I'll let you answer this one.

Sicari: Thanks.

Benjamin: The building is frustrating at times.

Sicari: Yeah, the amount of work that just falls on the two of us can be frustrating...

Benjamin: Or that people don't realize that it's just the two of us, can be frustrating. I think people sometimes think that a cleanup crew is coming, or that...

Sicari: Or that we can meet them the next day at whatever time they want is good for them, and it's like, we have two dogs and two day jobs still.

Benjamin: The demand of it all can be frustrating at times. I think it's mostly because it's just the two of us currently. If we had a staff it wouldn't be a problem.

Sicari: It's definitely a lot for two people.

Especially two people who are doing other jobs.

Sicari: It's a lot of juggling.

Benjamin: The juggling is very frustrating. What else... The city has been pretty cool.

Sicari: Losing stuff in this big building

Where did I put my keys?

Benjamin: Or like, why don't we have eight hammers? Because the one that's in the toolbox is all the way down stairs and I need one up here. There's definitely other things that are frustrating, we complain all the time.

What's something that's felt like a win? Where you were like "Yes!"

Benjamin: I haven't felt that in a little while. Like the downstairs renovations.

Sicari: I feel like every event we have...

Benjamin: At the *end* of every event, we feel pretty awesome...

Sicari: Even during the event, guaranteed at least 10 to 15 people per event come up to me and say, 'This building is amazing, it's so beautiful, how can you guys do this.' Wnd they compliment us up and down, and it always feels really good. Every single event, no matter what, be it a wedding, or whether it be the...

Benjamin: I think just getting the building exposed to the public in some way is a win, because so many people have never been in here. Or just I guess also bringing on this concept is a win, because we don't really have it in a lot of places in the area, people come here and they're like, 'What do you do? So people just rent this space and bring in what they want?'

So I think it's a win for the area, to bring something that exists other places and is successful. Getting people out of that traditional thinking is kind of like a win too. And just being able to host all of these events that we think of from the ground up and do all of the marketing and coordinating, and day-of coordinating and stuff, for those to go really well always feels amazing.

Takk House 2016-June future site of franklin alley social club

What's next for you guys?

Benjamin: Franklin Alley Social Club!

For people that might have missed it, do you want to give a two-second spiel about that?

Sicari: It's going to be a very cool speakeasy feel, not bar... there is going to be a bar, but it's going to be a gathering space for families during the day, and at night a lot of adults can go and, we're hoping to get a lot of RPI kids. We'll have two duck pin bowling lanes, a bocce court, awesome comfort food, and good beer, good cocktails, and a bunch of arcade games.

It'll be a cool hangout spot, something that people can go and like actually do something and not just say, 'Hey, do you want to go to a bar?' Not that that's bad, because I do that all the time but, you know, something different.

Are you guys doing to repair the lanes so they're automatic?

Sicari: Yeah.

Benjamin: We're not doing it [ourselves]. We'll pull up the lanes we're not using, and we're going to cut them up and build furniture with them for the bowling alley space. We're doing a lot of the work ourselves. We have some neighboring business that want to help us because they're super excited about the project. The lanes, the first two lanes are what are going to become duck pin. I think they're just going to use the wood that's there and apply another surface to it or something. The other two, we're pulling up, because one is becoming bocce and one is becoming lounge seating, and I think we're actually going to build the bar with the bowling alley. It's a boutique bar-cade, pretty much. I don't know how else to explain it.

Takk House 2016-June man cave

Sicari: Dave & Busters without all the corporate ties.

Benjamin: Our biggest focus is on the visual aspect of everything, so it's not really going to be like a dive bar. It's in our basement, but we don't want it to be a dive bar, we want it to be like really retro and different and really just aesthetically stimulating I guess.

It's open to the public, the entrance is going to be through the alley in the back, which is kinda fun because there's not a lot of businesses that have anything like that. We don't know our hours yet.

When is the projected opening?

Benjamin: We're hoping winter, so either like December, which is really soon, or like January-ish. I don't really feel like there's that much to do. We're utilizing what is already there, we're utilizing the bathrooms that are there, we're just updating them. There's already a room that's built out, that we're just going to put a bar in, but there's a room that is already there for the bar.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.
____

Lauren Hittinger Hodgson is a freelance writer and contributor to AOA. She lives in Troy with her husband, baby, and dozen almost-dead houseplants.

More follow-ups:
+ Follow up: Nibble Inc
+ Follow up: Lark + Lily

Find It

Takk House
55 3rd St
Troy, NY 12180

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Awesome work Frank and Heidi!

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