I first came to 47 Maple Street in 1995, two years after I graduated from the University of Vermont, and a month after JDK Design moved in to the building now called The Karma Bird House. At the time, only the top floor was completely built out, and the rest was extremely rough warehouse space. It took Michael and Giovanna Jager’s vision, will power, and years of hard work to finish the space.
The building at 47 Maple Street has always asserted itself –a prohibition era warehouse built in the grittier days of the Burlington Waterfront, there were still bullet holes in some of the windows, and a massive safe on the first floor that had to be cracked after someone forgot the combination along the way. For years after renovation, small chunks of roofing mortar rained down on heads and keyboards on windy days. Legend has it that one end of the building is a full six feet lower than the other. These rolling floorboards provided the perfect place to test the first Segway, which in 1999 JDK designers were working on under literal veils of secrecy set up around their workstations.
Over the years, the building has been home to a full service photo studio and darkroom, a wooden halfpipe in the basement (watch your heads kids!), the Maglianero Cafe, and more recently, Solidarity of Unbridled Labour, a new incarnation of JDK design. The Iskra Print Collective emerged as a community resource making artists of all who pass through her doors, and printing thousands of posters for acts from Elliott Smith to Wu-tang Clan to St. Vincent. Musicians like these played on stereos and live performances throughout the building. Fine artists like Gerrit Gollner, Spencer Tunick, Michael Oatman, and Ed Mayer (my father) exhibited work in the first floor gallery, and the gallery continues to show up-and-coming artists from the community and beyond.
Legends in the fields of design, music, fashion, sports and business have come to 47 Maple Street to work, play, and create. These include Ben and Jerry, the guys from Phish, Tony Alva, Shaun White (when he was just 10 years old). And New York designer Rachel Comey, who started her first fashion business (an underwear line) while working at JDK.
47 Maple Street is where I began my career in brand design. When I flew on my many business trips over the years it was the place that sent me off and welcomed me home, as I searched the Burlington waterfront for the familiar landmark of our conference room crowsnest from the air. Over the past 20 years it is here where I have spent the majority of my time when I’m not with my husband and children. Here is where I’ve had career successes and failures, met friends and boyfriends (lost boyfriends, but kept the boyfriend’s dog).
And it is here at 47 Maple Street, the place of all this good karma, that Mamava was lovingly incubated and hatched, where we created a brand new category, and where we draped “boob buntings” on the windows in celebration. But now Mamava has outgrown our offices in this remarkable building, with its even more remarkable people, and we will be moving to a new roost. Leaving the nest is bittersweet, but it is comforting to know that the Karma Bird House will be just a block away. Thank you to Giovanna and Michael for everything. See you soon for coffee and collaborations. Our new address is 180 Battery Street, Ste. 210, Burlington, VT 05401.