Sitting on 10.4 acres of Metacom Avenue in Warren is a sprawling industrial brick building, built in 1899, known as Parker Mills. Back in its heyday as a textile mill, it employed more than 250 people and boasted more than 500 looms. It was one of many manufacturing mills in this cozy coastal community, which attracted workers from near and far both during and after the Civil War era. It operated successfully until 1968, when the 240,000-square-foot facility became home to Carol Cable, a leading manufacturer of booster (jumper) cables. From 1990 to 1995, it was used as a warehouse, and in most recent times, was best known as home to Display World, until the company shut down in 2006.
Enter Peter King, president and CEO of WaterRower, a company that manufactures high-quality water rowing machines. King saw the potential and life still left within Parker Mills’ historic walls.
Originally, he thought the space would be ideal for warehouse and factory expansion, but since purchasing the mill and a handful of other large-scale commercial buildings in town, he was impressed by the trajectory of business growth in Warren and began to think bigger.
Today, Parker Mills is home to more than 10 tenants, including Just Dance!, a dance and fitness studio; Unimed, a laboratory supplier; American Echotech, makers of air pollution monitoring systems; and Atlantic Aquaculture, manufacturer and distributor of custom aquaculture farming equipment. There’s 426 Fitness, a 30,000-square-foot health and fitness facility, which King plans to grow with the addition of a spin studio, dance space, racquet courts, and yoga studio, and McKenzie Gibson Studios, where artist and designer McKenzie Gibson (perhaps best known for competing on season two of HGTV’s Ellen’s Design Challenge) commands a full-service woodshop and metal shop. King hopes to add what he describes as “incubator” spaces in manufacturing, design, and research; communal office workspaces and child development and daycare services; plus dedicated workshop space for more local independent artists to have a collaborative place and gallery area.
For King, an Australian native who now calls the Touisset section of Warren home, investing in Warren is investing in the future: “It’s going to be quite a transformation.”