DANSVILLE — We can chase our dreams, but always remember that home is waiting around the bend.
Dansville-native Jeff Swift said he wants to inspire the young people of his hometown to follow their dreams. Swift would love to be a mentor to them, and follow in the footsteps of those who got him where he is today.
“I just wanted to be seen as fit to carry the hammers of my grandfather and father ... let alone swing them,” he said. “They are very proud of me and that heritage they passed on. I know that is true.”
Swift went to Western State Colorado University in 1998 and returned to New York in 2000 on Scholarship to finish his Bachelor's degree in fine arts / sculpture at Alfred University School of Ceramics in 2003. Before leaving he purchased the old West Sparta School House from the Muchlers.
“Upon acquiring the schoolhouse in around 2002 I used the space mostly at that time for recreational and sculpture storage. In 2007 we did a renovation on the space to turn it into a suitable Casting facility and for metal working elusively and used it to cast primarily my own work and work for other sculptor friends, so it was not a business at that time,” Swift said. “In 2011 I continued the renovation and moved into the space as my now primary studio space for the (Swift Custom Metal) business.”
After he graduated he traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico to work for Shidoni Foundry. Swift also worked for highly respected business in his field such as Kern Rockenfield in Brooklyn and Les Metalier Companouis in New York City. That business is originally out of France.
Swift purchased 137 Main Street around the same time he created Swift Custom Metal. He turned the second floor into an apartment. Although he used Main Street Grants to help out with the process he did a lot of the work himself. Swift custom made much of what you see in his apartment.
“I think it is beautiful. It was a long time in the making,” Swift said. “I bought it about five years ago. I started doing renovations a little at a time, but got some help with grants. I sold my house on Park Avenue and moved into this apartment in October.”
Swift moved back to his hometown about six years ago to establish his business, and be back with family.
“There is a lot of opportunity here and things are affordable,” he said. “My story represents a change in young people. I am embracing the small town lifestyle. I brought my business home. You can do anything in life if you have goals.”
Swift enjoyed the hustle of the big city, and created his own flow there. However, the quiet hum of home was always in the back of his mind.
“I am pumped when I go to the city,” he said. “This was not about making money. I wanted to come home. I would have worked at McDonalds.”
Swift created a showcase of his custom metalwork in his apartment, while restoring a historic building on Main Street.
“When I was a kid I loved to build things and be creative,” he said. “I did woodwork when I was a teenager. When I went to college I decided to focus on metalwork. I had a great mentor who helped me switch into metal fabrication.”
Swift's work in New York City was like something ripped right out of a movie. He did work for extremely wealthy people.
There is something beautiful about finding success in the world, and coming back to your roots to share it with those you missed along the way.
Alton and Alice Muchler grew up in the West Sparta area, went to that one-room schoolhouse, got married, and kept that place alive. Swift had to make a promise to keep the schoolhouse
“For the first 10 years I would do woodwork there,” Swift said. “It was built in 1841, so we are talking before the Civil War. I wanted a place to go to get for us metal workers who wanted to get out of the city for the weekend.”
Swift loved the look of the Main Street building with its decaying plaster. He had it pinned in place and painted over to keep the masculine look of it.
“It shows the age and masculine feel of it,” he said. “The cracks still show through, and I love the beauty found in the imperfections. You have to build around it. The place has a soul.”
The Hair Place is leasing the place downstairs and has done a marvelous job with it. Swift is very pleased with what she is doing.
Back in the 1800s it was New York Power and Light that would become NYSEG. It was a Feed and Hardware store, Pharmacy, Beauty Salon, and Tv Repair Shop. This building has a rich history.
Swift said Dansville has come a long way, and it is good to see history being restored and Main Street coming back to life.
Swift Custom Metal can be found on Instagram to check out the kinds of things they make and be contacted by email email@example.com or phone 585-739-2098.