Shortly after Nic Esposito moved to Kensington to live with his girlfriend (now wife), the neglected and decaying Thomas Buck Hosiery factory burned to the ground in the tragic April 2012 blaze that claimed two firefighters' lives.
The fire was one of many wild experiences in the new neighborhood that made Esposito, 30, almost despair and wonder, "Why did I come here?" he recalled.
But Esposito did stay, and went on to open up offices for the craft publishing company he founded in 2011, The Head & the Hand Press
, in nearby Fishtown.
While the print book business is suffering in the age of Amazon.com and ebooks, The Head & the Hand is continuing to publish work by authors from across the country.
"We are definitely growing. When we first started up we came out swinging, and we're still putting out books at a pretty good clip," Esposito said.
But the company, which recently converted to be a non-profit, is growing beyond their publishing efforts.
They have also opened up part of their offices as working space for members, hold regular workshops and readings, and plan toexpand further in the future, Esposito said.
Currently, their books are printed out of state in Illinois, but if all goes well, Head & the Hand may be able to print their books in their own basement one day, Esposito said.
The latest publication from Head & the Hand is a book of essays by Esposito titled Kensington Homestead, to be released on Wednesday.
The book details Esposito's life over the years as he settled in Kensington and began working at the Emerald Street Urban Farm, which his wife Elisa started in 2008.
Esposito's account of seeing the Buck Hosiery fire is there, as is the story of a neighborhood chicken thief and of the experience of seeing bees in a hive at his farm mysteriously die in a case of "colony collapse" disorder.
"These essays have been building over the past couple years," Esposito said. "I would almost equate them to a sitcom. Each essay stands on its own, but they connect."
"Every one is one of those moments like, 'Oh, remember that time this happened?'"
Listen to Esposito read one of his essays from the book below.