Game Changers: Courtney & Brent Montgomery
Meet the couple transforming a warehouse space in Connecticut into a groundbreaking hub for work and play, creativity and connection.
Think creative media types wouldn’t want to live and work in Connecticut? Well, think again. Meet media power couple Brent and Courtney Montgomery who have been living in the area since 2014—and who believe so much in connecting people to ideas that they have created The Village, a large-scale indoor/outdoor campus on the sound in Stamford, CT. Fusing creative coworking and office space with private event and club space in an equal mix of work and play, The Village aims to be a new epicenter for creators and entrepreneurs who are driving culture across art, entertainment, music, politics, health, fitness, food, finance and more.
Brent Montgomery is a reality TV powerhouse, known for hit shows like Queer Eye, Pawn Stars, Fixer Upper and others. In 2018, he also added multi-media entrepreneur to that title, after he launched the company Wheelhouse with partner Jimmy Kimmel. A one-stop shop for TV, film and digital content, celebrity talent, brands, entrepreneurs and investors, Wheelhouse has creative incubators in Los Angeles and New York City that have hosted everyone from Lady Gaga to Dave Chappelle to Jennifer Lopez.
Brent and Courtney have worked together since 2005, when they met at MTV. Courtney has always been on the operations side of the business and Brent on the creative. Those roles continue with this newest project, as Brent had the vision for The Village and Courtney is acting as developer under Wheelhouse Properties, her wing of the wider business.
After settling in Fairfield County six years ago from New York City, the Montgomerys instantly fell in love with the community— so much so that they began to think of ways for Brent to ditch the commute and work locally. With a “If you build it, they will come” attitude, he and Courtney decided to create a workspace that would be a magnet for creative talent. “We wanted to recruit great people from the city to not just commute here but to fall in love with Connecticut and Westchester and move out here,” says Brent. “Pre-Covid, so many people spent three to four hours a day commuting to the city. Why can’t we have the best of both worlds and trade in time on trains and buses for more time with friends and family?”
Creating a New Space
The Village was an abandoned warehouse on the water in Stamford’s South End before the Montgomerys purchased it in December 2017 and transformed it into a work/play space for like-minded companies and brands. Under Courtney’s direction, they broke ground in August 2018. The warehouse has now been reimagined as a campus boasting 133,000 square feet of creative coworking, office and meeting space, state-of-the-art production facilities, a ground floor restaurant, indoor/outdoor rooftop space (including a rooftop bar), and nearly 1,000 feet of walkable marina.
While the pandemic slowed down the construction in a couple spots, mostly due to delays on materials, Norwalk,CT-based A Pappajohn Builders never missed a day while Courtney and her team pivoted to make the space as Covid-friendly as possible. They were already set to be Connecticut’s first LEED V4 commercial building, but she added high-efficiency filtration and ventilation systems, touchless solutions for restrooms and main entry doors, and keyless security access to the building. Many local companies like Stamford-based CPG Architects, Greenwich, CT- based Amy Aidinis Hirsch Interior Design and NYC-based APICII, a hospitality development company, have helped bring the vision of The Village to life.
And as it turns out, the timing was serendipitous as, post-pandemic, many people and companies are rethinking what defines an office and whether they ever need to commute back to the city.
“Before Covid, it was hard for employers to trust that their employees were consistently doing their jobs at a high level if they weren’t in the office five days a week,” says Brent. “In our business, we’ve seen our employees working from home exceed expectations. I think Covid has taught everybody that there are no rules and you can start a career wherever you want. The Village will have a lot of programming and events that empower people who want to work to get back into it. We want to build careers here.”
The Montgomerys’ dream for The Village is for it to become the new epicenter of culture north of NYC. “That is a lofty goal, but we’ve had the good fortune to have great people and partners along the way that will help us. We’re so tied into the NYC and LA entertainment worlds with everything we do at Wheelhouse, and that allows us to bring some of those relationships to the building,” says Brent. “We want leaders on camera and behind the camera from the worlds of TV, film, music and sports to have a place to go to find one another and create the next big ideas at The Village, even if they don’t ultimately get made there.”
And aside from the fact that the Montgomerys themselves live here, they see so much potential in the area. “In the last decade, you’ve seen big companies and wealthy individuals move out of the state. Right now, there is a love of suburbia from everyone— even Manhattanites who would have never come here before Covid,” says Brent. “We’ve been blessed to see what an incredible community this is, and when you take the incredible people who are from here and add in those who move here and give them a place to come together and collaborate, the sky is the limit.”
Howard Stern Executive Producer Gary Dell’Abate says, “The Greenwich/Stamford area has been home to giants of business, entertainment icons and entrepreneurs for years. No one has figured out how to bring them all together. Until now. I think The Village will be an amazing place for ideas to incubate and people to come together.”
The Greenwich/Stamford area has been home to giants of business, entertainment icons and entrepreneurs for years. No one has figured out how to bring them all together. Until now. I think The Village will be an amazing place for ideas to incubate and people to come together.
— Gary Dell’Abate, Executive Producer of Howard Stern
A Work-and-Play Philosophy
Brent and Kimmel created Wheelhouse two years ago. “We launched Wheelhouse at a time of huge shifts in content and entertainment, and we based the company on pairing great talent and creative ideas with infrastructure and investment support,” says Brent. The companies under the Wheelhouse banner include Spoke Studios, Kimmelot and Campfire. Clients include Disney +, Netflix, Hulu, Bravo, History, ESPN, Peacock, Snapchat, HBO Max and about a dozen more. They also have partnerships or projects with Kevin Hart, Chrissy Teigen, Adam Levine, Stephen Curry and Andy Cohen.
So how does a brand benefit from being a part of Wheelhouse? Brent explains: Wheelhouse invested in Hydrow (a Peloton-like connected-fitness rowing machine) and then introduced the company to Wheelhouse partner Kevin Hart, who not only invested himself but was named Hydrow’s creative director. “We helped get the machine on the Ellen show, where Jennifer Aniston gave them away for Ellen’s 12 days of giveaways. We’ve introduced the Hydrow founder and CEO at our events to celebrities, athletes and titans of finance and tech and have put the machine in front of over 100 folks who move culture,” he says. Wheelhouse has also partnered and invested with many local brands like Rhone, a Stamford-based premium activewear brand for men, and Athletic Brewing Company, a nonalcoholic beer based out of Stratford, CT.
Having been to many Wheelhouse events at their location in West Hollywood, they are unlike anyone I have ever met at gathering tastemakers, influencers and trend setters to create experiences that draw people in and that magic mix creates desirability.
— Nate Checketts, CEO of Rhone
“When we started Wheelhouse, we bought properties in LA and Tribeca where our creatives could lunch, take meetings and roll naturally into prime time event programming,” says Brent. “The idea goes back to my early roots, where I couldn’t sell a TV show to save my life and got known for throwing cool events more than being a TV producer. Through those events we were able to get a higher-level crew together—and then [persuaded] folks into buying our TV shows.” The Montgomerys envision a similar work/ play vibe at The Village, and have created a private roof top club where artists, creatives and finance people can connect. “We’ve hosted dozens of the biggest names in the world simply because we were doing something different by bringing people together who wouldn’t have met otherwise. When you introduce someone with a big idea to others who can invest in it and, most importantly, execute, the sky is the limit,” says Brent.
Others like Nate Checketts, CEO of Rhone, agree: “Having been to many Wheelhouse events at their location in West Hollywood, they are unlike anyone I have ever met at gathering tastemakers, influencers and trend setters to create experiences that draw people in and that magic mix creates desirability.”
Who Will Be At The Village
Besides Wheelhouse, anchor tenants include ITV America and Cisco Brewers. ITV America is one of the largest independent producers of unscripted content in the U.S. They produce Hell’s Kitchen, Queer Eye, Love Island, Alone, Pawn Stars, Fixer Upper, Real Housewives of New Jersey and about 70 other series each year. They will move much of their NYC footprint, including casting and post production, to The Village.
Cisco Brewers, the renowned family (and dog-friendly!) Nantucket, MA, hotspot and producer of beers, wines and spirits, will have its first Connecticut outpost open at The Village in the spring. “Brent was looking for a partner that could bring with it a real relaxed lifestyle vibe that would promote a place where guests could enjoy live music—collaborate with friends and family in a cool outdoor setting,” says Cisco CEO Jay Harman.
The Village was looking for a partner that could bring with it a real relaxed lifestyle vibe that would promote a place where guests could enjoy live music—collaborate with friends and family in a cool outdoor setting.
— Jay Harman, CEO of Cisco
Mike Geller of Mike’s Organic will also be a part of The Village. “I look forward to drawing on my experience as a leader in the local food movement to shape the culinary profile of The Village,” he says. “Together, we will create authentic experiences that will satisfy your palate and soul, all in one bite. The Village will redefine collaboration, with community and culture at the forefront.” And there are more to come: The Village is slated to open in 2021, and is still looking to expand its partnerships with both brands and people from the wider community.
Giving back is equally important to the Montgomerys, and they are making philanthropy a core part of The Village. “We have such an opportunity with the tenants that will be in this building—a collection of powerful local people who could make a difference to charities in the area,” explains Courtney. “We’re passionate about Waterside School and that is right next door. Our goal is for those kids to come in on Fridays for lunches, to meet, learn from, and inspire people in the building.”
I think The Village could be more than special—it could be transformational, as it gathers not just tenants but talents, good hearts and persons genuine in their want to leave their mark and to leave ours a better world,” he says. “Brent and Courtney will lead, but I have every confidence that others of similar passion will follow.
— Duncan Edwards, Executive Director of Waterside School
And Duncan Edwards, executive director of Waterside School, a pre-kindergarten to fifth independent school where every child receives financial aid, sums it up well. “I think The Village could be more than special—it could be transformational, as it gathers not just tenants but talents, good hearts and persons genuine in their want to leave their mark and to leave ours a better world,” he says. “Brent and Courtney will lead, but I have every confidence that others of similar passion will follow.”