Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Sharon Community Cafe...and Makerspace?

The latest venture we are exploring for our town center is a Makerspace. 

What's a makerspace, you ask? 

A makerspace is essentially a community center with tools. It combines equipment, community and education, providing a place where people can come together to learn new skills, share skills and tools. We're not just talking about craft classes for kids, although the STEM learning possibilities for our youth are numerous here. Makerspaces can have things like 3D printers, welding equipment, and pottery studios.

The biggest makerspace near us in MA is Artisan's Asylum in Somerville. They offer equipment, workshops and work spaces for their members. How many times have you started a creative project on your dining room table or garage, only to have to pack it all up when you need the space for its original purpose? Nothing saps my creative impulse more than having to haul bins of material out of my basement or attic. A makerspace could have areas and supplies, ready and waiting for your projects. 

Providence has AS220, which is an artist-run organization, where they "envision a just world where all people can realize their full creative potential." They offer gallery and theatre spaces, a dance studio, a print shop, fabrication and electronics labs. They have a restaurant and bar, too.

Makerspaces are popping up all over. Here's an article, published the day I'm writing this, about JaxHax, a new makerspace in Jacksonville, Florida. The Westport, CT library has a makerspace. In May, they are offering a series of Arduino board workshops.

So how does this fit into our vision of worker-owned cooperative businesses in our town? We confess that we don't know yet. But there are a dozen of us who are interested in the makerspace idea and we'd love to talk to you about it. To that end, we will be at the Green Day event, which is sponsored by Sustainable Sharon Coalition, on Saturday, May 3rd from 12pm - 4pm on High Street next to the Sharon Public Library. Look for our tent and come create with us. We'll have some projects you can try out. Chuck and I will also be sharing information about cooperative businesses, in general.

We will also host a "pop-up" makerspace on Saturday, May 17 at the Unitarian Church Rummage Sale in the town center. We are eager to learn if the community is interested in the makerspace idea. We also just like talking to people while we make stuff, so come on over and visit if you're in the area.

Frontier Co-op Buying Club
Another project we are working on is starting a Frontier Co-op buying club. Frontier is a member co-op located in Iowa. I've been part of buying clubs and food co-ops before and I really miss the savings! Buying clubs provide their members discounts when they place a large order together. The way Frontier Co-op works, when a buying club member places an order of $250 or more, the shipping is free and they get wholesale prices. Members also earn a patronage refund annually. Some of my favorite things to order from Frontier are organic spices, essential oils, teas and health/beauty products.

House of Brews

We were in Stoughton Center recently and had a chance to visit House of Brews. Leo and Sandra Fay opened the coffeehouse/tavern in July 2013. We were pleased to see that they serve Equal Exchange coffee and hot chocolate. The woman who served us said they are proud to serve high quality coffee from a locally-owned business. Supporting local producers extends to their beer offerings, as well. I wanted to plant myself on the couch in front of the gas fireplace and enjoy the cozy atmosphere, but we had work to do. We plan to visit again soon. I noted their hours: 6:30am - 11:30am and 5pm - 11pm.

What do you think of the makerspace idea? Have you been part of a buying club before? Let us hear from you.


  1. Interesting how House of Brews (clever name, by the way) has hours that match up with when commuters are likely to be around. I don't think there is any business in Sharon open until 11pm!

  2. I think you're right, Jon. Pizzagando closes at 9pm, Sharon Market at 10pm...

  3. There were natural-foods buying-clubs, in Sharon, in the past. Sadly, UNFI won't open any new buying-club accounts that aren't at least 50 miles distant from one of their retail-customers' stores (i.e. WholeFoods). However, we could try getting a list, from UNFI, of buying-clubs in this area; and, if a (former) Sharon club is still listed, it might be possible to track down its last coordinator, get their password, and then pretend to be continuing a 'grandfathered-in' buying club. The advantage of using UNFI, is that they have a very good system, on their website, for buying-club members to use, to 'put cases together'.

    Alternatively, a new Sharon buying-club could sign up with Associated Buyers, in NH, who are very into serving buying-clubs. And, they will sell many items individually--albeit for a higher price then the case price. Also, they'll 're-pack' large bulk bags, into smaller amounts--but again, for an additional charge.

    I had to move from Sharon, one town over, to Mansfield, for cheaper rent--but would still be interested in discussing the starting of a local buying-club, if there were other folks who think it might be fun (and, of course, it could possibly evolve into a real 'food co-op', someday, down the road...).

    1. That's good to know about UNFI!

    2. We are currently building out another one of New England's largest Makerspaces in Hartford,CT. We are one of the first COMMERCIAL level makerspaces of its kind. Right in bustling, downtown Hartford!