Makers in the Mall

My local mall lost a large, two story corner-store. Sad that they made it so far into the economy dive just to die now. On Main Street of the same town, half the shops are closed, including a knitting store.

I think that making the large empty retail space into a maker/hacker space would be an interesting idea. The food court is nearby, there is already a Radio Shack, Book store & Sears (hand tools) on site.

A maker/hacker space is a space where you can get together with other people with common interests and make stuff. There is tools and materials available on location that you may not have at home. You pay a monthly fee ‘dues’ to support the space.

Member Area

On the 2ndfloor I would put the main maker/hacker space. The center area, where the escalators & elevator go would be the common area. Couches & tables for sitting and talking smack about each other’s projects. Also rows of work benches for doing various projects.

Equipment and tools with safety considerations (basically all power tools) would be behind a glass wall where members can ‘badge’ their way in once they have been safety certified for all gear in that room. This would allow people at the mall to see what’s going on, but be kept away from the power-saws. (hey, insurance & liability is a big thing) This would also help with noise from things like the wood working power tools from drowning out the people doing musical electronics. The space is big enough to have dozens of ‘shops’ set up like this. Glass fronts so people can safely watch all the making. The glassed in workshops would be a fire-break in case somebody starts something on fire. It would also keep the saw-dust out of the pottery wheels. I’d have a couple of classroom/conference rooms as well.

Some of the ‘shops’ I’d see having:

  • Hand tool only wood working
  • Basic power tools wood working
  • Advanced power tools wood working
  • pottery area with kiln
  • electronics lab
  • programming lab
  • basic metal shop
  • intermediate metal shop (basic power tools)
  • welding booths
  • blacksmithy
  • sewing shop
  • demonstration kitchens
All the workshops would be RFID/barcode badge controlled. Each member has a ‘reputation’ based on how they interact with other members as well as a ‘patch’ system where they can show off all the things they have done (think girl/boyscouts). Members would need to get safety certified before their badge will let them into that shop.  Hand tools would be ‘checked in/out’ with your badge kinda like a self-check-out at a store. Power tools would be badge/card activated like a slot machine to both verify ‘safety certification’ as well as to gauge the rate of  any ‘consumables’. Logging tool usage would help control people from using up $1k in welding gasses a month. They’d have to buy any extra stuff that they used. Shop time/tools could be reserved ahead of time with your badge. People can also ‘rate’ the shop/tool ‘state’. If there is a problem, such as a shop was not left clean, a tool was worn out or damaged you could report the issue and the previous user would get ‘dinged’. Reported safety violations or failure to clean the work space could prevent you from renewing your membership or result in higher dues. Things like worn out saw blades would be ‘graced’ if they are at their expected end of lifetime, but if it was new and you ate a nail with it, you bought it (debited against your consumables alotment.)
There could be ‘tiered’ membership. Basic membership gets you full access to all common areas and most work areas. Work areas that have a high-cost of consumables would require a ‘premium’ membership that you could opt into on a month by month basis or maybe an a-la-carte usage- like the welding stations.
Non Member Area
On the main floor, I would have many small ‘crafting boutiques’ and repair shops.
The repair services would be a common location where people could bring their stuff to get it fixed. Stuff like a jewelry repair shop, electronics repair, small machine shop for metalwork, carpenter for wood-work repair, upholsterer, electrician (fixing lamps, etc.). Again, these would be glass fronted workshops where people can watch craftsmen do their thing – Like the bakery with all their mixers & such in the window. The craftsmen won’t have to stop and answer a million questions while they work. They could have a common ‘register’ person or their own. They can also sell their products in the ‘craft shop’ located on the floor by the main entry to the mall.
The boutiques would would be small specialized shops that may or may not have their own work area. They serve 2 purposes, non-members can buy and build right there and the members ‘upstairs’ have a ready source of raw materials. I could see things like a pottery glazing place, stained glass, beadery, hobby shop(s), various craft stores, etc.
A store like a bead store could have a few tables outside the store where people could sit and make the bracelets on benches that are designed to catch beads that rolled away. The beadwork isn’t happening inside the store so inventory is less likely to ‘disappear’ but the instant gratification of making something also occurs right there. Also the item can be finished with a quick purchase of that 1 more item inside the store.
The ‘craft shop’ could sell items on consignment from both the vendors on the main floor as well as ‘stuff’ made by the members. Possibly also stuff from ‘outside’.
There could be a exhibition ‘hall’ – display cases to showcase member & vendor’s creations. There could also be a demonstration arena for public presentations, robot demonstrations, etc.

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1 Comment

  1. I think I ought to point out that I wrote this post back in April and it has been a draft for the last 8 months waiting on more ideas. The topic camme up today on twitter so I posted it as-is.

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