[Here’s a news story I’d like to read one day…]
By Dan Lorentz
ATHENS, GA. (PDN*) — You’ve heard of fitness clubs. Well, soon there may be commercial do-it-yourself clubs, too. If the concept takes off here, DIY clubs—where you can buy a membership and get access to tools, workspace, even personalized training—might one day become as ubiquitous as fitness clubs.
DIY Factory, Inc., a locally based company, today announced plans to open a do-it-yourself club next summer in a warehouse space at 149 Oneta St.
Imagine: buzzing activity“The place will be buzzing with activity when you come in,” says company president Tracy Rowe squinting and smiling as she imagines the future and steps onto the dirt that will eventually be covered with the concrete floor of the club’s main workshop area.
“There’ll be someone over there using one of the table saws to cut boards for a dining table,” Rowe continues, excitedly.
“In the kitchen area, a family will be busy canning a winter’s supply of summer vegetables. Over here, somebody will be learning how to ‘paint’ a picture using a computer. Another person will be stopping in to pick-up a rototiller. Members will be working at their reserved workbenches. Project assistants will be walking around, answering questions, helping out with this or that.”
Rowe says DIY Factory, Inc. hopes to have 800 members—each paying somewhere around $40 a month—already signed-up for the club’s grand-opening, tentatively scheduled for early June 2010.
And what exactly will that membership fee buy? Rowe says as a club member you will be able to:
Borrow tools from the extensive tool library. Tools for electrical work. For plumbing, sewing, masonry, carpentry. For yard work and gardening. For soldering and welding Kitchen equipment. Ladders. Computers, software. And more.
Get your own workspace. This might be a workbench in the open work area. Or, if you pay a little extra, you can reserve a private workshop.
Find out where to find supplies. Need a bunch of old sci-fi paperbacks for a mosaic project? Lots of faded blue jeans for a quilt? Ask the club’s inventory scouts where to go to find what you need. They take note of what’s available at the region’s re-sale shops, antique stores, flea markets—including places like Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity’s Re-Store—and keep tabs on what’s available at Lowes, Home Depot, Hobby Lobby and more.
Store your stuff. Because some projects take longer than a day, you get storage space for the materials and tools you’re using.
Receive personalized assistance. Never used a drill press before? What’s the difference between a jpeg file and a tiff file? No worries! One of the club’s helpers will answer your question or show you how to do something. Just raise your hand or go to the big help desk in the middle of the club.
Enroll in skill and project workshops. Want to learn a particular skill—maybe pottery or Adobe photoshop or quilting or building a root cellar? Enroll in one of dozens of hands-on classes taught by club helpers or other craftsmen and women from the community.
Reserve refrigeration, freezer and root cellar storage. Lots of people want to ‘put up’—that is, can, dry, freeze or otherwise store—their own food, much of which comes from a garden or is bought in bulk at a farmer’s market. But not everybody can afford the cost of, or spare the room for, an extra frig or freezer. Solution? Use the club’s cold storage facilities. Or reserve some root cellar space.
Get help in fundraising. Fundraising? Because sometimes people will have a big project—say, building a community garden with raised beds and a drip irrigation system—and need extra cash to finance the project. The club will help advertise your need with other club members, through neighborhood listserves, and with a project description and Paypal account on the club’s Web site
Community talent, community pay-back
“The community’s own talent pool will be key to the success of the club,” Rowe says. “DIY Factory will recruit the best local talent to help our membership.” According to preliminary plans, the company plans to hire about 25 handy people to work full-time as helpers or inventory scouts, and to contract with 75 more to work on a part-time or an as-needed basis.
Rowe also said the company will collaborate with local non-profit agencies and other donors to create scholarship programs to cover membership fees for low-income people. “We want to make sure everyone in Athens who can benefit from the club and who wants to join can afford to do so,” Rowe says.
Is there demand for this?
“Will people pay to join a DIY club? Rowe muses. “That’s a good question, and it’s why we’re testing this concept in an artsy, progressive, college town. If it won’t work here, it’s not likely to work in many other places.” But Rowe is optimistic both about the likelihood of success in Athens, and in the larger world.
“There are two converging trends now that make a DIY club a plausible business concept,” Rowe explains.
“For one, there’s this huge resurgent interest in crafting, in learning how to cook, how to grow your own food and in generally becoming more self-sufficient, more thrifty. And secondly, people are downsizing. Some are moving back to the city because they realize that the suburban sprawl lifestyle is unsustainable.”
“It’s here—where the DIY mentality meets the advantages (the concentration of people and skills) and limitations (less space for private workshops) of city living—that we think we’ve found our niche.”
* This post is a work of fiction. PDN is the acronym for Pipe Dream News, a fake news service that syndicates (actually, pretends to syndicate) fictional news accounts of people, places, things and happenings that do not exist but would be cool if they did.