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TechShop’s Shutdown Sends Makers Scrambling For DIY Alternatives

The makerspace chain’s failure leaves members looking for new places to complete projects with the holidays fast approaching.

TechShop’s Shutdown Sends Makers Scrambling For DIY Alternatives
[Photo: Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images]

The 10-store makerspace chain TechShop closed its doors Wednesday and plans to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, leaving some of its more than 9,000 active members scrambling to find new places and tools to complete projects, some in advance of the holiday season.

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“In spite of many months of effort to restructure the company’s debt and raise new capital to fund our recently announced strategic pivot, we have depleted our funds,” CEO Dan Woods said in a statement. “We are left with no other options.”

Woods wrote that a for-profit chain of makerspaces, which offered workspace, classes and access to tools like laser cutters and 3D printers, proved “impossible to sustain” without outside subsidies, which are often harder to get as a for-profit business. The company had planned to pivot to focus on helping companies set up their own makerspaces but it ultimately lacked the funds for the transition, according to the statement.

A timeline of the company’s growth.

Makerspaces, which typically provide hobbyists and small businesses access to tools, training, and work space, have proliferated around the globe: there were roughly 1,400 makerspaces worldwide at the beginning of 2016, about 14 times more than there were in 2006, Popular Science reported last year. TechShop operated in 10 cities in the U.S.: San Jose, Redwood City, San Francisco, Phoenix, Detroit, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Austin, and Washington D.C.

Just last month TechShop also began operating a 15,000 square-foot advanced manufacturing center at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, in partnership with the New York City Economic Development Council. The new center was expected to create more than 500 jobs in the first 5 years and help launch more than 200 new industrial businesses. “This advanced manufacturing center is the linchpin of our Futureworks initiatives,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at the time, “and we couldn’t be more excited that TechShop is bringing their global experience and expertise to make sure it’s a tremendous success.”

Writing for Make, Evan Malone, the founder of a smaller chain called NextFab, questioned whether such a business could truly never be viable. “I’m grateful that Mr. Woods has shared his hard-earned experience at such a difficult time,” he wrote. “At the same time, the word ‘impossible’ strikes me as a challenge–not to tread in those same footsteps, but to mourn the losses, know the hazards in detail, and to continue to forge ahead.”


RelatedHow The Maker Movement Is Revitalizing Industry In American Cities

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Customers took to social media to vent about the closure and to both request and offer up workspace, tools and assistance. Members of some locations have formed groups, including on Slack, looking to fill the gap left by TechShop’s shutdown. Four overseas locations, which license the TechShop name, will stay open.

TechShop said members, instructors, and other creditors should email a court-appointed trustee seeking payment of invoices, refunds, and even access to belongings in the shops.

About the author

Steven Melendez is an independent journalist living in New Orleans.

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