Yakima Maker Space: Celebrating Community & Entrepreneurship

Originally published in Yakima Magazine
By Molly Allen

Imagine a place that’s devoted to creativity and to helping others learn new skills.

Envision a spot that could allow you to make just about anything imaginable with your own two hands.

Yakima is home to a resource with the capabilities to achieve all of these things, and it’s continuing to help community members and businesses in a number of ways.

Yakima Maker Space opened in 2013, and since then, the nonprofit has continued to work toward its mission of encouraging creativity in the community.ADVERTISING

According to Board President Heath Lambe, it started as a tool-lending library out of a van, but it has grown into much more.

“A lot of work has gone into this space over the years, and our volunteers just keep making it better and better,” Lambe said.

Maker Space offers an incredible number of resources, such as a laser engraver, screen printing tools, 3D printers, light-duty sewing machines, a heavy-duty industrial sewing machine, a variety of graphic design software (thanks to a Fresh Hop Ale Festival grant) and many other tools to encourage craftsmanship. In addition, a full woodshop is available, complete with a CNC router table, a drill press, sanding machines and a slew of hand tools to help with any project.

Creativity is encouraged in this space, offering a place for makers to go at any time of day with their membership, as well as a place for other community members to take classes such as pottery or jewelry making.

“There’s a lot of synergy that happens here across disciplines,” Lambe said. “Any community member can get a membership and utilize the space and the tools. We also encourage entrepreneurship.”

For budding local entrepreneurs, Maker Space has played a vital role in their growth, offering the chance to begin a process that may have been cost-prohibitive on their own. If you take a close look, you’ll realize that much of the stoneware at Crafted Restaurant was handmade at Yakima Maker Space, as well as handcrafted items at Single Hill Brewery and Varietal Brewing Company in Sunnyside.

“Starting a business is hard. Like ridiculously hard. And along the way you need partners that help grow the capabilities and sophistication of what you are capable of, without straining already limited resources,” said David Paulson, one of five co-owners of Varietal Beer Co. in Sunnyside. “Yakima Maker Space was that partner for us. From tool donations to the time invested in teaching us to use the array of tools available, we can never say thank you enough.”

When Varietal was laying the groundwork for its opening, Yakima Maker Space played a huge role in getting it ready for its debut, and as you visit the brewery, you might notice many of the handmade products showcased in its tap room. According to Paulson, they were able to utilize the workspace and broad selection of tools to repurpose wood from their original building for their tables and benches, as well as producing tap handles for their external markets.

“It is safe to say that every day, hundreds of customers, bartenders and employees sit, handle or in some way benefit from the items we’ve been able to make using that space,” he said.

And while Valley businesses such as Varietal and Crafted have benefited so greatly from the space, its next-door neighbor, Collaboration Coffee, may have the most beneficial relationship of them all.

After Maddie Hicks and Adam Wilson had been roasting their coffee under the Basalt Roasters label for a year and a half, they were looking at the potential for a shop, but nothing had materialized until Yakima Maker Space approached them with an idea they couldn’t turn down.

“We were looking for ways to grow the business, and it was definitely an exciting idea,” Wilson said. “But as we considered it more, we thought, how in the world would we actually do this?”

Wilson, Hicks and business partner Nathan Poel, one of the founders of Yakima Maker Space, decided to custom-build everything for their shop, because they knew they could utilize the resources available right next door.

“We did all of the work in here ourselves,” Wilson said, “and Maker Space absolutely made it possible. Otherwise, there is no way we would have had the budget to do this.”

Collaboration Coffee shows how Maker Space can fuel creativity.

“This has been such a wonderful relationship for us,” Lambe said. “It keeps within the same ethos we’re working toward of providing a social, inclusive, safe space in the community, and it allows us the opportunity for additional promotion.”

When taking over the space, Hicks also took on the curation of the gallery, which Maker Space had previously hosted in the same spot. Continuing that mission of showcasing a local artist’s work was a natural fit. A new show is curated and installed in the coffee shop each month, and every fourth Friday of the month, Collaboration Coffee hosts a Meet a Maker session to introduce community members to the possibilities of what can be done right next door.

“It was a given for us to continue that function, and it ended up with having a really cool combo,” Wilson said. “A coffee shop and art gallery is such a fun model, and our long-term intent is to make this a real third space for people to always come and enjoy.”