Maker House plans final bash

By SHANA ROSE

Maker House, a downtown cooperative housed for 18 months in the historic Bates Mansion, will close April 11.

The cooperative will go out with a bang by throwing one last party, “Opensource and Out.” See details in FYI box below.

Maker House is known as more than a café, recreational space, arcade and live music venue. It is also a space where the community can get together to share ideas and interests.

Owner John Jacobs’ decision to close Maker House ultimately came down to finances. Revenue was growing, but not at the pace needed to pay $8,000 per month in rent. Staffers were also working 70 hours a week, which seemed unsustainable.

“We thought that Tucson really needed a space like this,” Jacobs said. “Turned out that we may have been just a little too early in the market. This is still kind of a developing market downtown and the financials just ended up not really working out.”

Jacobs decided to go open source, releasing the Maker House brand and intellectual property to the community. He hopes another Maker House will pop up somewhere in town, or anywhere in the country.

Program manager Matt Rios has been with Maker House since opening day in October 2013.

“Describing what Maker House is, is always difficult,” Rios said. “We are a maker space, we are a community space, we are a meet-up area and we are a venue. We have live music, we have dance classes, and nonprofit organizations use us for benefit events.”

A weekly Tuesday Open Mic Night has been one of the longest running programs. Lee Perez and Jessica Douglas approached Rios about hosting an open mic night within Maker House’s first week of business.

The open mic nights drew anywhere from 14 to 17 performers, and the crowd could expect everything from comedy and poetry to music and theater.

The nonprofit organization “Crafting Forward” met every Wednesday night for activities including knitting, sewing and crocheting. The group provided both lessons and supplies for those who couldn’t afford them.

Super Smash Bros gathered on Thursdays for retro gamer night. Having space provided helped the community of gamers grow from 20 people meeting in a house to tournaments of 35 to 50 people.

In January, the group held a five-statewide tournament that drew players from as far as Pennsylvania. Four world-ranked players attended and a player from Tucson took home the title.

On “Fix it Fridays,” customers could bring in any appliances that needed restoring or just take the appliance apart to see how it worked. The staff was happy to help with the process of putting it together, taking it apart or modifying it.

Saturdays were reserved for Maker House special events. One that did exceptionally well was the monthly “Comix it Up.”

Tucson Comic Con teamed with Maker House for a mini Comic Con, inviting local comic book artists, vendors and comic lovers for a day filled with drinking, drawing and cosplaying.

Maker House’s calendar was packed with regular club gatherings, group meetups and events, but 40 programs and events a week weren’t enough for the venue to survive.

“We had a lot of huge nights where we had 300 people in the building, yet it’s dead on the register,” Rios said. “The biggest issue with things like this in Tucson is people will love a space to hang out, but they have a really hard time supporting it with their money.”

Jacobs feels confident that Maker House will continue in some form.

“Maker House is different for every person that comes in here,” he said. “That’s been the beauty of it. There was something here for everybody and that’s what we like about the concept. We know that concept is going to live on.”

For more information on Maker House or “Opensource and Out,” visit makerhouse.org.

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Maker House, 283 N. Stone Ave., is preparing to conclude an 18-month run as a popular community hangout with a party on April 11. (Shana Rose/Aztec Press)

 

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