Ceramicist Connor McGinn started Makers Central in 2018 with his business partner, Stetson Hundgen, to fill a need they saw in the market for a shared workspace where artisans and craftspeople could set up shop in order to grow their businesses.
Set in a commodious 7,500 sq. ft. space on Central Avenue in Tarrytown, makers pay a membership fee for a six-month commitment (McGinn and Hundgen don’t want to lock new members into long leases) in a flexible space intended to fit the needs of their respective operations, along with the use of common areas. Says McGinn: “If the businesses reach the point where they outgrow the space, we encourage and kind of look forward to that.”
McGinn reports that inquiries for space in the cooperative have been robust of late. Those who do join specialize in crafts with application to the food-and-hospitality industry. They include everyone from makers of dishes and stationery to woodwork and outdoor dining experiences. What follows is an eye-friendly gallery typifying the creative output emanating from this interesting space.
Having taken ceramics classes in college, McGinn began making plates for Armonk’s Restaurant North as he continued working as a cook. In 2018, he went full-time into the ceramics business, creating dishes and flatware sets for restaurants and (increasingly so in the wake of the pandemic) households. McGinn originally worked out of small studios before starting Makers Central. In addition to the benefits of shared ideas and customers, McGinn says, “Being able to come in here on a day when you’re exhausted and defeated and don’t want to do anything — you kind of want to give up — you walk in here, and there’s four, five, six other people who are just cranking away on work. It’s inspiring for sure.”
Philadelphia natives Hannah Maakestad and Matthew Lundstrom are using their floristry and horticulture backgrounds (like many of the makers in the space, they have both worked at Westchester’s world-class restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns) to address the “fixation” on only using certain kinds of flowers and “show that all of this stuff in your backyard that you might not see as beautiful truly is beautiful,” Lundstrom says. After decorating for an event at Makers Central, the duo set up shop in the space to crank out their seasonal, floral-based creations. Lundstrom says the founders of the space “know what it’s like to be a starting-slash-starving artist” and so provide flexibility to give new businesses the “best start possible.”
After 16 years in the restaurant industry, Chef Daniel Sabia needed a change, so he started Wood Fire Food in 2018, aiming to bring together open-fire cooking, interior design, and woodworking (which he does in Makers Central) to create memorable events and products. He describes starting the business as a “classic fake-it-’til-you-make-it situation,” bringing in just enough money to fund the next event. He says business has been booming since the pandemic, with people looking for outdoor dining experiences in their backyards. That’s allowed him to invest in infrastructure for the business, which includes things like accountants and lawyers, along with a truck and trailer.
Partners Carlos Chimborazo and Elena Krougliak started their woodworking company in 2018 out of a communal workshop where people shared tools and space, a challenging situation for woodworkers. Chimborazo, who began woodworking as an apprentice in Colombia at age 12, and Krougliak, with a background in interior design, moved into Makers Central in 2019. “It really gives a backbone to our entire business,” Krougliak says of the space. With a business address and a place to host clients (originally, many high-end restaurants, but the pandemic forced a focus-shift to residential furniture), “It really just changed so much in terms of how we feel about the validity of our business,” notes Krougliak.
Natalia Woodward launched her printing-and-stationery business at Makers Central in early 2019 as a way to reconnect to her Colombian roots that emphasize handicrafts and “find that balance of artistry and functionality.” With a 1,000-plus-pound printing press built in 1903, Woodward cleared the “huge hurdle” of finding affordable space in the county and has been working on B2B2C growth (by working with other businesses and, ultimately, those businesses’ customers directly on a retail level), partnering with graphic designers to print wedding invitations and collecting business waste, like coffee cups, wood shavings, and garlic skins to make paper. She says being able to expand her space in the “incubator beast” has been key.
Matt Yazel began bladesmithing at the Massachusetts College of Arts under a tough septuagenarian teacher who he says “was not there to blow smoke up anyone’s ass.” When Yazel crafted an advanced knife style outside of the curriculum, his mentor simply responded, “you’re talented.” That inspired Yazel as he transitioned from restaurant work to knifemaking, originally in the college’s metal shop and his own garage. His wife’s career brought him to New York, and he set up in Makers Central to churn out his handmade knives for custom orders. He is now expanding to make small sets of the same design and credits Makers Central for helping “legitimize” his business and bringing exposure to his work. He says of the community: “Rising tides raise all boats.”