Last evening, the DBI team was able to experience something I feel is uniquely Seattle. I have lived in Seattle since 1998, and what I mean when I say “uniquely Seattle” is that essence of the “hard work and passion can change the world” belief that drove families West, forged Seattle out of the forest, and fills the skies with travels every day.
The Urban Land Institute (https://northwest.uli.org/) hosted this SODO Maker & Local Production Cluster Tour. Lining both sides of 1st Avenue in the SODO (South of Downtown) area is Seattle’s Maker’s Corridor. Spanning roughly two miles, from the stadiums to the West Seattle bridge, the corridor is home to the artisans, brewers, warehouses, and other small entrepreneurs, the Seattle Makers.
First, what is a Maker? A Maker is a manufacturing firm, or any firm, creating and crafting on an artisan scale. Driven by green, local, and sustainable materials and practices, the Maker is, in a way, subverting the mass production norm that has pushed manufacturing from our shores to make its home abroad.
The tour started at one of the first Makers in Seattle, Filson (https://www.filson.com). In many ways, Filson is the perfect start to a Makers tour. Started in 1897 in Seattle, Filson outfitted the Klondike Gold Rush. Today, the company is growing but stays true to is authentic, well-made origins. The store in Seattle, in the heart of the corridor, is not only an homage to their rugged aesthetic; they make clothes and bags in the store. Truly a Seattle Maker.
After the Filson tour we walked down the corridor to Graypants (https://www.graypants.com/). Known for their outstanding, laser-cut scrap cardboard lights, this creative firm is designing desks, furniture, LED lights, and more. If Filson is the established Maker, Graypants is the start-up. Two friends who were laid off from their architecture jobs during the financial crisis, were able to put all efforts into their passion project and Graypants was born.
Moving to the SODO corridor made sense for Graypants. They had more space to create and they were connected to other Makers that can supply metal frameworks, wires, etc. This is not only beneficial for the company; it promotes creativity, a sense of community, and growth with other Makers. A rising tide, if you will.
It is a Graypants where I heard the most interesting comment on the tour. One of the owners of Graypants, Seth Grizzle, said, “Open any door in SODO and you will be surprised with what you find.” This is the true excitement of the Maker’s corridor and movement. There is a feeling that anything is possible and that we are just getting started!
We ended the tour at a Maker we can all get behind, a brewery. Seapine Brewing Company (https://www.seapinebrewing.com/) is another example of passion becoming product and speaks to how scalable the Marker idea can be.
So what is next for the Maker idea? Is it a thing, a blip? I am not sure what is next but I can tell you that if the passion, creativity, and thoughtfulness of the companies I visited last night is the root, the future is bright. graypants_single