The "makerspace" might be every handyman and serial tinkerer's dream.
Inside, there is equipment they would love to ogle at the hardware store, but would likely never buy just to keep in their garage.
Now, all of that equipment is in Citadel Mall and ready to use for people who are willing to buy a membership. The tech-and-arts focused nonprofit Reforge Charleston, which originally opened in North Charleston in 2016, relocated to the West Ashley shopping center and opened officially Saturday.
The group faced some challenges in the last year. Taylor said it was barely making the rent, and it had to leave its North Charleston space in late July and move to their new spot. It began its renovation of the former Pac Sun retail space about six months ago.
The nonprofit's board members are hoping they will be able to capitalize on the mall's foot traffic to attract more people to the classes Reforge offers and ultimately bring in more paying members.
"Our past location, we had no walk-bys," John Curro, Reforge's chairman, said. "I think it's really going to be a shot in the arm."
There are two components to Reforge. Members pay $50 per month for access to the space and all of its equipment. The discounted student rate is $30 . Then there are the classes, which anyone can walk in and take. There is a suggested donation for the classes.
"We're trying to help you have access to anything and everything, so you can make everything and anything," Tim Taylor, a Reforge founder and board member, said.
Everyone involved with the initiative works on a volunteer basis. The money they make pays for day-to-day operations and is invested into STEM efforts — science, technology, engineering and math — around the community, though Curro said the group also focuses on the arts.
The idea of the makerspace has been around for a while. An iteration called "fab labs" began at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the early 2000s. The goal of that grassroots effort was to engage people in the engineering field and spur new inventions.
There are more than 1,000 "fab labs" around the world today. And there are two makerspaces in the Charleston area: Another called Makelab has had its location in a commercial space on Sam Rittenberg Boulevard in West Ashley for a few years.
At the space at the Citadel Mall, Reforge likely has somewhere between $40,000 and $50,000 worth of equipment, though they're not exactly sure. Nooks in the shop are dedicated to a 3D printing shop, a sheet metal press, a woodshop, a laser cutting and etching machine, a small lounge and more. Cubbies in shelves are labeled "tape," "batteries" and "air pumps." The team at Reforge hopes giving members so many options will increase technical literacy.
The nonprofit donates to educational efforts. They have a partnership with both the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Taylor has brought classes to local schools before. They hope the shop works as one way to encourage kids to learn to use their hands to create devices for themselves.
Most of their members are middle-age white men. Curro and Taylor hope the mall location will also alert people of different ages and backgrounds that they're open for business.