Innovative Retailer – Makers Cafe


Brought to you by Retail Insider and PCMS Group

The Name: Makers Café

The Place: Shoreditch (for now).

The Story: We’re hot off the mark on this one. This place has only been around for a fortnight or so but such has been the interest…

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Go right ahead. OK, I give you ‘the myth of manufacturing’ – making things is hard, dirty work. It requires huge factories, you have to be a man and preferably from the north.

Quite agree: Women, children, the infirm and elderly are right out of the picture. They do not make things, they consume things.

Yes, following so far: But Makers Café founder Soner Ozenc is not about to be held back by the legacy of the industrial revolution. Anyone can make stuff here. You can design it on your computer and then come to the Makers Café to see it produced.

Bring it on: Do I need a hard hat? Nope, but you do need a digital file of the item – which the 3D printers will then print out for you in thousands of layers of plastic (or chocolate or other materials), thus forming the object of desire.

Something about the phrase ‘thousands of layers’ implies a long waiting time at this café: Instantaneous it ain’t. But the laser cutting also on offer is much quicker and for the 3D printing you just come back the next day when it is ready.

OK, tell me more about this market: It is, if you will, a subculture of DIY. Roughly splitting into two sections: there are those in industry who are interested in prototyping; and the creative types in the ‘maker community’. Plenty of paying punters are in both camps. Number one market in the world is America and one of the first 3D objects they produced was a gun of course with the blueprint file downloaded 100,000 times in two days.

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Sigh: Number two market is the UK and Germany follows on from us. A café like this means you do not have to be a mechanical engineer (as Ozenc actually is) to jot down an idea and produce it. It’s empowering and it shows us once again that people like shops.

Does it? Yes, this business was an online one originally (it still has two websites at its core) but the founders realised that as with so many services provided via the internet people at heart want to talk things through with someone in the know before they press the ‘confirm order’ button. (See our Innovative Retailer column on Appear Here for more on service industries opening shops to interact with their customers). This business as a whole did not start two weeks ago (the online business has been going since 2006) but only with a physical presence on the high street has it gained all this interest. And it is a very physical presence.

How so? It could not be more prominent – it’s costing an arm and a leg in rent and is probably only temporarily in such a high footfall location in Shoreditch but for every ten people who pass the shop, Ozenc reckons eight stop and such has been the interest that the 3D printing machines in the unit have been donated by the companies to promote their brands to the people who might at a later date actually buy one of their own.

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Yes, I was coming to this. In due course this café will be redundant won’t it? As the boss points out virtually every household has a washing machine but there are still launderettes in every town. Same goes for kitchens and restaurants. It’s all about the theatre of retail.

In the launderette! You know what I mean.  During the day from 9am till 6pm the café is a design bureau, and consulting space. From 6pm until 10pm-ish it will be turning into a community space for the ‘makers’ – workshops, talks, anything to do with digital manufacturing – and it is this phase that Ozenc thinks is the big win. First up is a pop-up dinner event featuring chocolate creations produced by one of the machines no less.

Far out: If you ask him what business he is in – retail, manufacture, or design? He will answer show business. The laser cutting arm of the company pays the bills but this bit can get the bums on seats.

I would ask what’s next but I expect he wants to get this one properly going first before he thinks any further: Hello, global domination plans have already been drawn up. First the maker community meccas of New York and Sydney. But always with the obligatory coffee shop. In the rest of the world hot points are Nigeria and India, which would encompass franchises made up of the same three components – laser cutting, 3D and the online platform.

Well, that all sounds… plus there is of course the mobile trike idea.

Obviously. And what is that? A portable shop. One of those coffee rickshaw-type wagons which would also offer the 3D services.

And rides too? Ozenc wants to be the Uber of manufacturing – so who knows…

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