Generator Maker Space Eyes A Move To Burlington's South End

Jun 20, 2016

The Generator maker space has to move out of Burlington’s Memorial Auditorium by the end of this year. The non-profit workshop has reached a tentative agreement to move into a warehouse leased by Champlain College in Burlington’s South End.

The area is now home to several small businesses incubated at the maker space.

If all goes well, Generator will move into an 8,000-square-foot space that’ll increase its footprint by nearly a third. The studios for makers will be larger and there will be more of them.

The new home, it turns out, is across a parking lot from Champlain College’s Maker Lab. Generator needs to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars by September to build out the new space, says executive director Lars Hasselblad-Torres.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Hasselblad-Torres says. “It is a fair amount of money to raise, but I think we’re going to hit it. We’ve got a lot of results to show.”

Results like the launching of several small businesses.

One of them is the Pinbox 3000, a cardboard pinball machine created by two guys from Montpelier who were makers-in-residence at Generator.

The business took off after a successful Kickstarter campaign and is now manufacturing cardboard pinball machines in Philadelphia and Finland. It just moved its headquarters to ALTernator, a new work space on Pine Street shared by four small businesses that met at Generator.

“Generator, and all the things that Generator is involved in, and the maker culture in the area has definitely pushed us to where we are right now,” says Matt Flego, a co-founder of ALTernator with his partner Erik Cooper.

"The biggest advantage that we offer is we allow folks with business ideas, artistic ideas a place to make that idea a physical reality." - Michael Metz, former Generator board chairman

Flego and Cooper are designers and fabricators who recently signed a deal to make 700 high-end barstools for Room & Board, a Minneapolis-based furniture chain. 

“We’re stacked up. We actually can’t take any more work right now,” Flego says.

Flego and Cooper built a small portable cocktail bar for another business that left Generator and is now based on Pine Street.

Alice and the Magician makes edible aromatics that bartenders spritz into cocktail. The company’s founder, Aaron Wisniewski, says he’s hired a few part-time employees and a full-time publicist since leaving Generator last summer. He says the maker space was instrumental in getting his business off the ground.

“When I got into Generator, the only thing I needed was space. The first thing I noticed that was really important was the business networking, the people that I met there who either gave me advice or resources or introduced me to other people,” Wisniewski says. “That was the most important thing.”

Among the entrepreneurs to emerge from Generator is Eric Roy, a leather mask maker who now runs a maker space at St. Michael's College.
Credit Heather Hayes

    

The maker space also has a group of volunteer lawyers that advises members on issues of intellectual property.

Michael Metz, the former chairman of Generator’s board, says the most valuable thing about Generator is that hit helps ideas become reality.

“The biggest advantage that we offer is we allow folks with business ideas, artistic ideas a place to make that idea a physical reality,” Metz says. “When we started this thing, we were not sure whether this would be an artist-driven maker space, an entrepreneurial kind of space. I’d say half of our members now are entrepreneurs starting a business or in the early stage of making their businesses work.”

Among the other entrepreneurs to emerge from Generator are Rob Rock, a Burlington farmer who builds machines that uses flames to weed a field; the drone company Air Shark; and Eric Roy, a leather mask maker who now runs a maker space at St. Michael’s College. Roy is one of several small business owners who still maintain memberships at Generator. 

Correction 9:37 a.m. An earlier version of this story misidentified Michael Metz as the chairman of Generator's board. Metz is the former chairman.