The Village Workshop continues to expand its offerings. Danielle Alexander10:32 p.m. EDT June 7, 2016 The Maker Movement exists to connect people back to vocations, technologies and the spirit of do-it-yourself invention. Although only open for a little over a year, The Village Workshop in Northville has already become a well-known “Maker Space” not only to Northville residents but also to those who live in surrounding communities. Founded by Dennis Engerer, Chris McDonald and Brian Donovan, The Village Workshop is a member-based community work space dedicated to creativity, learning, entrepreneurship and prototype services. After only opening in March 2015, there are already over 300 members in a 1,000 capacity building. “Many of our members come in with project ideas, but once they start working, they become inspired by someone else,” The Village Workshop Operations Manager Tracey Wormsbacher said. The Village Workshop Community Relations and Marketing Director Carter Guider added that this is due to the fact that there are so many “talented and brilliant people involved” in the facility. One does not have to be a member to take a class at The Village Workshop. There are computer lab, cooking, craft studio, electronic shop, machine shop, metal shop, sewing studio, woodshop and even kids classes available to the public. “We have everything from traditional to the newest state of the art technology,” Guider said. “For a Maker Space, it’s pretty unusual.” In addition to holding classes and events for members and non-members, the Workshop also works closely with the community. For example, in addition to several other schools and even Schoolcraft College, The Village Workshop partnered with Northville High School this past school year to not only provide scholarship opportunities but also give the CAD ENG II and CAD ARCH II students experience with hands-on, project-based learning. Previously, these classes would use computers to create complex designs; however, through this partnership, the students not only modeled simple pieces of furniture on the computers, but they also had the opportunity to “bring them to life.” “This provided them with the rendering on the computer based off the original specifications, and then the opportunity to get trained and complete the tooling necessary to build the furniture,” NHS Applied Technology and Robotics Lead Teacher Julie Fisette said. Fisette added that the students treasured the experience and enjoyed the class since they were able to learn the manufacturing process needed to create something from a drawing, the value of machine safety and the excitement in creating and manufacturing. “The students had the opportunity to experience something more than theoretical learning,” Guider said. “It’s not just vocational learning, not just for the 10 percent who do not attend college. It’s for all students since everyone gets something out if it. It’s really been a neat initiative.” Also, scheduled for later in the summer, The Village Workshop is in the midst of planning a veteran initiative where veterans will have the chance to try out a variety of tools and equipment. “Our hope is that we can work to enhance their skills for future job opportunities,” Guider said. Besides the machine shop, woodshop and metal shop, the first floor of The Village Workshop also has a café, which not only houses culinary instructor Mary Spencer’s cooking classes but also Northville’s very own Tuscan Café, which is currently there four days a week from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with plans of increased hours down the road. In addition to the sewing and craft studios, as well as the computer and multi-use labs, half of the second floor is dedicated to carts on wheels, which Guider said, laughing, has been dubbed the “COW Pasture.” For 225 dollars a month, people not only have the opportunity to rent a COW to work, but they also receive free internet and access to the entire facility, which, for many, is the main reason why they selected the space they did since not only are the tools and equipment in-house, but so are people with backgrounds and expertise in a variety of areas. In addition to the businesses renting COWs, there are also two permanent tenants: Martone Design Studio and TESPO. “It’s really become like a huge house,” Wormsbacher said. “It’s crazy to think about this building just sitting vacant for six years. Look what it is now! What they (Engerer, McDonald and Donovan) visualized and hoped would happen, happened. Even those who were here when we first opened owe it to themselves to see what’s here now, and how the partners’ dream is alive and well.” Guider added that this success has occurred because the three partners “listen to membership” and “constantly think creatively to do more.” The Village Workshop is located at 455 E. Cady St. in Northville; it is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, visit www.thevillageworkshop.com or call (248)-667-7157.
Posted by Aysha Jamali (Editor) , November 23, 2013 at 03:19 AM
Chris McDonald says everyone from engineers to teachers are waiting for Northville's own communal workspace to open.
The Village Workshop is a project in downtown Northville that has the community's full support. That's a major success for co-founder Chris McDonald, who wants the community workspace to be a place for everyone.
"It's starting to take on a life of its own," he said.
McDonald, a Northville resident for eight years and a longtime professional in the steel and automotive industry, said the space — although it isn't expected to open until the summer at the old Belanger building on Cady Street — is piquing the interest of business owners, city officials, kids, professional engineers, teachers and artists.
"The Village Workshop will be catering to a broad audience," he said.
McDonald got involved when he and Brian Donovan, the brains of the operation, talked at their daughters' lacrosse game about owning their own company.
"We were talking about this while we should have been watching our daughters," he said.
McDonald, who has been involved in start-ups and project management, put together a business plan and the two approached their Northville friend Dennis Engerer with the idea. When he agreed, the plans flowed from there.
Demolition to begin soon, workshop seeking founding members
The city's planning commission gave its final approval this month and demolition of the outer buildings will start within a couple of weeks. Not only will the workshop serve Northville's residents, it will and is already making use of the city's resources.
"I'm excited to be a part of this downtown," McDonald said.
He and his partners commissioned a local architect, contractor, landscape designer, surveyor and even the local bank, he said. The collaboration will also continue once its open; the workshop will be home to a satellite location for Northville Lumber that will serve as a supply store. McDonald said that supports the workshop's goal: to be a resource for projects from start to finish.
The Village Workshop is expected to open in July and is taking founding members now. Founding memberships include discounts and are fully refundable up until the official grand opening day.
Brian Donovan wants other to have the resources he didn't to invent and create at Northville's own communal workspace. Brian Donovan, of Northville, is passionate about giving everyone the chance to create and get their designs from concept to reality — without succumbing to corporate sharks and scammers.
Donovan hopes to provide that opportunity at The Village Workshop, Northville's own communal workspace to open in the summer at the old Belanger building on Cady Street.
"I'm kind of an armchair inventor," he said. "I didn't have the wherewithal to manufacture the ideas."
Donovan, who has always been an entrepreneur, secured a patent for a pet training product he designed. He is also the founder and president of Petkey, LLC., a Wixom-based company that offers pet microchip registration, pet recovery, I.D. tags and dog training.
Donovan said he envisioned turning the Belanger building into a maker space. He said he wanted it be a space where everyone — people itching to invent, artists, students seeking experience with the tools — felt welcome.
"We want this to be for everybody, because everybody has a good idea," he said.
Donovan piqued the interest of his Northville friends Dennis Engerer and Chris McDonald. Now, as partners, the three have made much headway into the project. Built in 1875 and once the home of Belanger, Inc. — a world leader in car wash manufacturing, its renovation plans had to go before the city's historical commission. Donovan said they loved it as did the planning commission, which granted preliminary approval for the site plan and its 50 parking spaces.
Construction will begin in November; the first step: demolition. That includes removal of smaller structures that were added over the years.
"The building is going to look very much like it did in 1875," Donovan said.
Further renovations include adding elevators and restrooms, taking out the burgundy carpeting on the third floor, opening up the covered windows and repairing the brick.
Multi-million dollar project promises hi-tech equipmentThe workshop's studio, on the main floor, will house hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment. Donovan said customary metal and wood working equipment cost anywhere from a couple thousand dollars to more than $20,000.
"There are plenty of designs out there on the drawing boards," he said.
That is why The Village Workshop also plans to have a few 3D printers, which he said can run $100,000 a piece. Technology like that will open up the design potential, he said.
"You can go from concept to product launch without leaving Michigan. Without leaving Northville," he said.
Donovan acknowledged that the project is a serious undertaking. He said he and his partners are investing a lot of their own money into the project, which — when everything is said and done — will cost around $3 to $4 million.
However, accessibility to the public will remain affordable. Membership fees start at only $20. Donovan said he and his team are dedicated to making The Village Workshop an asset for the city and its citizens.
Dennis Engerer, owner of Northville Physical Rehabilitation,
says the new downtown communal workspace will incubate creativity. Northville businessman Dennis
Engerer is embarking on a bold project in the city.
These spaces, like TechShop in Allen
Park, are gaining popularity across the country. Workshop members can turn
their ideas into inventions with daily access to tools, software and
supplies. Engerer and his partners, Chris McDonald and Brian Donovan, are
turning this concept into a concrete reality for Northville.
"It's the chance to make their fame and fortune. Everyone should have the
right to do it," Engerer said.
"I've always liked the idea of being in business on your own," he
In addition to appreciating the entrepreneurial spirit behind the Village
Workshop, he said he also loves seeing people seek out their dreams.
Workshop supporters see Northville as future creative hub
Engerer said the project's supporters, like city
officials and the DDA, are looking forward to what the Village Workshop can do
for the city.
"I think Northville is a great place to live and work," he said.
Engerer renovates old buildings, like his office building downtown, to improve
the city, he said. The Belanger building, a property that could use some
TLC, is a perfect project for him.
The 24,000 square foot building, currently in a state of disrepair, was the
home of Belanger, Inc.,
a world leader in car wash manufacturing. As the Village Workshop, it will
house an expansive manufacturing space and offices for small businesses.
"We have a 100-year-old building," Donovan said. "We really want
to bring it back to life."
He said the space will attract many including artists, engineers and families
who want to build a canoe. There will also be classes on designing and patent
law, so members are equipped for success.
"It's happening all over, why can't it happen here?" McDonald said.
Engerer, who said he enjoys working with machines and often repairs the ones in
his office, plans to spend a lot of time in the workshop once it's complete.
The next step, he said, is to close the deal on purchasing the building from
the Belanger family. Next, the city's planning and historic commissions will
review the site plans. Then, renovations will start in the next few weeks, he
While the project won't be complete at least until next year, the Village
Workshop is already taking memberships. Find out more online at www.thevillageworkshop.com.
New life for the Belanger
The Northville Record Written by Lonnie Huhman Staff Writer “Get in here and make something!” is the motto for the future Village Workshop, which should open next year in downtown Northville.This project is being put together by some local entrepreneurs who want to bring new life to the old Belanger building on Cady Street while also giving community members the opportunity and space to design, create and manufacture any number of products that they think of.
“This is a really exciting idea for us and we expect others to feel the same way,” said Chris McDonald, who has partnered with Brian Donovan and Dennis Engerer to develop the Village Workshop concept.
The question they are asking the community is: “What if there was a place that had everything you could ever think of to make anything you could ever think of?”
Their answer is the Village Workshop, which McDonald said will have the tools, equipment, staff and software needed to make ideas come to life. The plan is for it to be a community space dedicated to creativity, learning, entrepreneurship, and prototype services.
It will work on a membership basis, but all are invited to get to know its capabilities. Different individuals wanting to utilize its space and offerings can become one and get started. Job retention and creation will be some of the goals of the workshop.
They expect members to include: inventors, artists, builders, makers, small businesses, soon-to-be- small businesses, not-so-small businesses, students, engineers, designers, crafters, hobbyists, and retirees.
“Everyone has an idea, so we want to be able to provide them with the space, equipment and know-how to help make it happen,” Donovan said. Donovan believes the Belanger building is the perfect spot for this idea. While it has been relatively unused for some time, it’s being purchased by these new owners with new ideas for its use.
It’s a 24,000 square feet, three story historical building. It will be renovated into a creative work space. Rather than knock it down, the planners want to bring it back to what it had been in the past – a place of manufacturing.
On the first floor of the renovated building will be the manufacturing workshop area along with a general store/cafe for supplies and food.
There will be equipment pieces and software for computer-aided design, welding, CNC milling and 3D printers. McDonald said they will have several $70,000-$80,000 3D printers available.
The next floor up will be for office space, which members or small businesses can use. The third floor will be for The Village Workshop employees.
“There will be no limits to what a person can create, design and make here,” Engerer.
The plan is to open the workshop by spring of 2014. The planners will be working with the City of Northville on its plans and designs in the coming months.