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Third Degree Glass Factory will take over TechShop in St. Louis


The same day TechShop announced it was filing for bankruptcy and closing all locations, a St. Louis native decided to step in to save the local makerspace.

Jim McKelvey, the co-founder of Square and Third Degree Glass Factory, as well as the founder of LaunchCode, made a couple of phone calls.

“I immediately contacted Dennis Lower who runs Cortex and Doug Auer who runs Third Degree and said ‘guys, we’ve got to save this,’” he told St. Louis Public Radio.

McKelvey said he used the original TechShop location in Menlo Park, Calif. when making the prototype for Square and its mobile payment technology. He said he was a big proponent of bringing TechShop to St. Louis, where it opened in the innovation district Cortex just last year.

“TechShop is important,” he said. “It’s a place where people learn and where people create.”

The company has more than 500 members in St. Louis, who learned Wednesday the doors had closed.

In the aftermath, Cortex President and CEO Dennis Lower said it would be difficult to find another manager to take over the makerspace. But that changed by Wednesday evening.

“With Jim stepping up and Third Degree, an operator that understands makerspace because Third Degree is a makerspace, it did not take long to put everything together and say ‘we can do this,’” Lower said.

Third Degree Glass Factory will reopen the makerspace at the current location at 4260 Forest Park Ave. to existing members through December. Lower said it’s especially important to allow business owners to get their projects completed so they can fill holiday orders.

The plan is to open a new location for makerspace elsewhere in the city sometime next year. McKelvey says the search has already begun.

TechShop was founded in San Jose, Calif. and had 10 locations around the U.S., including in St. Louis. McKelvey said he thinks Third Degree can be successful as it’s run makerspace locally without donations for 15 years.

In fact, he said the leadership at TechShop approached him in 2010 for advice as they planned to expand nationwide.

“They decided to go another way,” McKelvey said. “They raised big money and opened fancy spaces and paid high rent. We think there’s a less glorious way to do it and still have the same results.”

Lots of details remain to be hammered out, including what the new entity will be called.

TechShop members in St. Louis can attend a meeting in the @4240 building in Cortex on Monday from 5-8 p.m. 

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.