My roommate and I have recently been thinking about turning our living room into a joint workspace. Our plan involves building two standup desks, on wheels, that can be rearranged for independent and collaborative work and possibly as a dining table for those rare occasions that we have guests over. One of the hardest things about this project has been figuring out how we are going to get the materials to our Brooklyn apartment (we don’t have a car) and how we are going to cut the materials to size (we don’t have a circular saw or chop saw). This got me thinking about how a hardware store could update the way it operates to adapt to the digital world.
Home Depot and other hardware stores will cut lumber for you, but they only promise rough cuts with low precision. The rest needs to be done at home by the customer. However, most people in NYC and other large metropolitan areas don’t have a garage/backyard to work on these projects or the tools needed to do them.
It would be incredible to have an new type of hardware store where you could schedule an appointment online to go in and talk to a consultant about your project, possible designs and potential materials. Then you could bring in your design and work with the consultants to cut materials to length. The materials could then be delivered to your home. Of course there needs to be room for error in all DIY projects, but the consultants could help you plan for that possibility and make sure you are outfitted with the proper hand tools to do any small scale or finish work.
The maker movement is blowing up and many people have DIY projects that they want to do. They are also willing to pay a premium for quality assistance and services like cutting and delivery that they cannot do themselves. Places like 3rd Ward (although they just closed) do offer woodworking classes and a community shop for members. However, hardware stores are uniquely positioned to create a community around building things. They could do things like: set up smaller ‘outposts’ with basic materials and a shop where customers could rent time attend classes, sell basic project kits with materials already organized that customers could use as building blocks for their projects, and allow customers to order materials cut to specific dimensions online.
These are just a few ideas, but as more and more people live in metropolitan environments and want to create rather than consume, urban hardware stores need to develop a new operating system focused on helping people finish their projects rather than just finding the right product.