After making the career change from lawyer to professional furniture maker, Peter Debelak decided to test his entrepreneurial skills as well. Last July, he opened the doors to Soulcraft Woodshop in Cleveland, a community woodworking shop that allows locals to rent shop space and equipment to suit their individual project needs.
A former labor law attorney, Debelak says his career in the legal world was so frustrating it forced him to focus on his true passion.
“I guess you could say I’m a recovering lawyer. I’ve been working with wood for the last 15 years and as a moneymaking hobbyist for about five years. Two years ago I started making furniture full-time. Then a colleague of mine, Jim McNaughton, and I both independently had the idea to set up a community woodshop where the public can access the equipment. It’s kind of like a fitness club where you get a monthly membership and can use all the equipment and take classes,” says Debelak.
With the help of McNaughton as a co-owner, Debelak rented out a space already used by a host of other artists in a 300,000-sq.-ft. converted meat factory in the outskirts of the city. The two started acquiring tools and work tables, purchasing some of them new while others were donated by local high school shops and retiring woodworkers.
A monthly membership pass sells for $120, while a pay-as-you-go pass to complete an individual project starts at $50. The shop currently has six fulltime members and has had about 30 patrons through its doors in varying capacities. Debelak enjoys being able to continue to run his business as a custom furniture maker, while tending to those in the shop who rely on his expertise.
“I still make and sell my own furniture out of this shop. The community shop covers all the bills here and it’s created a great environment. I love being in a space where there’s constantly creative energy with people trying to bring their ideas to fruition. It’s not purely about just tool access. I walk around the shop a lot and help people move to the next stage of their projects.”
The owners offer various classes and tutorials when they get enough interest from their members, and in the process of scheduling regular furniture making and other miscellaneous woodworking classes. He adds that he and McNaughton see the venture as lucrative and promising, as there’s not much in the way of competition.
“There are a couple of places around that teach classes, but nothing major. No other place allows people access to work on their own projects.”
Contact: Soulcraft Woodshop, 3619 Walton Ave., Cleveland, OH 44113. Tel: 216-644-0955. http://soulcraftwoodshop.com
This article originally appeared in the February 2013 issue.