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'Creative reuse center' to open in Eastworks Building

  • Amber Ladley and Macey Faiella at the Eastworks building where they are opening their new business called Knack: the art of clever reuse.

    Amber Ladley and Macey Faiella at the Eastworks building where they are opening their new business called Knack: the art of clever reuse. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Items representing the new business Amber Ladley and Macey Faiella are opening at the Eastworks building called Knack: the art of clever reuse.

    Items representing the new business Amber Ladley and Macey Faiella are opening at the Eastworks building called Knack: the art of clever reuse. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Amber Ladley and Macey Faiella at the Eastworks building where they are opening their new business called Knack: the art of clever reuse.

    Amber Ladley and Macey Faiella at the Eastworks building where they are opening their new business called Knack: the art of clever reuse. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Amber Ladley and Macey Faiella at the Eastworks building where they are opening their new business called Knack: the art of clever reuse.
  • Items representing the new business Amber Ladley and Macey Faiella are opening at the Eastworks building called Knack: the art of clever reuse.
  • Amber Ladley and Macey Faiella at the Eastworks building where they are opening their new business called Knack: the art of clever reuse.

— Amber Ladley and Macey Faiella met 10 years ago when they lived in the same apartment building in Easthampton. A decade later, their friendship and a shared love of creating useful items from what some people might consider trash has brought them back to the city to open a “creative reuse center.”

Knack: The Art of Clever Reuse, which will sell things like bottle caps, burlap sacks and scrap wood for recycling in art projects or for practical uses, is expected to open in the Eastworks Building July 1.

Standing outside their rented space across from the Apollo Grill April 25, Faiella, 45, and Ladley, 34, showed off examples of items they’ve repurposed, or “upcycled.” Their tote bags were made from T-shirts, their business cards were printed on pieces of cereal boxes, and Ladley displayed with pride an improvised toothbrush holder, made from two small mason jars attached with hose clamps to a piece of wood that could be nailed to the wall.

The two moms have filled their garages with materials and items that will be for sale at Knack; some things were donated and others rescued from people who were going to just chuck them in the trash.

“We’ll say, ‘don’t throw that away, I can do something with that,’” Faiella said. “And they look at us like we’re crazy.”

It may seem a little far-fetched that one could turn a collection of odds and ends into a thriving enterprise, but the partners have done their research and they’re sure they can make it work and make a buck.

“Sure, it’s not a million-dollar idea, but there are many very successful creative reuse centers,” Ladley said. Other creative reuse centers like The Scrap Exchange in Durham, N.C., and SCRAP in Portland, Ore., report earning over $300,000 a year, with between 74 and 90 percent coming from the sale of materials, she said, adding that Knack will be a much smaller enterprise.

Ladley compared a creative reuse center to a thrift shop. Its inventory is sold at very low prices, but there is little overhead because it is all donated. They’ve created a business plan and expect that the “core” of the business will be the creative reuse materials, but they will also make money by charging for workshops, crafting parties and upcycled art for sale.

“We see it as kind of an arts destination,” Faiella said. “We can have crafts nights, birthday parties and afterschool groups.” Ladley said the birthday parties, which would include the materials, the activity and renting the space, would probably cost the same as most places charge for birthday parties — upwards of $150.

Ladley, of South Hadley, said she and Faiella hope that the store eventually becomes sustainable enough for them to quit their other jobs to spend more time at Knack and hire additional staff. But for now, they’ll staff it in their free hours with help from family.

Ladley is a freelance web developer and Faiella, of Southampton, works at the International Language Institute in Northampton.

Trend setters

The two are certainly not alone in their passion for recycling discarded items and keeping them out of landfills. The upcycling movement has taken off in the last few years as more people in the Pioneer Valley and across the country see the value in repurposing junk. It’s a way to be eco-friendly and save money while making unique DIY stuff, from funky furnishings and hip accessories to fine art.

“I think it tests your creativity and your resourcefulness,” Faiella said at the Eastworks Building. “You don’t need to buy stuff new — there are enough things already in the consumer stream.”

Creative reuse centers like Knack are popping up around the country, although some have been around for 30 years, Ladley said. They offer parents, teachers and other aspiring DIYers a wider array of materials than they could ever hope to collect on their own and provide a place for green-minded people to donate their old magnets, CDs, paper, playing cards, wine corks and more.

Most of the centers are nonprofits, but Ladley and Faiella thought running Knack as a business would make it more sustainable.

They said they haven’t decided exactly how they will charge for the reuse materials. For donated art supplies like paint, paper and fabric, they will probably be priced at 25 percent of their retail price. The recycled items, like CDs or jars, are harder to price, so they’ll look to other reuse centers for examples of how to set prices.

“One place might have a barrel of buttons, and they’ll charge for a bag or a scoop,” Ladley said.

From pastime to profession

Ladley and Faiella said the story of Knack began years ago, when the two started doing upcycled art projects with their children and just as a fun hobby.

Then last year, Ladley read an article about creative reuse centers around the country and how to start one. “I couldn’t believe after I researched it that there wasn’t one here; it’s such a great community for one,” she said.

She told Faiella, whom she called a “queen upcycler,” that she thought the community needed a reuse center.

“I said, ‘Is that even a thing? I would love to go to one,’” Faiella recalled. “We decided that if we wanted to go to one, we had to make one.”

They came up with a name, created a business plan and Ladley, a freelance web developer, created a website in July and started promoting the cause online. They were gratified, but not surprised, to see there was a lot of local interest in upcycling.

They set up a temporary “pop-up shop” at Signature Sounds in downtown Northampton for six weekends leading up to Christmas. The goal was to sell upcycled gifts from jewelry to home decor items, made by Ladley, Faiella and 18 other artists, and to generate interest about the cause. They sold 264 items in six Saturdays, and the success encouraged them.

They started looking for the right space for Knack in January.

“Everyone we met said, ‘you should think about Easthampton,’” Faiella said. “It’s obviously one of the biggest growing arts communities.”

Knack will host regular workshops where children and adults can learn how to make burlap sack bulletin boards, soda tab necklaces, or other crafts. Ladley said they don’t have the prices for the workshops hammered out yet.

In addition to shelves of materials, Knack will have work spaces so people can do projects, and upcycled art from local artists for sale. Most of the money would go to the artists and Knack would get a commission, but they haven’t decided on the split, Ladley said.

Getting started

Faiella said it feels a bit surreal that the store is actually taking shape in the 1,000-square-foot rented space after almost a year of preparation. “We’re excited to have more space in our garages and to build a community of people who like to do this stuff,” she said.

Ladley said getting the business going has required “not a huge financial investment, mostly a time investment” from its founders. She and Faiella have invested in the business by buying the materials to build shelving and paying rent, though she declined to say how much the rent is at the Eastworks Building.

They estimate it will cost $8,000 to get the store up and running, including costs like purchasing a “point of sale” system and insurance, and furnishing the space. They launched a crowd-funding campaign on www.indiegogo.com to raise the $8,000, and in the four weeks since they started the campaign, they’re halfway to their goal. Depending on how much they give, donors can claim “perks,” such as “Knack bucks” to use when the store is open, tickets to the “Knack Bash” at the Apollo Grill on Aug. 19 or a private crafting party for six friends.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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