After paying a visit to ReUse Action yesterday, I came away with an entirely new appreciation for their work. Michael Gainer, Kevin Hayes, and the rest of the ReUse Action crew continue to roll out forward thinking initiatives that should be heralded. In fact, catching up with their latest work and current undertakings is a bit mind boggling. If you’ve ever met Michael Gainer, then you know that the guy has a million ingenious ideas in his head, a number of which he manages to roll out. He’s the type of guy that, if given the proper resources, could help to turn the East Side around in a faster and more thoughtful way. Even at this moment, he is formulating a plan to create an initiative called City Action Corps that would see disadvantaged urban youth given the hands-on training that they need to enter into the workforce.
It is no secret that there is a dearth of skilled labor workers in the region. At the same time, there is a lack of trade programs to give young people the tools that they need to thrive in a modern day economy. A lot of the city’s youth would rather get their hands dirty, make some money, and learn a trade, instead of simply going to school. Often times, school becomes more interesting when a young person knows that there is a light at the end of the tunnel work-wise. Unfortunately, attending school doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a job waiting upon completion. Michael feels that he can empower a faction of Buffalo’s youth that is looking for something that will keep their minds and their hands busy. But I digress – this is part of the plan that is only on the drawing board. The crux of Michael’s vision for the ReUSe Action building is already well underway.
The first floor of ReUse Action is filled with all sorts of practical odds and ends that any home builder or tinkerer would find invaluable. From old doors and door knobs to sinks and tubs, tiles and window frames, columns… you name it and it’s probably there. All of the inventory that you will find has been reclaimed. Much of the wood that you will come across is from deconstructed buildings. Michael and Kevin spend much of their time scouring the region for resources that they can reuse. Much of these resources would otherwise be thrown into landfills.
For example, they recently came across a basketball floor and bleachers at Le Moyne College in Syracuse. Due to new NCAA regulations, the floor needed to be replaced. “It took us two guys three days to harvest the 26,000 square feet of wood that was already set to got to a landfill,” Michael told me. “We turned it right around and sold it to 50 different customers. Those are the jobs that we love… that we need.”
Towards the back of the first floor sits a wide array of reconstituted household items and artisan works. It’s a mashup of Gallery @ The Guild and DIY BFLO – featuring maker workshop products and DIY offerings. There are “previously enjoyed” works of art by Richard Rockford (he works with reclaimed materials), wooden toys, restored furniture and accessories, found casting forms, books, vintage luggage… a world of fascinating items. There are a ton of reworked items to browse, and plenty of materials to be found. And that’s just the start.
Michael took me on a tour of the third floor (Guild @980), which is starting to retain a critical mass of artisans. The ReUse Action crew has been assembling a series of interconnected walls, using reclaimed doors and windows. The walls compose custom built artisan studios (all studios divisible by 200 sq.’). The floor is now heated too – Michael recently installed a radiant tube heating system that is energy efficient and fully functional. Even the smallest studio gives an artisan plenty of workspace to create.
The stalls branch off from long hallways, featuring a wide array of artisans. One guy makes walking sticks that second as four-string guitars. Another guy makes giant sculptures for the Burning Man festival. The way that Michael sees it, these stalls are considered incubators for some people, and permanent studios for others. If an artisan is looking to expand within the building, they simply build out more walls. The artisans also have access to sell their works at the Gallery @ The Guild. There is even room for communal lounges, industrial conference rooms, work stations… and a coffee roastery recently set up shop in the building (Plume). Come spring of 2017, the occupants will also have dedicated off street parking spaces, with access in the back of the building.
I am of the belief that much of what we are seeing take place at ReUSe Action will help to reinvent the East Side of this city. The complex is considered a center for green jobs training, green materials and the restoration arts. Michael tells me that each month sales are up, although it did take them a year to catch up to speed after initial opening. Moving forward, the concentration is going to be building out more artisan studios – they are looking for metal workers and glass blowers, among others. With a critical mass of artisans, the infrastructure for City Action Corps graduates looking for additional hands-on training and internships will be in place.
All of this is happening right now, in one form or another. A number of the various components are now falling into place, ensuring a bright future for ReUse Action and subsidiaries.
Click here to learn about the holiday pop-ups that ReUse Action has in store, as well as the artisans that occupy the space.