WEST LOOP — The controversy over a proposal to open a bar in the West Loop has led one resident to go after the space himself — which he wants to turn into a completely different business: a factory for his online company.
Block X Condo resident Moshe Tamssot said he thinks his company MakeItFor.Us — a site that connects manufacturers with people who want stuff made — would be a perfect fit for the 50,000-square-foot vacant building at 1140 W. Madison St.
In addition to his company, Tamssot also envisions a kid-friendly business, possibly featuring a LEGO block pit on the property’s first floor, and also an organic cafe, which would utilize the roof of the five-story building as a green space for growing fresh produce.
Many Block X residents have been dead set against Daniel Deutscher's plan to put the Chicago Tap House in the building, the back of which is across the alley from the Block X development where Tamssot lives. Several residents with small children said they had no interest in any bar occupying the space.
Since then, both Ald. Danny Solis (25th) and the West Loop Community Organization have sided with the residents’ efforts to block the Tap House from officially signing a lease for the space. Tamssot had a meeting this week to introduce Block X residents to his idea.
Tamssot said he's also presented the idea to Steven Greenberg, who owns the property at 1140 W. Madison St. Greenberg declined to comment this week on his plans for the building, or say whether it is even for sale.
Tamssot started MakeItFor.Us in 2010 after he and his company, The Monks of Invention, were given an award for best overall app at a Chicago technology hackathon. The concept works as a plug-in, which gets dragged into the user’s bookmarks bar. Users can then move their mouse over an image on any website — and Tamssot’s site will attempt to connect them with someone who can make the item for them, potentially at a better price.
The physical business would then house a "makers space" where some of the items could be made, possibly with 3-D printers.
Tamssot said the site would, for example, enable a Pilsen tailor having a slow month to be connected to a Near West Side woman in need of an outfit.
“Can we create this local demand and can we match it up with local supply and now start creating these economic bridges between the north and south ends of the wards?” Tamssot said.
Nik Rokop, who runs the Knapp Entrepreneurship Center at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s school of business, said there were advantages to Tamssot’s site having a physical location.
“In an online basis, you’re a broker and you get a very small piece of the pie. But having your hand in distribution, that’s where companies tend to make a lot more money,” he said.
What Tamssot’s trying to do isn’t entirely new. 3-D Printer Shapeways launched a factory in New York last year and Techshop, a member-based do-it-yourself workshop, already has six U.S. locations.
Rokop also cautioned that Tamssot’s model — which encourages users to snap a photo of “any image they see online” — could walk a thin line when it comes to copyright issues.
But while Tamssot said MakeItFor.Us strived to connect users to the most locally available vendors, he admitted that ultimately price, and not necessarily location, could be a deciding factor for those looking to get items made.
Block X resident Michael Chin used MakeItFor.Us last month after seeing a table he wanted online. Tamssot’s site ended up connecting him to an American “maker” in Mexico who offered to create Chin’s table for almost half the original online price.
Tamssot said a global real estate development firm has already expressed an interest in financing the concept and taking it to other neighborhoods. He also said he’d spoken with Solis about potentially putting together an economic plan to get city money.
While he admitted his idea was a long shot, Tamssot said he’d continue to push it forward.
“One of the things we excel at is doing the impossible,” he said. “We solve big problems one small bit at a time and with serendipity, the right people come into our lives at the right moment.”