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Couple Takes Over Rundown Bryn Mawr Storefront to Create You-Fix-It Center

By Benjamin Woodard | January 16, 2014 9:29am
 Ally Brisbin, 28, and Stuart Marsh, 29, want to help people fix their broken stuff.
Ally Brisbin, 28, and Stuart Marsh, 29, want to help people fix their broken stuff.
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DNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard

EDGEWATER — Don't know what to do with that busted lamp?

Ally Brisbin and Stuart Marsh, the people behind Community Glue Workshop, are here to help.

The couple has taken over a dingy storefront underneath the Bryn Mawr "L" station to open Edgewater Workbench, a do-it-yourself, fix-it center where people will be able to bring in anything that's broken (like that lamp) and leave with it shining brightly.

We're "creating a community space for a wide range and variety of projects," Marsh said Wednesday inside the storefront, as trains rumbled by overhead during the evening rush hour. "[We] encourage people to repair things and build things — and work on projects that they otherwise wouldn't because they didn't have the workspace or the access to the tools and knowledge."

Added Brisbin, "The environmental aspect is a big thing for us."

The duo has been working with Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) for more than a year to lease for free the space, owned by the Chicago Transit Authority, and open the workshop.

Now all they need to do is pay utilities, liability insurance and use a little of their fix-it spirit to renovate the rundown storefront that was formerly a dry cleaners, said Sara Dinges, one of Osterman's aide's.

She said Osterman had been searching for community groups to enliven empty storefronts at the neighborhood's train stations.

While many of them have been renovated in recent years and are being marketed to paying lessees, the Bryn Mawr station renovation is still awaiting necessary funding and work isn't expected to begin for at least a year, she said.

So, Marsh, 29, and Brisbin, 28, have already gotten started.

"We've taken out everything moldy and gross and bad and stripped it down, now we just need to do the finishing touches," said Marsh inside the storefront, at 1116 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.

The duo began raising money online to help pay for the simple renovations they hope to complete soon. They're still waiting for the CTA to turn on their water, electricity and heat.

When it's all done, the space will operate much like the Community Glue Workshop events hosted at the Kitchen Sink cafe, which Brisbin founded, but stepped away from earlier this month. Brisbin co-founded Community Glue with friend Carla Bruni.

People would be able to bring "anything you can fit through the door" to fix using the Workbench's tools and expertise, Brisbin said.

They would also teach classes and rent the space to theater groups and other community groups who might need it, she said.

Standing near a $20 toilet and $1 sink they picked up from a second-hand store, Brisbin and Marsh explained where they get their desire to fix — rather than throw away — their old stuff.

"Stu grew up with handy parents," said Brisbin. "His dad built his house."

"Yeah," said Marsh, "my parents did carpentry and painting, so I grew up fixing things and working on houses."

Marsh, a freelance animator, said he used his 3D printer to literally make replacement parts for the broken stuff people bring in.

"I'll be there with paper and a caliper and get all the dimensions, and then build it on the spot — and they can walk away with it. ... In the matter of 40 minutes they have a new plastic piece," he said, adding that he's made washers, connectors, buttons, spacers and replacement accessories for toys.

What's the weirdest thing someone has brought in to mend?

"Someone got their bra fixed once," Brisbin said, "which was funny."