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Arts | Culture

San Diego Made makes its mark on Logan Heights

The San Diego Made Factory
The warehouse hosts 27 artist studios filled with a diverse group of tenants.
(Bronwyn Huddleson Photography)

A seven decade-old building in Logan Heights will soon debut as The Factory, an artistic space for San Diego creatives.

It all started with four women — Sarah Anderson, Brook Daily, Kristin Dinnis and Brittany Kaszas — who met at Union Barrio Logan, a creative warehouse where they operated booths for their individual businesses. Anderson and Daily run a woodworking company called LODA Designs, Dinnis is a clothing designer behind the brand Monarch Atlas, and Kaszas owns the graphic design and marketing company Thoughtful Paper.

The quartet bonded during their four years together at the now defunct Union and uncovered a shared desire to connect other tenants to one another. This passion inspired the formation of San Diego Made, a community of local makers, artists, craftsmen, small business owners and creatives.

The San Diego Made Factory
(l to r) San Diego Made co-founders Kristin Dinnis, Sarah Anderson, Brook Daily and Brittany Kaszas
(Bronwyn Huddleson Photography)
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Through that organization, which was now grown to roughly 200 members, they host public markets and pop-up events, as well as offer online resources, email newsletters, and networking opportunities for members.

Unfortunately, San Diego Made founders, members and the rest of the Union renters lost their home when the warehouse shut its doors in September 2017, partially in response to permitting issues and safety concerns prompted by the 2016 Ghost Ship Fire in Oakland.

Anderson, Daily, Dinnis and Kaszas were already discussing growing San Diego Made and possibly opening their own space, so Union’s shuttering propelled their vision into action.

“(The closure) was definitely the big push to get going and find a space,” Anderson said, who added that the renters only had two weeks to move out of their Union studios. Armed with their experience co-habiting at Union, as well as very different skill sets, the women combined their talents and to help launch a new up-to-code home for these displaced artists: The San Diego Made Factory.

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After months of searching, they stumbled upon a 12,000-square-foot Logan Heights building with a creative past. It is currently owned and operated Tod Swank, who previously ran his San Diego-based skateboard distribution company Tum Yeto in the space. Swank and San Diego Made turned out to be the perfect pair, as the landlord provides support of their mission and grants them flexibility with the project.

The San Diego Made Factory
Construction of the warehouse took approximately five months.
(Bronwyn Huddleson Photography)

The co-founders all contributed to the warehouse’s design and layout plans, enlisting the help SKEMA Studio architects Briana Rempel and Rachel Zborowska to put it all together. They also put on hard hats and aided in the construction — led by general contractor Zach Addison— which took approximately five months to complete.

Away went the blue carpet and tack boards glued to the walls, revealing faded yellow and green paint. The existing windows remain in place, contributing to the warehouse vibe and bringing light into the freshly painted space. Other elements include high ceilings, scattered plants and cacti, wood and concrete furniture salvaged from Union, and a 2013 mural of actor Tom Selleck painted by Mark Paul Deren (aka MADSTEEZ, who also painted the infamous dinosaur mural in North Park recently taken down by Target).

The two-story warehouse now offers 27 creative studios for artists downstairs and three private office suites upstairs. The first floor also hosts a large co-working space with semi-private desks. Though the studios and offices are currently all occupied, applications are now open for dedicated desks and co-working memberships. Additionally, there are a lot of shared areas. These include a kitchen, podcast room and a 1,000-square-foot multipurpose event area for networking, workshops and community gatherings.

The San Diego Made Factory
An architectural rendering of the co-working space, which is now accepting applications.
(SKEMA Studio)

Though the grand opening isn’t until May 4, some tenants have already begun to set up shop. Graphic and website design duo, Stacey Edelstein and Dalton Rooney, moved their business Raygun Designs on April 1 to what is lovingly nicknamed “The Don Draper Room” for its wood paneling and a 1960s-vibe.

“We were thrilled to find the space … this just was exactly what we were looking for,” Edelstein said, who found out about the opportunity through a San Diego Made email newsletter. “We’ve been in San Diego for just over five years and just office-hopped everywhere (four different offices). It took us a long time to find the right fit — and this is it.”

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Downstairs, visual designer and abstract painter Caitlin Carney has settled into her new studio covered with her colorful canvases. Carney, who graduated from University of San Diego in 2017, “briefly tried the corporate thing” but quit her job to pursue a more creative field.

“As soon as I found out about (The Factory), I was like, ‘Hello, hi (San Diego Made) — would you like my first born child? How do I get in here?’” Carney said, laughing.

“I love (the warehouse), it’s a great space — it’s extra fun when there’s a lot of people in here, it’s a good buzz,” Carney continued, adding that she’s looking forward to the rest of the tenants moving in.

The San Diego Made Factory
Abstract painter Caitlin Carney is one of the studio tenants at The Factory.
(Courtesy photo)

Other artisans renting out studio spaces include candle makers, soap makers, seamstresses, 3D designers, metalworkers, essential oil/aromatherapy makers, guitar makers, photographers, fiber artists, and landscape architectures, among others.

“A big thing that we wanted to do when getting the space … is making sure that we were able to bring something that was affordable to the makers and to the small businesses in our community,” Dinnis said, contrasting The Factory to larger co-working spaces. They hope it can serve as an accessible option for artists to start, operate and grow their business in a creative environment without a high overhead cost and with an open door policy.

“(We also want to) make sure this space is alive all the time, not just a place where people come and work and leave,” Kaszas said.

Once The Factory opens, they plan to interact with tenants, engage the public, and establish a presence with local businesses and surrounding areas. They hope to enhance the established arts and cultural district rather than disrupt it.

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The San Diego Made Factory
The Factory is filled with furniture salvaged from Union Barrio Logan, such as wood side tables and a large concrete sink in the communal kitchen.
(Courtesy photo)

“You see a lot of promise (in Logan Heights/Barrio Logan). There’s already such a great environment here — we don’t want to come in and change any of that … I think it’s important that we embrace it and work with the community and bring something that is just complementary to what is already happening here,” Kaszas said.

To kick things off, The Factory will participate in the monthly Barrio Logan Art Crawl by hosting a Second Saturday Market in June. San Diego Made has previously partnered with The Layfette Hotel, Balboa Park Makers Faire, and software company Intuit. Most recently, Ballast Point reached out to the organization to curate vendors for the Made in San Diego Block Party in March, featuring booths from 25 San Diego Made members.

“I think anytime that we’re able to partner with big companies like that (Ballast Point), especially those who have come from San Diego and grown to be at the level that they’re at, it’s great because it’s their way to give back to other small businesses who aspire to be at their level one day,” Kaszas said.

And that support for local small businesses — as well as for one another — is arguably the key to The San Diego Made Factory’s success.

“I couldn’t have done this myself by any means at all,” Anderson said. “I think the drive of these three women is really inspiring and it’s amazing that it’s happening. We just all keep going and problem solving every day and figuring it out. It’s been really exciting. Really stressful and intense — but super exciting and rewarding too.”

“It’s been a challenge, but it’s also been a beautiful thing,” Dinnis added.

The San Diego Made Factory
The San Diego Made Market and Grand Opening is on May 4.
(Bronwyn Huddleson Photography)

The community is invited to see and support the new space during its grand opening on May 4, which also serves as its fourth annual Spring Market. General admission is $5, with pledge packages starting at $25 as part of San Diego Made’s fundraiser. Attendees can tour the co-working space and studios, meet The Factory tenants, and peruse their work.

There will also be 80 outside vendors participating in the event, including some San Diego Made members. Many will be set up next door in the other side of the warehouse, which is currently storing hundreds of abandoned dockless Ofo bikes.

Currently the two sides of the warehouse are separated. However, Swank gave the co-founders permission to knock down the wall for the occasion and connect the rooms using wood doors salvaged from Union. Though the tenants will only occupy the adjoining space for the grand opening, there is potential for it to be incorporated as part of The Factory in the future — which looks bright for the San Diego Made family.

The Factory Grand Opening and Spring Market

When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on May 4
Where: The San Diego Made Factory, 2031 Commercial St., Logan Heights
Online: sandiegomade.org
Email: info@sandiegomade.com


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