AVONDALE — Guild Row, a social club and maker space near the Chicago River, is slashing its membership rates to make it more accessible for potential members.
When the club opened in summer 2020, monthly memberships cost $150. But the founders have lowered standard monthly memberships to $89. They’ve also launched a $49 membership plan for artists, chefs, teachers and other creatives “who give a damn.”
The goal is to bring in more members who are “trying to do good in the world,” co-founder Mike Healy said.
“If we can create a nucleus of people who are trying to put good things in the world, either through a literal sense through craft or an educational sense through nonprofits, then all good things will follow,” Healy said.
Guild Row opened in August 2020 after years of planning and construction. Healy and the club’s other founders — Jim Lasko, the ex-director of Redmoon Theater, and Elyse Agnello, who handles architecture and design — transformed a set of 1930s warehouses at 3130-38 N. Rockwell St. into a sprawling social club with a woodworking shop, industrial kitchen, lounge and more.
But like countless other businesses, Guild Row struggled during the pandemic. There were days the club didn’t see much foot traffic, Healy said.
However, the founders have managed to build up a customer base of 350 people, a mix of artists and chefs and people with more traditional career paths who use the facility as a co-working space, Healy said.
That’s fewer members than the founders were hoping for at this point in the club’s trajectory, but the slower pace has given them the chance to “really connect with some of our most dedicated and passionate members and set a long-term vision for the club,” Healy said.
“Seeing those relationships flourish allowed us to understand that good people are as much the product as the aesthetics or the brand,” he said.
Craig Stevenson of Open Architecture Chicago, Priya Shah of the nonprofit The Simple Good, Michael Ciapciak from Bang Bang Pie, Mindy Segal of Mindy’s Bakery and Margaret Pak and Vinod Kalathil from Thattu are among the club’s members.
By lowering the barrier to entry, Healy said they hope to bring in more creatives wanting to grow their businesses and partner with more organizations on events. The club is now offering day passes for $18. Nonprofits can rent event space for free on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The club’s tool library is open to the public.
“We survived our first year in the scariest possible conditions, and that has given us the confidence to really be the thing we most wanted it to be,” Healy said. “We’re pretty sure if we can survive 2020, we’re going to survive far into the future.”
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