Woodworkers are a gregarious lot, but it can be a lonely trade. Working together but separately at Fort Houston, a Nashville cooperative factory, are several custom woodworking businesses, all owned by younger tradesmen.

Among them is Mike Jones, who operates Mastodon Jones furniture; Nate Akey, 5 String Furniture; and Jonathan Malphrus, Steric Design. Jones told me during a visit that he previously felt isolated in his own shop. Since relocating to Fort Houston, he shares tips and techniques with colleagues.

Woodworking equipment manufacturer JET sponsored this operation, placing $35,000 in equipment in the full-service, 1,100-square-foot woodshop at Fort Houston, located on the site of a former 10,000-square-foot cabinet plant.

Membership Model

Fort Houston work space

Houston co-founder Daniel Heering, who along with partner Matt Childress runs Wildcard Design custom furniture in the center, said Fort Houston continues to grow. Members – there are 42 so far – pay a $75+ monthly fee. Businesses rent individual stalls to hold work in progress, and have access to the woodshop, managed by Malphrus, who coordinates shared use.

Fort Houston is structured similarly to public work centers such as Makerspace in San Diego and TechShop located in multiple cities. The locations act as incubators for small woodworking and other artisanal manufacturing start-ups.


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