Bringing It Back to the Bay

For this week’s factory spotlight, we’re taking it back to the Bay. In the words of our very own Bay Area local, Maker’s Row Co-founder, Tanya Menendez, it’s a center of American innovation and entrepreneurship, which makes manufacturing in the area especially unique. For our friends on the West Coast (or those who just enjoy spending time there), Northern California is a unique setting and welcome change of pace from the fast-paced manufacturing environments of LA and NYC. If you’re looking for a factory, it’s definitely an locale worth checking out.

To give you a taste of what the Bay has to offer, we sat down with some local factories to get the scoop on what it’s like being based in the heart of tech and innovation. We love the East Coast but after talking to these factory owners, we get why they say ‘West Coast, Best Coast’.

Oakland Printing

IMG_4920

With their restored letterpress machinery, a great sense of community in their studio, impressive customer service, and very quick turnaround times, Oakland Printing is your go-to neighborhood spot.

Why is Oakland Printing located in the bay area, is that where you originally opened?

Originally we started a printshop in Iowa but after visiting friends in San Francisco enough times, it seemed like an honest enough place to live and work. Oakland has a rich history of radical and primary culture that it is still growing in new exciting ways. Every subculture and method of expression is represented here, but Oakland has a special foothold in the bay. It is sunny year round without being too hot, or too cramped. With the Port of Oakland’s sprawling industrial space, it was possible to land somewhere and start setting up presses. The network of established vendors and suppliers in our area, sometimes on our same street, has made all the difference as well. There have been times when I am hand trucking reams down the sidewalk because it is quicker than driving.

Why is your location important to you? How does it add to your personal identity and company brand identity?

Oakland is varied culturally while also remaining as friendly as any city I have seen. The Oakland Art Murmur is proof that the city has a lot of active creative folks both young and old, which has added to our identity and establishment in the area. While the peninsula thrives on high technology, printing remains a cornerstone for every field. Even bedroom startups need business cards and packaging.

Why do you love the bay area? 

There is a general stereotype that California is full of whacky liberals, but it has a good mix of every viewpoint. The fresh Pacific ocean air keeps the bay from ever stagnating too much. You can get the best Italian sandwich for lunch and meet friends for handmade Chinese noodles for dinner, and it’ll be the best you’ve ever have. Overall, the bay area is a critical waypoint. It is reflected on every block. And it’s not cliche fusion restaurants. It’s intense identity and heritages.

IMG_4923

What are some of your favorite spots in the area? 

Depending on where you are, on a clear night you can see the UC Berkeley tower, the Oakland Tribune tower and the San Francisco Embarcadero tower as sort of lighthouses. While it may not be possible to walk to the Embarcadero from Oakland, the walk or ride from Berkeley towards Jack London is a good long stretch and there are countless stops and branches along the way.

KRFTWRKS

JJ2a

Another bay area manufacturer, KRFTWRKS is a high-tech cutting company that thinks like a designer. Their mission is to find better ways to do things with higher quality, faster service and higher yield from materials. KRFTWRKS was actually created by accident: KRFTWRKS founder, Josh Jakus, first created Actual, a company that produces high-end design objects. He had such a hard time finding suppliers who could deliver the quality that he needed that he ended up buying his own cutting equipment so that he could do that part of it in-house. He found that he was not using this equipment to it’s full capacity so he took a few side jobs doing cutting for outside customers, and found that he enjoyed the work. At the same time, he saw that there was a demand for quality manufacturing in the the bay area. Fast forward to this year, Josh decided to make it official and formally launch a production company, KRFTWRKS.

Why is your location important to you? How does it add to your personal identity and company brand identity?

The bay area is a remarkably vibrant business environment. There are so many people developing new products and starting new brands – the conversations I have had with customers and even potential customers have been really interesting. But Oakland in particular is the place to be if you are making things. There is still a low-cost industrial space to be had and there are services for industry. There is also a growing community of makers who are trying to keep it that way.

Why do you love the Bay Area? 

KRFTWRKS

Oakland feels like an old school rust belt city – quiet, relaxed – yet it’s 10 minutes from San Francisco and 30 minutes from Silicon Valley. You have the best of both worlds. I actually moved to Oakland from Berkeley begrudgingly, because it was cheap. Everybody knows about Oakland for the wrong reasons. When I got here I was blown away by the high quality of life here. I didn’t really choose the bay area but rather just ended up here. I came here in the mid 90’s as a slacker just to check it out, got a job, and then went to grad school in architecture at UC Berkeley. From that point my professional life was here, and it happened to be a great place to stay.

What is the best part about being located in your area?

The weather :) Seriously, it’s really nice.

What are some of your favorite spots in the Bay Area?

I’ll stick with Oakland here:

  • Middle Harbor Shoreline Park: this a public park that is right in the Port of Oakland, amidst all the container ships and famous cranes.
  • Lake Merritt: 3 mile walking/running path around the lake touches a bunch of really different zones of the city.
  • West Oakland: has had a bad rep for crime and decay, but there are a lot of hidden gems. For better or for worse, this area is gentrifying quickly.
  • The Oakland Museum of California: A great little museum that is free/discounted every Friday night with food trucks and live music in the courtyard. The building designed by architect Kevin Roche is the best of 1960’s modernism.

LHOOQ

LHOOQ

LHOOQ is an architectural, interior, and furniture design company, founded with the mission to better integrate design with craft. According to founder, Seth Ellsworth, a lot of modern products lose ‘craft’ in the pursuit of ‘interest’. He wanted to explore design through producing his own prototypes, and really take ownership of the entire process. At the heart of what he is trying to do is experiment with materials and details, while maintaining a high level of craft and sensitivity to historical and local influences.

Why is your location important to you? How does it add to your personal identity and company brand identity?

Being located in the San Francisco Bay Area (on the Oakland/Emeryville border) is very important to the health and direction of my studio, because the community interest in design is so broad here. I believe that there is a higher concentration of design fanatics in the Bay Area than other places (obviously excepting New York City). This gives me access to a larger and more diverse client base than I had while living in Chicago. I also think that the local culture invites experimentation and trying new things, especially in architecture and design. Also, the access to design and prototyping resources in the area is fantastic!

What are some of your favorite spots in the bay area?

Some of my favorite spots in the area are the ‘parklets’ throughout San Francisco and Oakland. They require a certain inventiveness in design and construction that makes for some really special spaces that allow people to stay and relax, enjoying the streetscape as a pedestrian more holistically.

One of my favorite ‘fun facts’ about the area, is the many stories behind the founders and early champions of the city, before it became San Francisco. Many of these people were actually Mormon Pioneers from Brooklyn and early Jewish immigrants, who ran small businesses supporting the gold mining efforts.

More Bay Area Factories

Here are some other Bay Area factories worth checking out.

Sleep in the Clouds

sleep in clouds

 DNA

dna

Looking for more factories? Check out our Upgraded Plans.

Related Reading:  Here's How New Robotics Are Working for Manufacturers