Local Co-operative Demonstrates Grassroots Activism & Community Building

Hammer Time! volunteers Bryan Khan and Liz Camerer work on a project

By Erik Myers

On this August afternoon, the sun is offering Fort Collins its full-package UV treatment, a deal residents just can’t pass up, whether they’d like to or not. But while the office drones sweat it out, Garrett Carr is feeling just fine under the roof of the Hammer Time! warehouse. He’ll be in the thick of it in a couple of hours during the “Work Party,” when he and his fellow volunteers will clean out the wood shed out front.”

Not quite a non-profit but far from a commercial enterprise, Hammer Time! is many things, including: a tool cooperative that includes a sewing area, an “Infoshop” library of books and zines, and a “Free Store” of clothes and goods where anyone can come and take – or donate – whatever they like free of charge. There’s also a community garden used for public planting.

“The point of the place is to share resources rather than all of us having our own resources and sharing them; instead of spending a bunch of money for something that you’re only going to use once or twice,” Carr says.

“Buying more is bad,” adds long-time volunteer David Klausa. “Dumpsters are overflowing with decent stuff, so I try to harvest some of that and the Free Store gives me a place to put it and put it in the hands of people. I feel like I’m making a difference.”

Liz Camerer oversees the Infoshop, a large library of books open for public borrowing. There’s a broad swath of topics organized among the shelves. Camerer’s favorite is the do-it-yourself section, filled with books on cooking, construction and design.

“A lot of people who volunteer here were students, so they just drop off their textbooks after the semester,” she says. “We kind of want books that are you can’t find in a regular library; books that are hard to find [that are] more rare, radical and unique.”

A large chunk of their collection was inherited from a predecessor – a book-and-zine cooperative called The 908. When it shut down a little over a year ago, Hammer Time! began to take shape in Camerer and Carr’s garage, with the help of friend Krista Martinez. The three built on 908’s original concept with the notion of a tool cooperative, where community members could come and share tools for various projects. Six months later, the organization had moved into its current warehouse at the east end of Laurel Street.

Of course, things got complicated. Shortly after the move, Hammer Time! came under the scrutiny of Fort Collins zoning officials since the cooperative lacked a formal designation. The organizers resisted a “non-profit” label, because it would change the free-flowing nature of the cooperative.

As Carr puts it: “You’re basically a business.”

Eventually, a review committee gave Hammer Time! the dual title of “mini storage” and “small custom industry.”

Looking to the future, Carr says once they get more volunteers, they hope to open a tool library, so members can borrow tools for use outside of their perimeters. All are welcome to visit Hammer Time! at 1000 E. Laurel Street.

A full calendar of Hammer Time! operating hours and events can be found at hammertimeprojects.org.

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