Share Objects, Skills & Time at West Seattle’s New Lending Library

From snowshoes and backpacking gear to an ice cream maker and chocolate fountain—if you need it, you can probably find it at The Community General Store now open in the Delridge neighborhood of West Seattle. And along with access to a variety of objects, you can also find experiences such as Make n’ Mend sessions, meditation classes and daily “any weather” walks. If you’re ready to give this new vibrant community space a try, read on for the deets.

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About the Borrowers
Tucked back next to a coffee shop on Delridge Way, Nancy Mihlon and Kristin Tuttle Tomaschke’s dream is quickly taking shape. They’re busy building The Community General Store—a combination of space, community and services that offers its members a library of useful items and a plethora of activities all in one welcoming and supportive spot.

“We live in a crowded world, and buying more stuff can be a way to get noticed, to find your tribe.” says Mihlon. “Our hope is to help reverse that process; that somehow if you find your people, the ones that know and love you, you’ll find your impulses to buy things changing and lessening,”

Odds n’ Ends
Launched last November, the CGS has a library of things that members can borrow. “They’re the kinds of things that you’d use every once in a while,” says Tuttle Tomaschke (who describes herself as a “stuff” librarian). “The stuff that you have to dig out.” Tuttle Tomaschke knows that families can get into a cycle where stuff just accumulates and the CGS is trying to break families out of that.

Inside the store, you’ll find a collection of Useful Things (think sewing machine, hot glue gun, cast iron skillets) and Luminous Things (items you don’t really need, but are fun to have every once in a while) like a pickling crock, kids’ ski bibs (great for the occasional skier) and a glockenspiel.

The CGS has lots of tools and materials for making or fixing things. You can pop in any time the CGS is open to work on a project or attend one of their special Make n’ Mend sessions. During our visit to the store, new member Kristina (who was there to work on a sewing project) said, “This is so cool because I’ve been wanting to create things.” We watched as Mihlon gave Kristina a quick refresher on how to use the sewing machine before she was off and sewing!

Play Time
At CGS, members can also get some much-needed work done while their kiddos play in the same space. It’s a cooperative form of childcare where everyone keeps an eye on the kids as they play in the safe and fun community room—with lots of toys on hand! While Kristina gets a chance to create her sewing project in a warm, friendly atmosphere, her daughter gets a chance to play blocks with a friend.

Flexible Space
The open and flexible indoor space is set up in different ways to suit a variety of activities. Recent ones include a “sound bath” meditative music concert, book clubs, play group, family game night and community swaps.

More in the Works
Mihlon and Tuttle Tomaschke are busy knocking down part of a wall to expand into extra space. Plans involve building a kitchen so the duo can do what they’re doing with sewing, but with cooking. And soon, members will be able to participate in cooking sessions and classes; sharing recipes and food with one another.

The Inspiration Behind the Store
The inspiration for The Community General Store arose from a need. Mihlon and Tuttle Tomaschke were both looking for a place exactly like this, only to find that one didn’t exist. Mihlon had been dreaming of The Community General Store ever since her son, who will be entering kindergarten this fall, was a baby. The hope is that this Delridge neighborhood store is the first of many, and will provide a business model that can one day be replicated by independent co-operative groups all over Seattle.

The Ultimate Goal 
Mihlon and Tuttle Tomaschke want the CGS to meet a real need. The duo believe that living with less waste can be as simple as making your own food from scratch or borrowing crafting or repair tools from a neighbor.

While enthusiastic about ideas like the Buy Nothing Project and similar virtual methods for neighborhood sharing, Mihlon and Tuttle Tomaschke want to encourage more face-to-face interaction. “That’s what The Community General Store is all about. It’s not just sharing ‘things,’ but time, visions, concerns, curiosities, and successes,” says Mihlon.

There are five levels of membership—which all get you unlimited access to the community space and activities. Membership ranges from “Seed” (access to everything but no borrowing privileges, although you are welcome to use items from the library while in the store) to “Orchard” which gives you multiple borrowing privileges and the opportunity to use the space for your private event.

Mihlon and Tuttle Tomaschke are dedicated to making The Community General Store affordable to as many members of the community as possible. They currently offer a sliding scale membership for those on limited means and also have an Artists Residency option, and fellowships for teachers and fixers.

Psst! There’s Java Too
While tea and coffee are complimentary at The Community General Store, Mihlon and Tuttle Tomaschke speak highly of their next-door neighbor Cheryl, who has been very supportive of the CGS. We’ve been told that Cheryl at The Daily Dose coffee shop makes a killer cup o’Joe! Check it out next time you’re in the neighborhood.

Mark Your Calendars. Spring Celebration Saturday! 
The CGS will be open to the public on Saturday, March 25 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. It will be a special spring celebration where kids can play and families can share food, stories, culture and music. There will also be an open-mic-style event, too!

The Community General Store
5214 Delridge Way S.W.
Seattle, Wa
Online: and on Facebook

Hours: Tues.-Sat, most of the day (details on the calendar); Closed 1 p.m.-3 p.m. for siesta.
Membership: $40-$125, depending on membership level.

Are you a member or thinking of joining The Community General Store? What do you like most about it? Tell us in the Comments below!

— Helen Walker Green (all photos courtesy of the writer)


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