Since 2004, Yelp has worked to connect millions of people to the best in local business. In that time, we’ve met thousands of passionate small business owners, a group as hardworking and diverse as any you’ll find. In this series, we share stories of just some of the people who, through their commitment to building great local businesses, are sustaining the vibrant local communities we call home.
In honor of Earth Day (April 22), we sat down with Cass Jerman, Shop and Materials Manager of the Upcycle Parts Shop in Cleveland, Ohio, to learn about their inspiring work of provoking creativity and promoting community through reuse. By creating less waste and more art, the Upcycle Parts Shop is a leader in imagination and sustainability.
At Upcycle Parts Shop, every day is Earth Day. Since opening in 2014, the Upcycle Parts Shop has diverted over 24 tons of perfectly usable items from cluttering landfills. Located in Cleveland’s St. Clair-Superior neighborhood, the shop intentionally activates a quiet area with both a public retail shop and workshop space where your imagination can run wild. By creating a place where neighbors can gather, the Shop creates a low-cost and low-barrier access point to craft programming as a place where people can find purpose and belonging. During their weekly “Pull Up a Chair, St. Clair” workshop, residents from local zip codes 44103 and 44108 come together to make new friends, play with unusual materials and take home a craft for free.
Yet, anyone can visit this magical spot. In the store, the majority of materials are donated from the community. From pencils, to overstock quality craft supplies, to records or vintage photos, the Upcycle Parts Shop offers inexpensive “fill-a-bag” options so you can get funky with your purchases. With items in the 50c to $3.00 range, the possibilities are endless. But not everyone who visits the store is an artist. As Cass explained, “Recently, we had a kid visit looking for costume ideas for LARP [Live Action Role Playing]. We started a conversation, and I showed him different items… I asked what it might look like if we filled different items with blue Gatorade. It could be a potion! It was amazing to watch his eyes light up. He walked away with bags of materials that made his entire day.”
In addition to a storefront, the Upcycle Parts Shop offers community workshops that any person can register for. Their most popular workshop? Bottle Blossoms! Bottle Blossoms represent the magic of upcycling: to elevate a leftover material into something with more value. Over a three-hour workshop, attendees transform materials finished with their first use (plastic soda bottles, wire hangers, and vinyl flooring samples) into beautiful blooms that can last a lifetime. “There is no way to do the project incorrectly. We love seeing everyone’s personality shine in the project. Anyone can be an artist and have a bouquet of flowers that will last for about 500 years.”
Instead of throwing perfectly usable items into the garbage, the Upcycle Parts Shop is changing hearts and minds on the concept of reduce, reuse and recycle. Part of Cass’ role includes managing donations, and the first step to becoming more sustainable is to start the conversation. “People are often surprised what they can donate to us… That’s exactly why we have a donations guide online to help! You don’t have to be an expert in creative reuse, you just need to call. We’ll help make the world a better place together!”
For a calendar of upcoming Upcycle Parts Shop visit their page here. Next up: Bling Hack workshop on Saturday, April 27. This workshop is your chance to learn how to transform broken, underwhelming, and unloved jewelry into one-of-a-kind upcycled creations!
Want to know more? Check out and bookmark Upcycle Parts Shop on Yelp today.
Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Sturm Photography