Moving offices is never enjoyable, even when you’re moving little more than that just-in-case umbrella that you always leave at the office and the laptop and files in your backpack.
AlleyWatch moved last week, from a nicely appointed co-working space in midtown to a private office on the third floor of COWORK|RS, one of the newest entrants into New York’s vibrant coworking community
It went smoothly enough. First thing Monday morning, key cards sorted out (check), desks ready and waiting (check), no problem jumping onto super fast wireless network (check), good strong freshly brewed coffee (check) in the kitchen and there was actually whole milk in the refrigerator (I’m happy already), in addition to the usual assortment of fat free, 2%, half and half, soy and almond milk.
There are candy dispensers on the 3rd floor and a full service snack bar on the 4th (check, check). Very important, come that late afternoon slump. All the essentials seem to be in place, so far.
“We opened November 1st (of 2013), but we started planning it three years ago, when executive suites were still the model,” said Eric Steiner, CEO of COWORK|RS. It was his cousin, Shlomo’s, idea. “He has his own construction company, and has relationships with commercial real estate developers and a major investor who was working out of an executive suite.“
Which is how Shlomo came up with the idea of putting together a coworking space.
Not that it was part of Eric’s plan. NYU educated, with a degree in economics, his background was in product development for a company that imported better quality tchotchkes from China, until he landed what he thought was his dream job: senior operations analyst at Equinox.
“I was doing data analysis, with an operations focus. I had the data whenever anyone swiped into any Equinox in America,” he said.
He was only five months into the job when his cousin called. COWORK|RS was a go and he was tapping Eric to run it.
“He got the lease, got the money, got the investors. I thought, ‘No way!’” Eric exclaimed. “They got me.”
It was a big transition.
“I was getting three emails a day at my last job. Now I get three thousand.”
The open coworking space is on the third floor, and the vibe is very different than on the 4th, which has only private offices that vary in size, accommodating three or four people or more. Still, each floor has created its own community, and with social hours – Thirsty Thursdays and Whiskey Fridays – floors do come together to network and socialize.
“When we first opened, the 4th floor was still heavily under construction. We were worried that once it opened, it would feel empty,” Eric noted.
But half the offices were filled before the construction was even finished. That floor, too, is now completely filled and Cowork|rs is expanding to the 5th floor - and a number of those offices are already accounted for as well.
“SureDone (a New York Angels portfolio company) is here – they’re an ecommerce solution. Jetaport (an ER Accelerator alumni company) and Mark Peter Davis (and his Interplay Ventures portfolio companies) are also here. Aron Schoenfeld just launched Sunny Island Ventures. Javen Design, a full service graphic design and marketing company, calls COWORK|RS home. We have all kinds of companies, but primarily tech companies: a payment processing company (paay), tech PR agencies, and even a Bitcoin startup.”
And now AlleyWatch, too.
“There’s an energy brokerage firm – another one of our resident companies designed their website for them,” Steiner continued.
Seems the community spirit that sets New York apart is alive and well.
“We plan to keep that spirit and the camaraderie as we grow and expand. We want to try to keep that feeling of it being intimate, which is what we have now. That’s why we brought on Cameron Ross as our community manager. That’s the hardest thing: preserving that sense of community and encouraging it.”
The Happy Hours help, and by the end of April, they’ll be opening another floor as a an event space that will accommodate 150 to 200 people. The floor will have ping pong and foosball tables, sofas and a gourmet café where residents can hang out and grab a lunch or pick-me-up when they don’t have time to go foraging in the neighborhood which certainly has its share of notable restaurants, not to mention the fact that Madison Square Park – and Shake Shack – are just down the block.
But why wait on the lines when the café is being catered by Odradraks (the name comes from a Kafka short story), an upscale café/coffee and wine bar in Queens. Paninis, personal pizzas, baked goods, craft coffees and artisanal milk shakes which they call ‘shottis,’ for the shot of espresso that they pack, will be available, including gluten free options.
“Ruby Rockets, who sell probiotic, organic popsicles, are here, too,” Steiner added. And in true community spirit, they’ll be available for purchase in the café.
They’re also planning on opening another space soon, somewhere in the city, but Steiner was closed mouthed about the exact location.
It’s nearly 7 on Friday evening. Our first week is winding down – an easy transition to the new space, and happily, no hiccups – and Happy Hour is starting. It doesn’t usually start this late. Then again, it’s Startup Land. There are no fixed hours. You work until you’re finished – at least for the day, even on a Friday.
The whiskey and tequila appear. The keg is a fixture in the kitchen landscape. We’ll hang out for a shot or two: we’re new to the neighborhood, and it was a busy week, as usual. Good time to finally kick back and get to know some of our fellow coworkers or COWORK|RS.
Many of the residents have already left for the weekend, including Steiner, Ross and Michael Walker, who handles maintenance and always seems to be everywhere at once. Could be because it’s Friday? Could be because, from what we’d heard, the Thirsty Thursday crowd overdid it just a bit.
When I stepped outside, I realized that there was a third reason why the masses might have left early. There was rain in the forecast and it was starting to drizzle.
That’s Manhattan. Want to see the place clear out in an instant?
Just add water.