by Sam Spence
You've seen them, they have a certain look. They know where every coffee shop power outlet is from Vanderhorst to Vendue. They can't be held down by meetings in squishy-seated conference rooms. They're prime candidates for "co-working," and they're about to have a new place they can call their second home.
Until the past few years, Charleston's itinerant workers, usually freelancers or remote employees, were relegated to local cafes, their messy bedroom desk, or a quiet couch (fingers-crossed). In that time, a few new options have popped up for those seeking a more buttoned-down work experience, one being the city-sponsored Flagship offices, the area's first go at a big-city trend known as co-working.
Greenville and Columbia, both with fledgling tech sectors themselves, already have co-working spaces that have launched in the last couple years. In Greenville, the Iron Yard has three locations where approximately 70 co-workers, many in the tech and creative fields, rent desk space. Some buy a desk space they can all their own while others purchase a sit-anywhere-there's-an-empty-space plan.
Iron Yard's Eric Dodds is a fan of the co-working experience. "The culture is awesome," he says. "That's why we do it, to work shoulder-to-shoulder with other creative people who can challenge us to be better at what we do."
At Provision, a new co-working outpost in a 19th-century office building at the corner of East Bay St. and South Adger's Wharf, wi-fi warriors and reformed ivory tower-types alike can rent a workspace for a month, a week, or just a day at a time. They're encouraged to come-and-go as they please, socialize with their 9-5 roommates, and should not, under any circumstance, feel like they're being held down.
"We're looking for the marriage of a traditional office and a coffee shop," says Magdalyn Duffie, part of the three-person crew who run Provision. Another portion of the team, Jillian Wyrick, talks excitedly about the concept they're pitching to potential tenants. She says, "The city is really ripe for a co-working spot," pointing to Silicon Harbor's growing reputation nationally. Duffie, Wyrick, and local freelance photographer-designer Ryan Meloy make up Provision.
The space at 90 East Bay Street boasts 3,700 square feet, room enough for 20-plus tenants, a full kitchen, conference room space, and a half-dozen bathrooms. The guys say they're already in talks with a slew of prospective tenants from freelancers to real estate agents. Dodds says the mix of folks in Greenville is about the same, "The thread that ties people together is a strong desire to do really quality work and challenge convention."
The set-up has its drawbacks, though, says local software engineer Ryan LeFevre, who worked out of the Flagship offices for about six months.
"It definitely becomes a lot harder to overwork yourself," says LeFevre, who now lives on Johns Island and works from home for LayerVault, a popular web service for design teams, "It helped me separate work from the rest of my life." But LeFevre says it can get expensive when you factor in commuting and other expenses, "people quickly figure out whether it's for them or not."
Provision officially kicks open its doors next month after its launch party on November 16. For more info, visit provisionchs.com.