Moving to a new location is a bittersweet time for Cowork founders Jennifer and Nick Vincent.
Since it opened in May 2012, Cowork has occupied a building on Eckhardt Avenue, a block off of Main Street. Jennifer said it has been a good home for the business, which offers a casual shared workspace and amenities to locals and drop-in visitors alike.
“It’s going to be hard to lose this space. We have a deep fondness for the quirks of this building, the sound of it,” said Jennifer. “It was perfect for us as a startup. Now we’re ready to move to that next level, but I think everyone is a bit sad about leaving it.”
Jennifer said the enthusiasm their members have shown in adapting to the new building — at 129 Nanaimo Ave. W — it proves that it was the right move.
Unlike the old building, the new location has large windows facing the street.
“We also wanted the independent worker community to be visible. In our old building, as wonderful as it was, it was closed to the street. You can’t see in the windows, you have to climb up stairs to get in,” said Jennifer. “There is lots of walk-by traffic on Eckhardt, but nobody really knew what was in this mysterious building.”
Now that they are even closer into the core of the city, Nick said they are seeing more people embracing alternate transportation, walking or biking in.
“People asked us if parking would be an issue,” said Nick. “It’s been the complete opposite.”
Jennifer adds that Nanaimo has turned out to be a busy street with people moving back and forth all the time, resulting in increased drop-in traffic as people stop by to check out the space. There’s more to being in the core than increased traffic. Part of the co-work experience, the Vincents explained, is the culture and community that develop, and they are hoping the new location will enhance that.
“One of the important things for us was to provide people with more of a downtown space so they can enjoy the amenities of downtown, but also be close to the lake and enjoy the outdoor lifestyle that they like,” said Jennifer.
“It’s very different down there. People can see in the windows, they can see stuff happening at night when people are working late. They can see the artists’ work on the walls. It is a really beautiful space.”
Developing a co-work space in a smaller city like Penticton was a gamble, Jennifer said, admitting there were times when they weren’t sure how they were going to keep going.
“We were lucky and very tenacious,” said Jennifer. “This was a difficult ship to get launched. And, it was thanks to a whole lot of support from various areas of the community that it continued on.”
The market for co-working has continued to grow, with more people coming to town and expecting to have shared facilities available, adding to the community of local tech startups, remote workers and small businesses already making use of the facilities.
“It is a labour of love and passion for us to make sure it keeps going,“ said Jennifer, adding that purchasing a building downtown shows Cowork is there for the long haul.
“It gives Cowork a really solid future,” said Nick. “We’re not going anywhere.”