November 19, 2016

Engine Room Coworking opens in WRJ

From left, Amy Robb, director of the Engine Room, and Jenny Albee, events coordinator, pose for a photo in White River Junction.

Noella May Pickett Photo

From left, Amy Robb, director of the Engine Room, and Jenny Albee, events coordinator, pose for a photo in White River Junction.

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Engine Room Coworking, a co-working space in downtown White River Junction, launched last month. It is all about the freelancer, the startup, the independent creative type, the developer — you name the profession, they’re working together under one roof.

Engine Room Coworking is a partnership between Tip Top Pottery owner Amy Robb and local redeveloper Mike Davidson. The 6,000-square-foot co-working space is located at the end of the Freight House, formerly known as the Tupelo Music Hall. The space has been restored — the rustic and industrial mix is the perfect backdrop to foster communal networking, like-minded professionalism and community.

“Our concept here is all about bringing people together and working together — co-creating the space. The space is still transforming, it’s still being created by the members. The co-workers define the space, we want them to take ownership of the space and make it their own,” Robb said.

Engine Room Coworking ’s spaces are a mix of work and play, with a common area that boasts high-speed WiFi, printers, scanners, a conference room, private offices, a kitchen, a full bathroom and a full bar.

“Our space is unique, we work by day and play by night. We rent the space out in the evenings for events, performers, yoga — and soon — tai chi and meditation. We offer a fully stocked, licensed bar. When you’re through with your work day, you can relax with an adult beverage and listen to good music on occasion,” Robb said.

Currently on the schedule: Tuesday Night Open Mic Night hosted by Dave Clark, owner of Yellow House Media; and business after hours on the third Thursday of every month.

The work environment in the co-working space is open and collaborative, where the energy is alive and infectious. To top it off one recent day, there was the sweet aroma of fresh-made banana bread in the air, alongside the provided coffee located in the kitchen to fuel up on while working.

“All the while encompassing all realms from: holistic, arts and health,” Robb said.

The space was created for not only the lone wolf, but also for those seeking affordable office space — either for workspace or to host a one-time meeting. Those who are self-employed are catching wind of what the Engine Room has to offer.

Bob Farnham, an energy-efficiency consultant and digital-marketing strategist in Thetford, discovered the Engine Room’s opening through Facebook.

“There were times that I would find myself feeling guilty while sitting at a coffee shop, wondering if I had purchased enough from the menu to warrant holding up a seat,” Farnham said. “I can come and go as I please here; I can pay for one day, or I have the option to opt for a membership.”

Engine Room Coworking is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. However, there is flexibility. Memberships include the Boxcar Tourist Day Pass for $20, which includes access to any available desk within the common space. For those with the need to break away from the confines of working remote at home for more than a day here and there, the Boiler Header Monthly Pass Membership is $150 per month; and the Long Hauler Private Space Membership for $325 per month includes a private desk in a shared office space adjacent to the common space, with 24/7 access and personal key.

“As a small-business owner in Vermont, the challenge of connectivity can be expensive and slow. For example, there was a time that a video download at home was going to take 19 hours. Here, it took six minutes,” Farnham said. “Connectivity for businesses is critical. And today, it is curtailed by connection speed.”

The concept — co-working — was conceived by Brad Neuberg in 2005 in San Francisco, California. Co-working started as a way for freelancers to get out of the house, and when coffee shops seemed too noisy, implementing a space that could be shared by like-minded people caught on.

“It’s a movement, it’s a concept that’s catching on, not only here in the U.S., but all around the world — it was just its time to make its debut in White River Junction,” Robb said. “They are bubbling up all over Vermont; in South Burlington, Montpelier, Bennington. Like the Water Cooler Effect, people meet each other at water coolers in office buildings, they network — that’s the kind of thing that’s happening here — productivity. And the co-working model is the right idea for the Upper Valley.”

Although co-working is for members only, Engine Room Coworking is open to the public when it closes at 5 p.m. and reopens for special events. The space can accommodate up to 250 people during standing events and 160 people during a sit-down event, said Events Coordinator Jenny Albee.

“Our co-working and event space is an opportunity for community engagement on a micro and macro level. We are all here for a common cause, there’s no one right view or use of the space, and we want it to be a community resource,” Albee said.

As a center for social innovation, renting out the space for events in the evenings provides additional revenue promoting sustainability in what is considered a startup.

“All-in-all, it’s not mine, it’s not Mike Donaldson’s, it’s the community’s,” Robb said. “It’s about sharing resources and information — it’s a shared economy.”

Engine Room Coworking is located at 188 S. Main St. in downtown White River Junction, and can be reached at 281-6080. Or for more information, membership and events visit www.engineroomvt.com.

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