For the last three years, Todd Gardner has worked as president and co-founder of the online software business TrackJS from his Stillwater home.
While distractions frequently arise at a home office, Gardner said the nearest coworking office spaces, which have become increasingly popular in recent years, were in downtown St. Paul or Minneapolis.
“I did not really love the idea of introducing a commute when I didn’t have to,” he said.
Enter: Lift Bridge Cowork, a new coworking space that opened in downtown Stillwater on Thursday, May 16.
Bonus: Lift Bridge Cowork is located above Mon Petit Chéri, a new bakery at 310 Main Street South.
Lift Bridge Cowork and building owner Jill Kaufenberg, of Marine on St. Croix, said coworking space is useful for people in various professions like lawyers, realtors, graphic designers or stay-at-home parents who have a side gig.
“They’re pretty popular for people who can’t afford office space,” Kaufenberg added.
That’s one of the reasons Gardner said he was attracted to a coworking space and why he purchased a membership at Lift Bridge Cowork.
“I don’t want all the overhead of a dedicated office,” he said.
Änna Hagstrom, of Hagstrom Law and Mediation, recently started working from her home in Marine on St. Croix. She’s had a variety of offices in the past, she said, but she also didn’t like the overhead costs.
Her Lift Bridge Cowork membership not only gives her a space to work near other professionals, but it also provides a business address and a place to meet clients, she said.
Lift Bridge Cowork has 30 seats available for membership, some of which are dedicated sit/stand desks where members can leave objects.
All members have access to a locker and any of the space’s four conference rooms equipped with white boards or televisions for video conferencing.
“We’re very tech-friendly,” Kaufenberg said.
The space also includes a lounge area with plush couches and natural light that streams in above Main Street.
Members also have access to unlimited free coffee and a 10 percent discount at Mon Petit Chéri, the bakery downstairs, Kaufenberg said.
“It’s a good partnership,” she added.
There are two options for membership, Kaufenberg said. The dedicated sit/stand desks cost $345 per month; the flex desks cost $225 per month, she said.
As a medical device territory manager for 15 years, Kaufenberg said she knows the woes of being a mobile worker and wishes she had access to a cowork space.
“As a rep, I was always wishing I had coworkers,” Kaufenberg said. “I would’ve loved this.”
Kaufenberg bought the Stillwater Main Street building last year, she said. Since purchasing the property, Kaufenberg and her construction crew have renovated the building. They removed the stucco that covered the building as well as the dry wall inside to reveal late 1800s Stillwater brick, she said.
A portion of the building needed new brick so they took off the top half and replaced it with brick from the same time period from a demolished St. Paul building, Kaufenberg added. She hoped the result would be a building that is historically accurate.
According to Kaufenberg, the Stillwater City Council will reward her for her efforts at an upcoming meeting with an award from the Heritage Preservation Committee.
“We wanted to do it for the community really,” Kaufenberg said of the brick.
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