Faced with an Aug. 1 deadline for his memoir about being a paramedic in national parks, Kevin Grange needed a quiet spot where he could stay glued to his pages for long, uninterrupted stretches.
Normally the author (he’s written two other books) uses his second bedroom as an office. But with relatives coming for a summer visit, that option was off the table for a while.
His solution: a desk at The Cowork Space, upstairs at 140 E. Broadway, where individuals and businesses can rent a spot to work and share a kitchenette, high-speed internet, private phone booths, printing capabilities and a conference room.
“I need to devote eight to 10 hours a day when I’m not working at the fire department on the book,” said Grange, a firefighter and paramedic with Jackson Hole Fire/EMS. “The Cowork Space offers a place where you can go and have that dedicated space to work.”
For many of the people at the desks around him The Cowork Space is a year-round headquarters.
Justin Tatosian runs his engineering and consulting business, JTEC Inc., there. It’s home base for Phil Cameron’s Headwaters Consulting, whose primary client is Energy Conservation Works (he’s executive director). Their neighbors include people building code and operating growing companies like audio-tour producer TravelstorysGPS and supplements-maker Momentous.
“It’s a cool diversity of expertise and personalities,” Cameron said.
Michael Adams, the on-site host at The Cowork Space, described it as a younger crowd with a lot of mid to late Gen X’ers and quite a few millennials. You might on occasion hear a discussion about a great ski day or a new mountain bike, but in general everybody there is getting down to business.
“They’re incredibly work-driven,” Adams said. “They come in exceedingly focused.”
Grange wears headphones because he likes to listen to music while writing, but being in a group setting wouldn’t be a problem even without them.
“In the main space everyone’s pretty much silent,” he said. “Everyone’s there to work.”
Members say coworking space is cheaper than renting their own office and dealing with WiFi, utilities and furniture. It’s more efficient and less lonely than doing the job at home or in a coffee shop, and there’s a creative energy and camaraderie they wouldn’t find elsewhere (see sidebar).
Plus they just like the space at 140 E. Broadway. It’s on the second floor with a streamlined decor and lots of natural light. More than a few also mentioned that it’s across the street from Persephone Bakery.
About 40 people — individuals and small groups — “come here on a regular basis to do their thing,” Adams said. He has about 180 in his database.
“We’re month to month,” he said. “We get a few drop-in individuals in summer and winter who are here on vacation and need to do a day’s worth of work to catch up.”
But most Cowork Space regulars are people who have moved here, he said. They want the mountain town lifestyle and can work remotely, or they have created their own company.
“There are a few homegrown entrepreneurs,” Adams said.
The cowork operation on Broadway opened in 2014 under the name Spark Jackson Hole. At the time, Megan Beck, one of the founders, said the idea was that people work best when they work together.
“We did it specifically to have that community and collaboration that you often miss when you’re not working in an office,” she told the News&Guide in 2014.
The concept spread to Teton Valley, Idaho. In 2017 two businessmen opened Work Farm in Victor, and they plan to add a branch (see sidebar).
Last year Spark Jackson Hole changed hands, acquired by Silicon Couloir.
“As a nonprofit dedicated to nurturing entrepreneurs and early-stage business we believe that one of the stumbling blocks to success is actually having an appropriate physical space to do one’s work,” Executive Director Gary Trauner said in an email. “Startup incubators and accelerators around the country have learned that having a shared workspace without the long-term commitment and cost of lease or purchased office space is critical to early-stage success.”
Trauner co-founded the internet company OneWest.net and the dog food company Mulligan Stew. Both eventually required dedicated leased space. But a cowork space in their early days might have made it easier to “incubate ideas and move them along at a more rapid pace,” he said.
The Silicon Couloir acquisition, he said, was an “asset-based purchase.”
“The previous owners still own the business that sold the assets to Silicon Couloir,” he wrote.
The program is segregated on Silicon Couloir’s books so revenue and expenses can be tracked, but “it really is just another program that helps generate resources for the organization to support other programs and, of course, enhances the entrepreneurial ecosystem at the same time.”
Silicon Couloir recently expanded and soundproofed the conference room and added a huge flat-screen TV and Polycom SoundStation for teleconferencing.
“That’s super helpful,” Cameron said. “You can have an eight-person meeting comfortably in that room.”
When Spark’s name was changed to The Cowork Space the website was integrated into SiliconCouloir.com for online signups, membership payments and conference room reservations.
Other changes may come as Silicon Couloir assesses what members need.
“It’s nice and maintained and oriented toward the user,” Adams said. “In some places you’re on your own in a dank space.”
The cowork spaces on both sides of the Tetons are part of a growing global phenomenon that, according to the publication Coworking Resources, began in San Francisco in 2005. In a report on the industry’s growth, the publication estimated that 1,000 coworking spaces opened in the U.S. in 2018, out of total of nearly 2,200 openings worldwide.
“This year the coworking space market size is expected to reach 696 openings in the U.S., many of them in states and cities with budding startup cultures,” it said.
Adams said it isn’t surprising that Jackson Hole is one of the places where coworking spaces have popped up over the years.
“Ski towns tend to attract educated people,” he said.
“We have a great professional space that allows you access to the world, good people who are going to network professionally and recreationally,” he said. “It’s a good place to sit down and work and not be disturbed.”