Offices and working environments have been changed forever due to the coronavirus pandemic, and many businesses will need to rethink the need for dedicated office space moving forward as more and more people prove capable of working remotely. Now, Lowcountry Local First is getting ahead of the curve.
The local business advocacy group is expanding its coworking space, Local Works, with a new, bigger location. While larger groups like WeWork, an office-leasing company, have been in this area of business for some time, Local Works is providing a smaller, more local take on office-space sharing in Charleston.
“We had been talking about it, and we wanted to do it, but it wasn’t anything that was high up on our to-do list,” Schuh said. “It was kind of a fantasy, something that, maybe in five years we’d see where we were at.
“But with the pandemic and everything shutting down,” she said, “it was the perfect storm that allowed us to expand and create this wonderful space that’s going to be so much more useful to our local businesses and entrepreneurs.”
The new space is almost entirely built and furnished for local businesses, by local businesses. From couches to tables, businesses like Celadon and GDC are represented. Meeting Green gives the space a spot of color with potted plants, and local artists’ work is displayed brilliantly in bright murals throughout.
“Our whole business is with local entrepreneurs and sort of creating this local essence here in Charleston,” Schuh said. “We really tried with Local Works to support local businesses, people who needed an office space that didn’t really have that, in an affordable way while still staying on mission.”
Even the construction style, an exposed wooden look, is representative of the lumber yard Local Works shares its space with. “These are the woods they made here, and we really wanted to pay homage to that heritage,” Schuh said. “Our architect David Thompson really did a great job keeping as much of our space as local as possible.”
For now, the few partners that have returned to work are serving as the start of a budding coworking community, and there’s plenty of space left.
“We are pretty low, and I think a lot of it is because people aren’t ready to come back yet,” said Kaylee Schuh, LLF’s accountant and business services manager. “We’ve noticed in our inquiries in Local Works — when they come to do a tour, when they communicate with me — people just aren’t comfortable.”
That’s why creating a safe space for incoming partners was high on the list of priorities. Masks are mandatory, even when working at a desk, unless you’re working in one of the nine available private offices with four enclosed walls or one of the two conference rooms, which are currently limited to half capacity.
It’s a drastic change of pace from the previous space at 1600 Meeting St., a smaller location with only one available office space. There was even a wait-list for many awaiting an open space. Moving would have normally meant lost revenue, but the pandemic opened an unlikely window of time for the move.
As businesses across the city begin to open up once again, spaces at Local Works will likely fill up fast. There are multiple different types of spaces available ranging in scale and privacy. Contact Lowcountry Local First for more information on how to become a coworker at Local Works.
LLF is holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday at the new location, letting some of the key contributors to the space see the finished product for the first time. The event will be small-scale and closed to the public, but it will be streamed live for all supporters and partners to join at a safe distance.