ARLINGTON – While Bio-Monte owners Kiersten and Antonio Baiamonte grew their home-based travel business guiding tours of Italy, it wasn’t unusual to meet clients in a Starbucks to sign big checks and chat about itineraries.
Without a physical office location, conducting business as an upstart took some imagination, and a little caffeine.
That changed when Bio-Monte became one of the first tenants in the new Stilly Valley Collective, or StillCo., a co-working and flexible workspace run by the Stilly Valley Chamber of Commerce, which relocated its own offices there.
Now the Baiamontes not only have brick-and-mortar office space, but they have a shared conference room to kickoff tour groups before their journey and teach Italian lessons. Before moving in three months ago, the couple had two tours scheduled. Since then, they just booked their 16th.
And, since no familial co-working space functions without coffee, they will soon open a side enterprise called Caffe Italiano, a coffee and espresso booth inside the StillCo. center, thanks in part to support from a longtime downtown business, the Blue Bird Cafe, and advice from Moe’s Espresso.
You might say Arlington has it’s own Little Italy brewing in the downtown district.
But the Baiamontes are just one of several stories among the diverse dozen sole proprietors and entrepreneurs who are renting space now in the two-story 9,000-square-foot building at 103 E. 3rd St., across from City Hall and police headquarters.
The building, which had been unoccupied for about three years, is now owned by Reactive Physical Therapy located in space on the second floor, and collaborating with the Stilly Valley Collective that occupies most of the rest of the building, including the relocated chamber office and board room.
“The collective is a space for co-workers, small businesses and other creative ventures to work, share and teach,” Chamber executive director Jen Egger said. The lobby is open air, with contemporary decorative and track lighting, blue and gold painted walls and earth-tone carpeting and flooring. The interior features private offices, studios, desks, classrooms and meeting space.
Typical co-working amenities like workspaces, internet access, Wi-Fi, utilities and access to printers, countertop space and office supplies are provided on a membership-based system.
“With some of these offices, just bring your computer and you’re set,” Egger said. “Just move in and you can get going.”
The co-working space provides the added benefit of professional resources and increased network opportunities that a person working from home isn’t going to find, Egger said. Many tenants have already begun to create a small, helpful community that can swap services, expertise and problem-solving ideas among themselves. That was the hope. They’re getting that, and more.
Egger said in initial months since opening, they hoped the businesses would meld into a community with great interpersonal chemistry, without all the office drama.
“Everybody has been so collaborative and community-focused. It’s made it a really fun place,” Egger said. “We want build a brand and sense of community, and a business network, so people that use the space equally benefit from it.”
A sample of businesses in the collective includes travel agents, physical therapy, massage therapists, a family therapist, accountants and Emergency Medical Education.
Brea Ann Wrzesinski, licensed massage therapist, relocated her Seven Lakes Myotherapy business from Lake Stevens. The move has put her closer to her home in Arlington, and enabled her to build up her clientele.
“It was a great opportunity coming into the collective,” Wrzesinski said. “My clients just love it here, too. They love the building, there’s a waiting room, and the security of having somebody her (compared to her former office) means everything.”
The collective will become the future Visitor Information Center, succeeding the depot along Centennial Trail in Legion Park.
The chamber hosted an open house in January, three months after getting the collective ready. The center served as the information center for last weekend’s Eagle Festival, and if the 500 visitors who came through the doors are any indication, StillCo. Will become a busy hub not only for small business, but visitors and community members as well.
In all, the collective has 12 offices members can rent – with only three still vacant, three conference rooms, and countertop work areas for workers not seeking permanent desks who prefer to stand.
Egger is still working on spots for drop-in visitors like telecommuters looking to reduce their number of trips to jobs in Seattle and south. The collective also has shower facilities available for those want to bicycle to the building via the Centennial Trail.
The board room and meeting rooms are available to any nonprofits that need meeting space in Arlington. Can use this for free monthly.
“We really want to support other nonprofits, so we are offering meeting room use at no charge,” Egger said. If they join the chamber, other perks kick in.
Egger said the windowed meeting rooms that take advantage of natural light are perfect for photography studios, art classes and pop-up shops that only need a room for the afternoon.
That worked out well for people like artist Kim Stevenson of Canvas & Cocoa and her daughter RJ, who hosted an eagle portrait-themed painting class in one of the upstairs meeting rooms during the Eagle Festival. The rooms have also been hused for cookie-decorating and essential oils classes.
Egger said her first priority is to fill the three offices remaining vacant.
The long-term plan is for one of her co-workers to start drop-in child care from a supervised playroom that would include a one-way mirrored window.
“It would be so parents can come in here for just a couple of hours to make a conference call in peace, do their work, and not have to worry about their children,” Egger said. Small dogs are welcome, too.
Example of rates include dedicated desk space 24/7 for $350 a month, full-time access during the work week of $250 and $25 day passes for the occasional telecommuter who wants to avoid the drive to jobs in Seattle and south.