Are "office"-type businesses for writers a good idea?
August 1, 2006 8:05 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone know of spaces (offices/cafes/whatever) geared specifically to writers? I know of theOffice in Santa Monica. Any others you know of? Links? Also, if you've frequented such a place, what were your impressions? If you're a writer, what would get you into such a place?

I've been offered a cafe/retail space at a very good price in a hip part of Toronto. Owning a "regular" cafe doesn't appeal to me but converting it to something like this does.

So, I'm asking: if you're a writer, does such an establishment seem like a good idea to you? If not, why not? What would it need to make you change your mind?
posted by Manhasset to Writing & Language (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Previously: How much would you pay per month to sit at a desk?
A number of locations with respective rates are posted in the thread along with people's opinions of how much they'd be willing to pay for such a space.
posted by junesix at 8:14 AM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

Speaking as an honest-to-god writer, I wouldn't pay money just for the space, and certainly not a monthly commitment like TheOffice seems to prefer.

That said, I find there are times when a change of scenery is necessary to get my cogs turning. When those times come, I go to Starbucks and spend a few hours there. I drop maybe $12 on chai and snacks, settle into a comfy chair with my laptop, and partake of the wi-fi as needed. (I don't need a desk, though I suppose some writers do.) Call it $5/hour including the space, drinks, and internet access.

Your best bet to appeal to the writing crowd is to find value-add amenities a writer might be willing to shell out a little more for, and/or provide the seatign space for free and make your money, like a regular cafe does, on refreshments. (But bear in mind writing is largely not a profitable business, so your clientele will have to be a little close with its funding.)

Off the top of my head, the kinds of amenities that might be useful are reference materials (Writer's Markets, globes, thesauruses), cool and inspirational materials (albums of mixed photos, neat-looking trinkets), a critiquing corner where those feeling social can get feedback on their work, and a running schedule of writer's groups or book clubs that meet at regular times, preferably in a walled-off space so the noise doesn't bug others.

It would also be pleasant to be able to reserve that comfy chair so I know when I get there that there will be someplace for me to actually sit. :)
posted by Andrhia at 8:50 AM on August 1, 2006

You could probably offer some basic printing and mailing services. If you could mash a good coffee shop up with a mailboxes etc place, I would use that sometimes.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:35 AM on August 1, 2006

There's the Bowery Poetry Club here in NYC, but it's more geared to performances--although it does have a tiny cafe space in the front.
posted by brujita at 9:38 AM on August 1, 2006

I've never used such a place (nor would I, most likely), but the two amenities immediately lacking at theOffice (aside from a space in their name), are printing and privacy. Surely for $500 a month, they could buy a couple dozen reams of paper and an ink cartridge every few weeks. And if not walled in offices, at least partitions or half walls to give the illusion of privacy. That place looks like the common space of a campus library.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 9:47 AM on August 1, 2006

I've been tempted by the Village Quill here in New York, but in the end, I'd rather sit here in my apartment and spend the money on coffee and delivered lunches.

So, hey, coffee and lunches would be good. Seriously, what would get me to rent space:

Free or cheap printing as TV suggested.

Easy access to cheap coffee and food ('cause we're poor).


A place that's like a cafe, except with no kids at all. Kids ruin coffee shops for writers.

Obviously, WiFi, although I'd be better off with a WiFi free zone so I'd stop, say, answering questions like this instead of writing.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:14 AM on August 1, 2006

I would always choose a cafe/restaurant over some such place, because I need to eat to keep myself working at full capacity. And because the waitron becomes something of my personal concierge for a few hours -- all for a good tip which would make it much cheaper than what theOffice is charging.
posted by iurodivii at 10:16 AM on August 1, 2006

I wouldn't write in a place like this. It's nice to have a change of scenery and to get out and look at people being people, but if you're just supposed to come in and write and not even have meetings... how is this obnoxiously priced space in any way better than setting up your laptop at the library or better yet, a coffee shop or deli?
posted by headspace at 10:49 AM on August 1, 2006

I write in cafes sometimes. An expensive membership-model like theOffice or the Village Quill holds no appeal for me. I've got a nice physical environment for writing at home; I just occasionally like working around others (or I'm downtown anyway and it's convenient to write in a cafe.)

If it had a conventional cafe model where I'm buying tea or coffee to rent my seat, plus it had reference material, Internet access (and outlets) and no kids, as others have suggested above, that would have appeal. But (if it were in my town) I still wouldn't be there more than a few times a year at best.

It might be useful to include a space for writer's groups, readings, and other gatherings to encourage creating a community of regulars.

But I'm skeptical that optimizing for writers wouldn't cost you more than it would gain you.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 11:14 AM on August 1, 2006

Maybe try something like The Open Book in Minneapolis. It has a cafe, literary center, galleries, and all kinds of cool things writers and bookish folks are attracted to.
posted by fantastic at 12:19 PM on August 1, 2006

Several friends of mine belong to the Writer's Room here in New York and swear by it. Offerings and cost can be found on their website and IIRC you need to be recommended by a member to get in.
posted by The Bellman at 12:35 PM on August 1, 2006

something like what andrhia describes above would be ideal to me, but if it were significantly more expensive than a regular cafe with good coffee/snacks, I wouldn't probably go to it just for the writerish bent - ie, I wouldn't pay a fee on a monthly basis, I don't think. But I love good cafes to begin with - nice open space, high quality coffee, fresh high quality croissants/scones/etc, and wifi, are my fundamentals. If two places have that and one also has a writerly theme with reference books and quiet but serious meetings for writer's groups etc, then option B wins. But if option B has crappy coffee, I won't care about the space being predesignated for what I'm using it for. I can check references online and if it's noisy, that's why I have headphones.
posted by mdn at 12:42 PM on August 1, 2006

I think LA is somewhat of a special case here.

first of all, it's a city where everything is 45 minutes away. going to a few appointments and home to write is cumbersome. the office is in a great location - somewhat close to a bunch of major players. it's also a neat place to 'run into people', something that usually doesn't happen in a city where you drive everywhere and end up at places only on purpose.

and finally: it's full of screenwriters. this is, relatively speaking, a crowd that has a buck or two to spare. yes, they are writers. but the average writer gets what, 75.000 to 100.000 for their first feature script? LA is a bit different from other cities, new york perhaps not included.
posted by krautland at 12:41 PM on August 24, 2006

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