A new co-working office space off Rose Street was born out of necessity.
When José Chavira returned to Walla Walla a year ago after more than a decade’s absence, he was a real estate broker with no office.
The businessman, also a partner in A Greener Today on Ninth Avenue, is still active with a brokerage on the western side of the mountains but has had no private office space for conference calls and financial discussions, plus an address, and a place to go for dedicated work time.
His wife, Charysa Chavira, suddenly found herself in the same position. Surrounded by the support of family, she plans to slowly return to more tax preparation work after spending years balancing part-time work with parenting the couple’s three children.
So they decided to open a professional office space for entrepreneurs like themselves.
Next month, they officially open In Town Ventures. The roughly 2,300-square-foot building at 101 N. Fifth Ave. — most recently home to nonprofit service agency Service Alternatives and an accounting firm before that — has space for a range of working needs: full private offices, designated work stations, co-working space and a virtual office.
The latter is designed for entrepreneurs and professionals who work remotely but need to establish a business address, fax number, a locking mailbox, and an occasional space for meetings clients.
The vision is similar to work-space models José Chavira shared and experienced in the Seattle area.
It fills a need for a workforce that’s sometimes invisible — professionals and entrepreneurs who can work from anywhere from their home offices to coffee shops. But often the work they do can also necessitate space for meetings and conversations for which an office is most needed.
“When you’re talking about financials, you don’t want to be doing it in a coffee shop,” he said.
The concept has already proven to be a success in Walla Walla, with the operation of Emberfuel Coworking on the second floor at 26 E. Main St.
The spaces are a way for people who don’t necessarily work for the same company to come together in a shared workspace. The concept also enables networking among professionals who don’t have traditional office mates. From that comes ideas, community-building and unique professional ecosystems.
“We’re hoping to attract a lot of different professionals,” Charysa Chavira said. “We want to create community, where you can help each other thrive and succeed.”
The trend in creating such spaces spiked in 2018 by 15.2 percent, according to Coworking Resources. Although the pace of openings is not expected to hold at that level this year, the number of coworking spaces across the globe is expected to jump from 2019 to 2022 by 42 percent to 25,968 spots.
One uncertainty locally is the what demand may be out there. Technological and digital advances have made it possible for people to work from just about anywhere, and the strong suspicion is that Walla Walla may be home to a growing remote workforce. Since the companies aren’t necessarily local, it’s hard to know how many people are out there and for whom they’re working.
Thus, the Chaviras have taken an approach to open the property and see who may have a need.
The grand opening takes place June 4 with a lunchtime tour and business presentation.
José occupies one of the three private offices in the building. Rent for the remaining private spaces runs $350 a month. Costs decrease from there with a designated work station ($275 per month in a semiprivate cubicle-style work station), co-working space ($99 per month for eight days of access to shared work space) and the virtual office model.
Renters will get in with the code to a smart lock on the door for access. A tablet at the front counter space will serve as a virtual receptionist, where visitors can check in, triggering an automatic text or email to the professional in the building with whom they have an appointment.
Other amenities include coffee from Walla Walla Roastery, water from Blue Mountain Bottled Water, high-speed internet, use of a kitchen, access to printing and an invitation to all networking events.
The application for a space like this could range from anyone with a need for a conference room — equipped with a smart TV — to those looking toward expanding services in Walla Walla from other hubs but not yet ready for larger office space.
“We’re trying to meet our clients where they’re at,” Charysa said.
The space will be used to host various educational programs, including José’s homebuying presentations. Potential use as a testing center may also be explored.
“That’s part of the community-building we really want,” she said.