Co-working rises in the North Bay

North Bay co-working locations

Green Hive, 425 Virginia St., Ste. B, Vallejo,

The Hivery, 38 Miller Ave., Ste. 20, Mill Valley,

MindTank Work Club, 23 Ross Common, Ste. 5, Ross,

Santa Rosa ShareSpace, CoWork Santa Rosa, 533 Fifth St., Santa Rosa,

Ukiah ShareSpace, 205 N Bush St., Ukiah,

VenturePad, 1020 B St., San Rafael,

Work Petaluma, 10 Fourth St. and 245 Kentucky St., Petaluma,

Workmix Café (set to open in May), 950 Randolph St., Napa

Dutra-Cerro-Graden used to have a North Bay office for its commercial real estate work with local school districts and faith-based organizations.

But the company found that co-working in Vallejo's relatively new Green Hive Spaces was more economical and flexible.

“We didn't require a full-time presence, as our activities were driven by our clients' needs,” said principal Landis Graden, whose company has Dublin and Los Angeles offices. “The model saved us money, and the amenities allowed for us to be fully functional, especially with access to the conference room in which we were able to meet with clients.”

Graden is among the dozens of teleworkers, startups and longtime “solopreneurs” who have become regulars or as-needed users of the handful of co-working facilities that have opened in Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Vallejo, Ukiah and San Rafael in the past few years. One is set to open in Napa this spring, and another reportedly is on the drawing board for the First Street Napa downtown redevelopment.

Marisela Barbosa opened Green Hive in less than 2,000 square feet at 425 Virginia St., Suite B, a year ago, Its fully booked four office suites, and 14 desk spaces in the co-working area are mostly taken by professionals like Graden who are meeting clients in the city or those who drop in as they pass through the Solano city.

“Our clients have come from Southern California, South Bay, East Bay, Solano, Nevada County and Shasta County and one international business,” Barbosa said. “Some are employees, startups and established businesses. Our conference room has been used mostly by lawyers.”

Roberto Cortez, president and CEO of 13-year-old Monarch Engineers ( is part of the three-person team that has the largest private office in Green Hive. The structural, civil, mechanical and electrical engineering and design firm also has a number of employees who work from home and come to Green Hive to meet with clients at open desks.

“It is a great option since we don't have to lease a large space to house all employees providing conference room availability and other amenities, in addition to being able to expand and contract desk availability to fill our needs in short-term basis,” Cortez said.

Liz Ramos started Engeniate ( team-development consultancy four years ago and run it from a home office, rent-by-the-hour shared offices and coffee shops before landing her own office at Green Hive.

“[I]t is has allowed me to have a clean separation between home and work, which is something I personally needed,” Ramos said.


One of the newest North Bay co-working facilities is VenturePad, opened March 1 by two Marin County entrepreneurship veterans in 3,850 square feet of downtown San Rafael office space at 1020 B St. It has about 30 desks in open-office, communal enclosed “quiet zone” and private-office settings for members plus 30–40 spaces at farm tables, cafe counters and lounge chairs for those who come and go. There are also three conference rooms, seating six to 15.

Co-founders Chris Yalonis, CEO, and Alejandro Moreno, vice president of marketing, envision VenturePad being a blend between a co-working facility and an accelerator–incubator like the former Venture Greenhouse and Renaissance Entrepreneurship Centers location. Moreno was in senior leadership at Venture Greenhouse until it closed in 2015. The incubator side of the business likely will start this fall, after the co-work aspect is fully running, they said.

“The co-working model has proven very successful across the country,” Yalonis said “Marin needs an incubator and accelerator. It also needs need professional services like branding and website design, and we'll offer those.”

They have compiled a network - “C-suite for the solopreneur” - of about a dozen local professional services firms that would offer a discount to members. So for $75–$125 an hour, members can book time with a branding expert, graphic designer, intellectual-property attorney or other expertise startups need.


Besides the small MindTank Work Club in the town of Ross just west of San Rafael and Mill Valley's women-only The Hivery, Marin has a dearth of options for come-and-go office space, Yalonis said. VenturePad's market research from Census data suggests as much as 40 percent of Marin's workforce could be working from home.

“People say working from home is isolating and can be distracting,” Yalonis said. “Co-working is the antidote for that.”

Two co-working facilities are said to be bound for Napa. Workmix Café, reportedly set to open in May at 950 Randolph St., would be a mix a café with an art gallery, store retail, shared workspace and meeting rooms.

North Bay co-working locations

Green Hive, 425 Virginia St., Ste. B, Vallejo,

The Hivery, 38 Miller Ave., Ste. 20, Mill Valley,

MindTank Work Club, 23 Ross Common, Ste. 5, Ross,

Santa Rosa ShareSpace, CoWork Santa Rosa, 533 Fifth St., Santa Rosa,

Ukiah ShareSpace, 205 N Bush St., Ukiah,

VenturePad, 1020 B St., San Rafael,

Work Petaluma, 10 Fourth St. and 245 Kentucky St., Petaluma,

Workmix Café (set to open in May), 950 Randolph St., Napa

And the redevelopers of the Napa Town Center shopping center as the Archer Napa hotel-anchored First Street Napa mixed-use development are considering conversion of the second floor of the quake-shuttered McCaulou's department store as co-working or shared office space, according to the Napa Valley Register.

The plans for the co-working space aren't confirmed at this time, a spokeswoman for the project said.

Demand for small-office space helped propel the rise of executive-suites providers such as Regus, which has North Bay locations in Sausalito, San Rafael, Novato, Petaluma and Santa Rosa. Regus does offer co-working at North Bay hourly fees of $12.30–$7.60, from south to north. The Luxembourg-based company has nearly 3,000 business centers in 900 cities globally.

The giant in co-work facilities is New York-based WeWork, which has more than 100,000 members and 162 locations in 42 cities - San Francisco, Berkeley and San Jose locally - in 15 countries worldwide. Membership more than doubled last year, the company said.

One such member is Oliver Mincey, founder and president of M. Co. Ventures, which designs, creates and operates entertainment venues. Since he started the firm in 2009, he has logged time in WeWork locations in San Francisco, Berkeley and Los Angeles for project work or meeting clients. He's also joined Green Hive.

The flowing vibe and energy of the mix of entrepreneurs in shared facilities is invigorating, as are the flowing complimentary coffee and, with WeWork, beer, he said.

“And compared to working at home, going to work at a co-working space helps with being able to focus and get work done, especially when you're like me and have a wife and three kids at home,” Mincey said. “Whenever I try to work from home, the plethora of distractions make it a struggle.”


One of the pitch points for co-working space is the ability to collaborate or get creative energy from those who may be in a different industry. VenturePad has been getting tips on the business and social aspects of co-working from Natasha Juliana.

She co-founded Work Petaluma with her tech-savvy husband, Matt, in 2012. The Petaluma operation has about 200 members at varying levels and expanded nearly a year ago to an “Uptown” location with seven more private offices and two additional meeting rooms.

“The other area we're trying to grow right now is meeting-room usage,” Juliana said. “We thought users of the rooms would be members, but often they're businesses in town that might want to get out of the office or have teams working remotely and want a place to get together once week or month.”

Rob Budny started the RBB Engineering consultancy ( four years ago in March. He advises on rotating equipment to maximize reliability and performs gear and bearing failure analysis.

“I used a home office for a little over three years,” Budny said. “I occasionally used Work Petaluma downtown, but I frequently need the ability to close an office door and concentrate on my work.”

He jumped at the chance to secure a private office when Work Petaluma Uptown opened. He said the cost was much less than a traditional office lease, the increase of productivity justified the added cost, and the space comes with benefits such as conference rooms and a downtown location.

Budny noted one aspect that is a hallmark of co-working and maker spaces vs. executive office suites: inspiration that comes from daily interaction with other entrepreneurs. And some of them become vendors, such as Budny's bookkeeper, graphic designer, web designer and copywriter.

“I also am able to leave work at work, which was difficult when I had a home office,” Budny said. “… My business is much more professional now than it was before I took an office with Work Petaluma.”

Laura Neitz, a senior brand strategist for Syracuse, N.Y.-based internet engagement marketing firm Terakeet, recently moved to Petaluma because her partner took a job in Rohnert Park and partly due to Work Petaluma's affordable and flexible rate tiers. Collaborating with the East Coast team three hours ahead means she works at home in the morning, then uses her “lite” membership at the co-work center in the afternoon.

“This is my first experience working remotely,” Neitz said. “I was extremely concerned that working remotely would be isolating when moving across the country. I considered a variety of options: working exclusively at home, coffee shops, libraries, etc.”

The dynamic of working with people in different industries and having a dedicated office made a co-work facility the better option than a public venue, she said.

Contact Jeff Quackenbush at or 707-521-4256.

CORRECTION, March 31: Ross is a Marin County town just west of San Rafael, not a rural west Marin community, as in the original story.

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