It’s 9:02 a.m. — technically just two minutes after Keller Street CoWork has officially unlocked its doors for the day — and at least half-a-dozen people are already hard at work, their laptops and phones and additional accoutrements arranged to their taste at whichever table, couch, cubicle or chamber-of-silence they’ve selected for the particular task or tasks at hand.
Some have been here a while already. Others are on their way, or planning to arrive at noon, or later in the afternoon — or whatever happens to work best for them.
Outside these big wooden doors, all around Petaluma and up and down the freeway, the rest of the world is going about the start of its traditional 9-5 workday — commuting, clocking-in, hoping to impress a boss, all following a predetermined work schedule set up by someone else. Those entrepreneurial folks who work from home, of course, are dealing with different challenges, those of balancing a career with the demands of parenting, housekeeping and the day-to-day distractions of combining work and regular life.
But at Petaluma’s two existing co-working facilities, this one, founded one-year ago, and WORK Petaluma, about three blocks south, the definition of “work day” has been blown to smithereens.
“This is the quietest moment of the day, actually,” says Danielle Stroble, community director of Keller Street CoWork. “A lot of our members are just barely rubbing their eyes open at 9 a.m.,” she laughs. “So it’s super quiet here right now, but by 10 or 10:30, that’s when it will be pretty packed and very lively.”
At a large table in the main room, Ingrid Wilson is at work on her laptop. Another member, laptop out, headphones in place, is stationed at a small round table near the window, looking out on Keller Street.
Coworking, for the most part, employs a membership-based model, designed to accommodate folks who need an alternative to working at home or renting their own office. Members pay a monthly fee, for which they have 24/7 access to the facility, seven days a week. Day pass-holders can use the facility from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. At Keller Street, a pair of conference rooms and a lounge are available for rental, and often host meetings of brick-and-mortar businesses in town that lack the space for large gatherings.
Currently, Keller Street has about 55 members, and also rents out six permanent offices to local realtors, plumbers, etc., their “shingles” hanging in front of each assigned door. As if on cue, local real estate agent and KPCA radio personality Barton Smith arrives and unlocks his own office door, chatting with Stroble about her recent vacation.
According to Stroble, the office renters sometimes bring their laptops out to one of the public areas, just for a bit of human connection. Standard members can either use one of the many available tables, chairs or couches spread throughout the 9,000-square-foot facility.
“Even with the office renters, everyone loves to pop out and say hi to other regulars, checking up on how the weekend went and all of that,” says Stroble. “One of the main attractions to coworking is the social aspect. A lot of freelancers who work from home get to missing the contact they once had with other workers, and you wouldn’t believe how often a casual conversation at our large table leads to some creative breakthrough. There is a lot of spontaneous brainstorming that goes on during the average day here.”