Tech start-up Retreat Guru is turning the historic Jam Factory building in downtown Nelson into a vibrant, innovative coworking space where local technology and knowledge workers can gather to work and collaborate.
The space is a project by Retreat Guru founders and brothers, Cameron and Deryk Wenaus. Having seen a need in the community, they opened up a coworking space last year in their previous Baker Street location, and are now working to expand that vision in their larger space at 303 Vernon St.
The brothers are currently working with local architect Thomas Loh on renovations to the building that will open up the space to bring in more light, while maintaining the sound separation most remote and tech workers need.
Along with breakout rooms for private meetings and a yoga-meditation studio with offerings every day, the new space will feature a communal area, complete with kitchen, espresso bar and a living room. With the tech space workers in mind, the Jam Factory will feature the latest in high-speed fibre optic Internet.
Along with previous experience sharing their workspace with others, it was the closure of the former Gyre coworking space and subsequent call for a new place where independent workers in Nelson could find affordable office space and work side-by-side with others in a community that convinced them the need was there.
"We always had extra desk space available with our previous company, Blue Mandala. And we always had a positive experience working with other people who shared our office space," said Cameron Wenaus. "So last year we decided to explore the coworking model. We had space available, so we took the lead and decided to rent more space in our building. From there, it took off."
They liked the coworking model so much that when the time came to find a new home for their growing company, the brothers chose a space that suited an expanded coworking community.
The building, which most recently housed the Academy of Classical Oriental Sciences, is a timber-framed structure with stone exterior walls originally built in 1911 as a warehouse for the McDonald Jam Factory. Upon seeing the 8,000 square-foot main floor of the building, the brothers immediately knew they had found the perfect space to suit their vision. They decided to call it the Jam Factory, as both a nod to its origins and its new function as a collaborative workspace.
"There's a lot of synthesis and a lot of cross-pollination that happens when you get people who work in similar industries working in one space; collaboration inevitably happens," said Wenaus.
He adds that they may also create some subsidized space for artists. "It will mostly be a tech environment, but we would like to have it be a beautiful mix of creative and commercial residents."
The building is currently home to about 20 people, with space for 30 to 40. Wenaus says the remaining spaces available will mostly be for people who want their own, dedicated desk. But there will also be temporary "hot desks" available for people who just want to drop in on a casual basis.
Co-working spaces will be officially available in January. But Wenaus says that if anyone wants to get in on the ground floor, they're welcome to start earlier than that.