The Desk & Easel coworking space operates in a temporary location while a new site is renovated

If you belong to a coworking space, you know the relationships you form help create a sense of camaraderie, provide an extra dose of motivation or accountability when you need it and are often the most important factor to keep you coming back month after month. After experiencing a devastating fire in 2019, members of The Desk & Easel have not only remained connected and engaged, but also continue to work together while they await completion of a new site in downtown Denison, Texas. We spoke with founder Wendy Acosta to learn how she’s helped support her members through this loss to continue operating as a creative, productive coworking community.

Why did you decide to open a coworking space?

My original idea was to open a shared creative space.  I am an artist and love the idea of being around creative people and having a safe place to try out new ideas. After visiting the coworking space 36Degrees North in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I saw that coworking and creativity would work well together. So, we named ours The Desk & Easel Creative Coworking Space.

Tell us about your space. What kinds of amenities does it have? What makes it unique?

The Desk & Easel is in historic downtown Denison, Texas. Originally, we were on Main Street, right in the heart of downtown, in a building built in the late 1800s. The D&E was an eclectic mix of historic and modern with a calm and inviting feeling about it. We partnered with our award-winning local coffee roastery, CJ’s Coffee Café, to carry their Epiphany Roast coffee free for our members along with snacks, RO water and weekly cookouts in the summer. Our kitchen and lounge area were in the front with our shared workspace and copier/printer/scanner, private offices and conference room were in the middle and my art studio in the back. My original artwork hung throughout and I had created some custom furniture pieces for the space.

In October of 2019, our original space was destroyed by a fire in the building adjacent to ours. Thank goodness no one was hurt, but we lost everything that was inside. The fire was on a Wednesday, and by Monday we had a temporary space donated for our members to work from.  To my heart’s delight, Monday morning everyone was sitting around borrowed tables in a temporary space working, never missing a beat.  On the day of the fire, our community turned out with coffee and food and shoulders to cry on. That day a T-Shirt fundraiser was started by the local arts council and businesses, and by Friday the First United Bank had organized a cookout as a fundraiser. Donations of clothing and personal items were collected for our loft tenants who lost their homes and all of their possessions. Our biggest amenity is the community of downtown Denison and what makes us unique is the opportunity to connect our members to the blessing of this community.

What is your favorite thing about operating a coworking space?

My favorite thing about coworking is welcoming people into my space. I love that I get to create a place they love to be in and make their own. I love that they realize a benefit to having a separate workspace from home and they can be productive at The Desk & Easel. I love connecting people and opportunities and community. I’ve only ever experienced this with coworking.

What’s your favorite story about one of your members?

I leased my first private office space to a woman named Kathleen. She had been working from home for years and said it was fine for her. She was able to be productive and had no problems other than a bit of isolation until the day her cat drug a baby rabbit inside and proceeded to kill and eat it in her office while she was on a call with her team. Kathleen started looking for offices soon after and found The Desk & Easel. Crazier still, we had lived in the same neighborhood for ten years and only met when she came to see the office space. We became good friends after that.

What has been the most surprising or unexpected thing about operating a coworking space?

It has surprised me how much I enjoy having a coworking space. I was not looking for something else to do when the opportunity came up to create The Desk & Easel and it really scared me that first year. Now, I cannot imagine doing anything else.  

While the fire was devastating and we are in a temporary location that meets our needs, it does not have the big gathering space and community feel our original location did. Every one of our members has said that’s what they miss the most—having a space to be together even if just a few minutes throughout the day.  

We have purchased another property in the downtown area, a two-story house built in 1920, that we are remodeling. We will double in size, have a podcast/video recording studio and a backyard with a covered patio (it is Texas after all) that connects to my new art studio and gallery.  

What advice would you offer to someone wanting to open a coworking space?

The only advice I would give someone about opening a coworking space is don’t be afraid to paint outside the lines. Make your space meet the needs of your community, give people a place to belong and contribute. Your space should not be like my space or any other space out there, it should be like you.

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The Desk & Easel Coworking