Located in the northern Michigan town of Charlevoix, The Vault opened in September to provide a new workspace to tourists, remote workers, and entrepreneurs in this picturesque community. We spoke with Lindsey J. Dotson, Executive Director of the Charlevoix Main Street Downtown Development Association, to learn more about the project and how The Vault is fostering new connections for local professionals.
Why did you decide to open a coworking space?
This started with a conversation at the Charlevoix Public Library to address a need in our community. The library is often overrun by remote workers who need to use wifi and fill the library’s private study rooms to the point where there is a waiting list.
Charlevoix is a small town in northern Michigan that draws in a lot of tourists. It also houses many resort homes that families come to for extended periods of time during the summer. Many of these people still need to work while on vacation but don’t have reliable internet at their cottage or home if it’s located outside of the city limits.
We also have a significant number of residents that are here year-round and work remotely for companies downstate or have home-based businesses. It was clear that many of these folks feel isolated in their homes and wished to make connections in an office environment. We’ve been exploring the demand of a coworking space in Charlevoix after seeing the success that The Loft coworking space has had in nearby Harbor Springs. A space downtown became available that was fully furnished and had affordable rent, so members of our Board of Directors thought it was a great place to launch the idea to see if it can succeed here. The Vault is operated and funded by the Charlevoix Main Street program.
Tell us about your space. What amenities do you have and what makes it special?
The Vault is about 2,000 square feet in downtown Charlevoix. It has off-street parking which can be a huge benefit to members during the busy summer months. It is walking distance to bustling Bridge Street which boasts a variety of shops, restaurants, and cafes. It’s also steps away from several parks including Michigan Beach, Hoffman Park, Bridge Park, and award-winning East Park. Stroll to the shores of Lake Michigan during your lunch break, hit the in-town grocery store on your way home, or stay after work for a night of fun with outdoor concerts, the farmers market, and events galore. The walls are covered in local paintings and photography. There are three private offices, options for dedicated desks, drop-in space, and phone booths for confidential conversations or meetings. The Vault also has an actual old bank vault, which has been transformed into a meditation space for increased wellness while working. Features of The Vault that members especially appreciate are the large conference room equipped with a big-screen television for video conferencing and presentations plus a kitchen with complimentary, locally roasted coffee.
What is your favorite thing about operating a coworking space?
I love seeing people make connections and collaborating. Every person who uses the space has unique skills and talents and seeing how that can benefit others is wonderful.
What has been the most surprising or unexpected thing about operating a coworking space?
So far, the overwhelmingly positive community support that we’ve received has been heartwarming to say the least.
What’s your favorite story about one of your members?
A member renting a private office is moving from Nashville, Tennessee to Charlevoix and she stated that The Vault solved one of the biggest barriers she had to moving here! Her business thrives in the coworking environment and we are so glad she can relocate here thanks to this effort.
What is your biggest piece of advice for someone wanting to open a space?
I’d say getting the community involved from the beginning is crucial to success. We’ve been meeting with remote/home office workers for months talking about this need and have done our best to create a sense of ownership and pride among all of the collaborative’s members so that they feel the space is something they had a part in creating.
Learn more about The Vault and the City of Charlevoix on Facebook.