The Duke co-working space opened in the Niagara Region in early 2018 after undergoing a huge renovation. We took a tour of this beautiful building in downtown St. Catharines and heard from owner Andrew Hildebrand about how The Duke is inspiring the work of its inhabitants.
Co-working spaces have become a trend over the last decade, and for good reason. Working at home can mean a multitude of distractions that can be frustrating and kill productivity while being around other creative people can provide inspiration. Co-working gives you the flexibility to share an office and the costs involved, and you can leave work behind when you go home. Plus, you avoid the isolation that comes with working at home and have the opportunity to network with other professionals.
Photographer Andrew Hildebrand was looking for such a space when he decided to take matters into his own hands and makeover this magnificent building.
“I saw a co-working space in Hamilton and got really excited about the idea,” Andrew says. “I looked for a space to work out of for a while and didn’t find anything that was refined enough for my brand. I wanted something that didn’t have commercial-grade carpet or dropped ceilings and fluorescent lights. They also didn’t provide the space to entertain clients, conduct meetings – that kind of thing.”
The nine-month renovation included raising ceilings, stripping red shag carpet that would get your socks wet through your shoes, repairing the roof, plastering, painting – just about everything you can imagine.
“It was literally rotting in front of your eyes,” Andrew says.
Now, the interior of The Duke is a beautiful balance of old and new. The building is only three years younger than Canada itself, and Andrew and his family took care to restore and refinish what they could of the old building.
“My Father restored all of the windows,” Andrew says. “He actually went to New Hampshire and took a workshop on historical restoration of windows.”
The huge windows let in large amounts of light. Whitewashed floors, exposed brick, wood beams, and breathtakingly high ceilings give the interior a calm vibe that I imagine would induce maximum creativity.
“Someone said to me once, a business is like a fish in a fishbowl – it will only grow to the size that it is contained in,” Andrew says. “If you put a small fish in a small fishbowl it will remain small. If you put that same small fish in a large tank, it will have a lot more room to grow and actually become a larger fish. This is my larger fish tank and hopefully, it will become a large fish tank for the other 12 businesses that are currently here.”
There are eight shared and private offices at The Duke, a conference room that would impress the fussiest of clients, coffee and drinks station, staff kitchen, and everything, such as access to the Internet, is included.
Andrew shows us through the fully kitted-out staff room/kitchen. “Not much to say about the kitchen but that a lot of water cooler chats happen back here.”
Having a bunch of creative people in one space is sure to create collaboration and inspiration.
Fellow photographer Calvin Frank (@calvinfrankphotography), who also works out of The Duke says, “This space is unbelievable. It’s so nice to have a place away from home just to check into and check out of.”
The offices at The Duke were fully leased before the building even opened. Current tenants include mobile hair and makeup, videographers, photographers, a travel agent, marketing professionals, and graphic designers. However, memberships are available for those who need the use of a beautiful conference space to host their meetings.
Creative folk can also check out Andrew’s Facebook Group, TuesdaysTogether – Niagara. The group meets once every week to dive into topics that are essential to creative entrepreneurs.
“We actually meet on Mondays, which is hilarious because it is called Tuesdays Together,” Andrews says. “It’s all over coffee and good times, and we usually have about 20 people show up.”
Photos for this post courtesy of Andrew Hildebrand (@andrewmarkphoto).
Location 21 Duke St, St. Catharines, ON L2R 5W1