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Salt Mines, Stitch City

Need place to work, sew? New co-ops have you covered

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PAUL VERNON/THISWEEKNEWS
Andy Soell, part owner of the Salt Mines, writes a chalk sign for the grand opening of both the Salt Mines and Stitch City outside the co-ops last Thursday, Nov. 1. The new ventures feature temporary space (and coffee) for freelancers and others to use for work or sewing projects.
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Andy Soell works for a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C. -- but he does so from his house in Clintonville.

"Up until now, working out of home has been great," he said last week.

But things have changed. He and January Newbanks-Soell added to their family 21 months ago in the form of a daughter, Lucy.

"Lucy, when she was an infant, was fine ... but once she hit the year mark, she was walking and she could kind of walk over and get our attention," said Newbanks-Soell, a self-employed wedding and portrait photographer.

Cute -- unless you really, really have to get something done.

"But Dad's got to work," Soell would plead with his little girl, who saw no sense in that at all.

So the web designer began looking for office space to rent, only to find most locations prohibitively expensive or too far away.

Elsewhere in Clintonville, Katie Napolitano Heck, a paralegal with Wolfe Legal Services for the past nine years, became passionately interested in sewing last Christmas after she and Newbanks-Soell learned the basics together a few years earlier.

But the equipment for sewing, as well as embroidery and quilting, doesn't come cheap, and Heck knew of no place where she could gain access to a sewing machine for only the times she needed one.

The trio of Clintonville residents put their heads together and decided to cooperate on creating two co-operatives: one dedicated to shared office space and the other offering shared sewing machines.

The Salt Mines, as the former is called, held a grand opening last week at 219 Arcadia Ave., while Stitch City Sew-op, next door at 211 Arcadia Ave., joined in.

"The Salt Mines was born out of a need for interaction," according to the enterprise's website. "Working independently, whether as a freelancer, small-business owner or telecommuter, is great, but it lacks a sense of community and collaboration that comes with a traditional office.

"We are a place where entrepreneurs, small-business teams, remote telecommuters and a variety of others can sit down together to get work done in community. You bring the laptop and the elbow grease, we'll provide the desk, chair, Wi-Fi and coffee."

Stitch City, Heck said, is a sewing "lounge" with four sewing machines available for hourly rental as well as sewing boards, cutting tables and embroidery and quilting machines.

"It's that idea of shared work space and the focus you get from being around other people who are doing the same thing," Heck said. "I really love the idea of being able to walk in and not necessarily having your own machine."

She added it's exactly the kind of operation she would have liked to find but couldn't -- so she created it.

Stitch City also has retail sales of some homemade goods as well as sewing supplies.

Soell said there are some shared office-space operations in the Short North and German Village, but none right in Clintonville that he's aware of.

"There's kind of a joke that people who live in Clintonville don't ever leave Clintonville," Newbanks-Soell said.

Now, they don't have to.

"Co-working has grown a lot in the last few years around the country," Soell said. "The way I look to work is I pretty much go heads-down ... but it's really nice to have people to bounce ideas off of. I just really like the idea of having diverse people in the shop, but I do selfishly hope that we have some other (web) developers."

The Salt Mines side of the building is 400 square feet, which is available for use as meeting space "and is ideal for everything from informal parties to structured classes," according to the website.

The Salt Mines offers monthly memberships for $160, which come with a permanent desk, mailing address and first dibs on the "device lab" testing center. Monthly members also may opt to have their business names on the window of the Salt Mines and receive discounts on after-hours events hosted there.

A daily visit costs $12, while a "floating week membership" is available for $50. The latter provides five days of shared office space at the purchaser's convenience.

"I'm cautiously optimistic that the demand is there," Soell said.

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