On a recent weekday morning at the Salt Mines, a co-working space in Clintonville, a conversation about Obamacare and health insurance springs up.
The discussion attracts the attention of all the members present, and one recounts his experience of signing up for insurance online.
It's that kind of interaction -- usually not possible for those who work at home, at the library or at a coffee shop -- that the Salt Mines is designed to foster.
The workspace originally opened last year on Arcadia Avenue in Clintonville, but moved to 2997 Indianola Ave. in late September and celebrated its first anniversary Nov. 1.
Full-time member Joe Shaw, a software engineer who moved to central Ohio from Boston, said he joined to meet others in his field.
"I went to college here, but I wanted to meet other professionals," said Shaw.
He also said he wanted to get out of the house and avoid the distractions that can be found there.
"When I moved here, I needed a place to work," he said. "I didn't want to work at home."
Most of the people who use the space are freelancers or independent workers in the IT field, according to the Salt Mines co-founder Andy Soell.
"About half our members do tech stuff such as web or app development," Soell said.
The Salt Mines caters to these members by offering an assortment of mobile devices and tablet computers on which members may try out their apps or websites. The "device lab" is in the back of the space, along with a desk, Wi-Fi and coffee.
A conference table with a large-screen TV, printer, lockers and a kitchen area with a refrigerator also are located in the back room. An informal sitting area with chairs and a sofa is at the front of the space.
The Salt Mines mainly relies on word of mouth and social media to attract members. Soell said he placed a couple of Facebook ads, but did no traditional advertising.
Brad Pauquette, a web designer and developer, said he found out about the Salt Mines via Facebook. Pauquette is a web designer and developer, but also helps with the nonprofit Columbus Creative Cooperative, a resource for Ohio writers and independent publisher of local authors.
Books by the nonprofit can be found near his desk space, and the most recent one he worked on, an anthology titled Best of Ohio Short Stories Volume One, is for sale at the space, along with other books published by the cooperative.
Pauquette said he likes working at the space because he enjoys working with others.
"It's a really nice fit. It's nice to have other human beings close by," he said.
Soell said when he and his wife were considering opening the Salt Mines, they looked at similar spaces in Philadelphia, New York City and the Silicon Valley.
Soell said he likes the new location because of its proximity to other businesses, including Savor Growl next door and Studio 35 down the block.
The Salt Mines has five full-time members and about 24 regular part-time members, Soell said. The full-time members have regular desks and chairs permanently in the space; part-timers use what's available on any given day.
The space is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, but stays open until midnight Tuesdays. Full-time members and those who are on the three-days-a-week plan have 24-hour access. Other memberships offered are for one or five days a month.
Memberships range in price from $200 per month for full-time to $12 for one day per month.
When asked if he has considered the Salt Mines' future, Soell said it may move to a larger space in a year or two.
His immediate plans are to reconfigure the layout of the desks and chairs and hang artwork.
Soell also sees the group growing in the future. In relation to how co-working is fairing overall, Soell said, "from what I hear, it's doubling every year."
For more information, visit saltmines.us.