Call it Koi 2.0.
Well, that’s how Ryan Doran refers to the fifth-floor suites that opened in early summer at the ArtsWestchester building on Mamaroneck Avenue in downtown White Plains.
It was a calculated expansion for Doran and his business partner Jon Manierre who opened Koi Creative Space three years ago just a few blocks away at 169 Mamaroneck.
“We always kept a running list of potential members who wanted more devoted space,” Doran said. “It was from that list that we built this second space. The second space is devoted to membership that’s team-based, like two-, three-, four-person teams that need a little bit more privacy, but still want access to a coworking environment.”
In this iteration of Koi, the space consists of glass-walled offices, unlike the location down the street that is an open-space environment.
“We have minimalistic offices but with everything you need,” Doran said. “We understand how to save space and use it the right way. Every single office has a window… as opposed to being in the interior of the building.”
Formally opened at the beginning of June, they are more than half full. And in the next few months, Doran anticipates opening a few more offices on the fifth floor. The suites were created by Design Development Architects, which took space for its offices adjacent to Koi’s offices at 165 Mamaroneck.
Membership for the suites in the ArtsWestchester building is either quarterly, six months or a year.
“The clients are a little more devoted,” Doran said, compared with the ones who use the space down the street.
At 169 Mamaroneck, membership is in “the low 80s. It’s a mix of part-time and full-time clients,” Doran said.
“We’ve become the home of the Westchester Angels, run by Sandy Wollman, Jeff Loehr and Michael Wieser. They hold their meetings and do their vetting and pitches here,” Doran said.
The space is also one of the homes of the county incubator, Element 46, which held its kickoff event on June 18.
So, how did Koi end up in the ArtsWestchester building?
It all began with Turkois, the business that was the impetus for Koi.
Doran and Manierre are longtime friends who a decade ago founded a creative shop that provides video, audio, print, promotional, copywriting, event marketing, social marketing, graphic design and app development, along with brand and identity design. They worked out of a home office in Valhalla. The enterprise began as a cooperative freelance operation between the two before becoming a limited liability company in 2012. As they gained more clients, the pair needed a more professional workspace.
They were determined to find space in White Plains, which has easy access to trains, buses and highways. But talking and walking with real estate brokers for two years proved futile.
They liked Mamaroneck Avenue and eventually struck up a conversation with Paul Dillane and his business partner Brian Mahon, owners of street-level restaurants Hudson Grille and Lily’s, who happened to have essentially empty storage space on the second floor. The two entrepreneurs thought it would be more beneficial to create a concept that served them as well as other similar businesses.
The second floor of 169 Mamaroneck would lead to the creation of coworking space Koi, a three-letter derivative of Turkois. The office opened in August 2016.
Doran and Manierre were already familiar with ArtsWestchester and its CEO Janet Langsam since the organization was a client; they maintained its website.
The two approached Langsam about creating coworking space on any floor that had vacancies. She said there was 1,500 square feet on the fifth floor.
“You can do a lot with that size. You don’t need to take these massive 10,000-square-foot floor plates” like others might.
“That’s what’s good about coworking. It’s proportionate to the size,” Doran said. “If you have 1,000 square feet you can only fit so many offices and so many desks for people where it’s a valuable property. You can be incremental and be smart about how you grow. You don’t have to take these swaths of property.
“You see a lot of these bigger developers and real estate guys just call things coworking until they figure out what to do with it. They know it’s a flexible term. It’s trendy. They can say, ‘That floor is completely coworking’ and then five months later you find out it’s rented to these different people and there’s still a chunk of it that’s still quote unquote coworking. Coworking isn’t the space. Coworking is the environment you create with the space.”
There are five suites and a conference room on the fifth floor at ArtsWestchester. A large one goes for $1,800 a month. The money gets a client very fast WiFi, coffee, water, tea, a TV in the conference room and 10 hours of conference room access per member of a team. Membership also grants you access to the Koi space down the street as well.
Langsam said of Koi, “We’re so delighted to have them. We serve creative industries. Our mission is to bring culture to Westchester and make it accessible and profitable and provide space that’s affordable.
“In the creative industries, frequently people are working alone. There’s photographers, filmmakers, writers. They have little choices other than to be in a home office or to rent an office, which is costly. This is an opportunity to provide an alternative.”
As for what’s next for Koi, Doran said, “We’re actively expanding and adding a few more offices on that floor in the next few months.”
He hinted that he and his partner are pursuing potential partnerships in the county.
“There’s a couple of higher ed organizations that we have partnership talks with. I see launching a devoted software suite as an accompaniment to the coworking spaces.”