How To Build A Co-Working Space: Sophie Evans & Doug Johns From CHAIRS™

 
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How To Build A Co-Working Space: Sophie Evans & Doug Johns From CHAIRS™

Interview & Photos by Zayyar Win Thein
Header Photo: Coffee Supreme

 

Zayyar: Hey Sophie & Doug, can you give us a small run down about what CHAIRS™ is and where you guys are located?

Sophie:
CHAIRS™ is Coffee Supreme’s new shared workspace, located at 376 Great North Road, Grey Lynn, Auckland.

Zayyar: So Coffee Supreme expanding into a co-working office space might seem like a strange offering but the way you guys have branded it is so on par with everything you guys do. Give us the lowdown on how the idea came into fruition? And more importantly, why did you guys want to offer something like this?

Doug:
The Coffee Supreme wholesale operation requires a bit of space and finding the right building in the right hood can be tricky. So when the site on Great North Road came up we had to take a look. We fell in love with its 70’s charm, the false ceilings, blue ceramic toilets, and weird glass offices.

We settled in and always thought we’d open our next cafe here. However, after a little digging, we realised the charm of the building let it down a little bit if you wanted to open a cafe. To bring it up to speed meant putting down more money than we were comfortable with. And throwing loads of coin at a cafe, just because we can, doesn’t sit well with us. It’s not an honest representation of what it takes to open a good hospitality spot.

After holding a few big events in the space we went back to the drawing board. We quickly realised that it’s the act of hosting people and being hospitable that lights us up. So having a bunch of friends (new and old) all working together under our roof seemed like a logical idea. So that’s what happened.

 
 
 

Zayyar: How did you guys design and fit-out the space? What were some of the key elements you wanted to make it feel like home and of course on brand?

Doug:
The bones were already there. It was largely giving them a lick of paint and a little polish. We knew we wanted CHAIRS™ to be its own thing while borrowing a few of the Coffee Supreme brand touches. It ain’t no secret that it's Coffee Supreme, so we wanted to make it feel like a new member of the family.

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Leaving some of the existing fit-out and the patina of the space was key in order to make it feel a little well-loved and not too crispy. From there it was a matter of on-brand touches like white and grey paint, powder-coated steel and pops of red. We’d also say that it’s not quite finished, and we’ll be happy when it has been well lived in and starts to take on some of its own character from the people who use the space.

Zayyar: This ties well into the branding - safe to say it's awesome. Who came up with all of that including the name plus taglines?

Doug:
We have our in-house design team who provided the brand. We love playing the name game with any new site or project and is often the part of the process where we get to throw any idea into the mix and let the ideas run a little off course.

The original name was going to be Reddy’s. But after a little IP investigation, we thought better of it. So it was back to the list. Some hot contenders were; Space Invaders, Side Hustle, Free Coffee & Wifi, Desk Jockeys, Deskarama, Staple Centre. However, we couldn’t go past keeping it simple and relevant to the offer - it’s chairs for doing stuff. And we love a good pun to work with.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Zayyar: What was the biggest challenge in getting this all up and running?

Sophie:
We’d have to say the biggest challenge was for our Auckland based team, who had to continue to work within the building while we were doing the renovations. The anxiety and stress levels were pretty high. Having nail guns going off all day long isn’t much fun or great for productivity. So, hats off to the Coffee Supreme team and Ben and Tom from Almighty Juice, who were actually our first residents before we opened, for their patience.

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We’re certainly learning a few things along the way too. Running a shared workspace is new for us, so listening to the people who use the space is important. This allows us to constantly be looking for ways to make it better.

 

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Zayyar: What does CHAIRS™ offer that other co-working spaces don’t?

Sophie:
Coffee Supreme’s benefits and connections. Sounds gross, but we’ve been around for 25 years, we know a few people and we love to play cupid.

Doug:
The best coffee for free.

Zayyar: And what does a successful co-working space mean to you?

Doug:
Success for us looks like people learning from each other, sharing knowledge and working together to help tackle their challenges. We love being able to bring people together to do this because we get to learn from them too. It’s not too far from a cafe setting, where people go and chat about work and make plans to take over the world - all over a cup of coffee.

Sophie: What he said. Heaps of watercooler chats, but ones that you actually want to have.

 
 
Success for us looks like people learning from each other, sharing knowledge and working together to help tackle their challenges.
— Doug Johns
 
 

Zayyar: So you currently have 32 desks with a mixture of permanent and hot deskers. Who are some of the permanent businesses you have working out of CHAIRS™?

Sophie:
We have a permanent list of Almighty Juice, Bonnie Goods, Tradecraft and Go Well. Each day there are different people in CHAIRS™, this keeps the vibe alive.

Zayyar: What’s in the pipeline for CHAIRS™ in the future? I know you’ve hosted a few events, is that something you guys are going to explore further and could this be a potential for more cities to receive something like this in their area?

Doug:
We hope to build CHAIRS™ out to be something we can take with us to other cities we operate in. It opens us the options for sites and buildings we can look at for Coffee Supreme. We also love to challenge ourselves to be more than just a great coffee company and CHAIRS™ gives us a new venture to work on.

Sophie: Heaps more events. But not so many that we annoy our permanent tenants.

CHAIRS™:
376 Great North Road,
Grey Lynn,
Auckland 1021
Website: chairsforthat.com
Instagram:
@chairsforthat

Interview & Photos: Zayyar Win Thein

 

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