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Posted on Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

'This is not just an office space': Workantile Exchange rebrands itself as a coworking community

By Lizzy Alfs

Two years after opening a space on South Main Street in downtown Ann Arbor, Workantile Exchange is pursuing organizational and design changes.

The 3,000-square-foot “coworking” space, located at 118 S. Main St., is a membership-funded clubhouse designed for social and professional interaction between independent workers.

But due to a recent ownership change, the downtown storefront is papered off as the organization attempts to rebrand itself.

One step in the rebranding process: changing its name to just Workantile.

“A group of existing members acquired ownership apart from the person who founded the business,” said Trek Glowacki, community manager for Workantile.

“We need to break ties with this name and the previous concept in some ways,” he continued.

Workantile is halting new memberships until December or January while it changes window decorations and redesigns its marketing campaign.

The main goal, Glowacki said, is to ensure people understand Workantile is different than an office space or a business incubator.

Workantile’s 67 current members pay a monthly fee to access the downtown space, but Glowacki said it’s not for people interested in just renting a desk.

“Desk renters want to be left alone to sit and type and have a place to work inexpensively,” he pointed out. “Around them at Workantile, a community was ongoing and they would often leave because they’d get sick of being asked to go to lunch.”

While Workantile is set up with desks, meeting areas and private conference rooms, there is also a social aspect to the workspace.

“Here, people come in, sit down and hang out and work, but there’s also a great deal of socializing going on,” Glowacki said. “And consulting goes on constantly. You can get experienced people’s opinions about what you’re working on.”

And although Glowacki said there are many technology startups at Workantile, he said it’s different than a business incubator, which is designed to facilitate young companies.

During the last two years, Workantile has had a total of some 180 members. With the current membership level at 67, Glowacki said the goal is to get to 100.

To become a member, interested parties can have a trial-week period, after which the organization will invite people to become members. Membership fees are $160 per month, and the organization is also rolling out new membership types as part of its rebranding.

By charging membership fees, the organization has been able to pay its rent and fund its other costs.

“We’re able to pay our ongoing costs at the current membership level we have,” he said. “We’re doing very healthy, but we’d definitely like to get more people.”

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at


Adam J

Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 7:57 p.m.

I really enjoy my membership at Workantile. I've worked from home for many years and the social isolation can really impact your overall quality of life. The diverse community of people at Workantile really make the space warm and interesting each day i spend there. The space is run really well, clean and has any convenience a modern office space offers. I highly recommend membership at any level.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 6:41 p.m.

Workantile is like a water cooler to hang around at for people who are consultants, independent workers, freelancers, and the like. As others have already pointed out, there is a value to having a space where you can work and be in the presence of other people who are working. There are social benefits to working for a larger company (and we humans are social creatures) versus being a sole-practitioner, and Workantile brings some of that to the rest of us. I'm also a Workantile member, and I'm very glad to have this community in Ann Arbor.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 4:05 p.m.

Working at home, I'd often go 12+ hours without a moment of human interaction. At a coffee shop, that interaction was generally limited to "Medium coffee, please" and "Can I use that outlet?" When I moved to Ann Arbor, I was already a telecommuter. I faced the daunting task of finding a community in a place where I knew nobody and worked 8+ hours a day alone. The community at Workantile has been so welcoming. I feel more socially engaged than when I was working exclusively from home and more supported than when I was commuting 10 hours/week to a company office. The experience at Workantile has truly been the best of both worlds.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 4:53 a.m.

I joined Workantile after a company acquisition turned my 15 minute commute into a 60+ miinnute commute. The remote working arrangement offered at Workantile has allowed me to continue working in a professional environment. While I am usually in the "head down get work done" mode, I certainly enjoy the social aspects of the environment. It really is a great community of workers.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 2:27 a.m.

I was just telling my wife today that I was thinking of signing up for Workantile, and then when we walked by it on our way to lunch, she was kind of put off by the paper over the windows. Might I suggest discounted trial memberships, say $100 for a month for one or two months? That might let more people try it out.

Bill B

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 11:58 a.m.

Perspective on the pricing - nursing 2 coffee drinks over several hours at a local coffee shop to keep the owners smiling and your (slow) internet connection alive = $200+/month. For less than this cost you get the benefit of great community, no need to pack up your computer every time nature calls, and better amenities.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 3:45 a.m.

We're going through a bit of a retooling right now, so new members are on hold (hence the dramatic papered over look). Once we open back up in a month or two you should stop on by and check it out! There will be a few different pricing schemes that someone will be able to explain to you then. For what it's worth, I consider the membership level I'm at to be worth every penny at double the price.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 1:44 a.m.

I have only been a member since September but I already feel like a part of the community. It's great having a place to come to work where you can socialize but still get a lot of work done. I get so much more done at the Workantile than I could even conceive of getting done at home. Being right on Main street is a great perk also, I love being able to take breaks and walk around downtown!

Steve Kemsley

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 12:18 a.m.

After moving to Ann Arbor in May, I was faced with the dim prospect of trying to meet new people while working from home. I was also tired of trying to work amid the myriad of chores and distractions with which any home worker must contend. Luckily, I happened upon Workantile during a summer walk on Main St and decided to check it out. I'm so glad that I did. Besides giving me a place where I can be productive day in and day out, it's truly inspiring and fun to be a part of the community of diversely talented people that comprise Workantile. That, and I now have a constant supply of coffee and delicious cookies (the Workantile is well stocked). If you work at home in or near Ann Arbor, you owe it to yourself to stop by and take a tour.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 10:02 p.m.

Ditto, Tom Teague's comment, "Independent workers owe it to themselves to try Workantile. It is a remarkably supportive environment and full of sparkling creativity." I'm also a member over at Workantile. After a year of telecommuting in isolation at home and coffee shops I found myself feeling pretty soured on the whole idea. Then I gave Workantile a call and took a tour of the space. Within minutes of wandering in I found myself being welcomed into a community of professionals spanning an incredible variety of fields. Yes, we have a clubhouse on main street, but the thing that keeps most of us coming back is the camaraderie it provides.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 9:59 p.m.

Community groups like Workantile do a really good job at eliminating the constant low-level stress of the traditional workplace. Conventional work environments may be fun or fulfilling, but are also designed to be (at least) mildly confrontational: Management has one set of interests (usually something like "minimize costs, maximize profits") that only partially overlaps with the interest of workers (who are generally focused on serving their clients or producing the highest caliber work, regardless of cost). Some days are super stressful, others are fun or meaningful, but there's this constant background pressure, the knowledge that your coworkers and managers can, at any moment, become adversaries. An environment like the Workantile, on the other hand, offers independent workers the camaraderie of a workplace, but none of the petty tyrant stuff (weird intra-office politics, cold wars over refrigerator territory, backstabbing for promotions), because although everyone works *together* in the same place, they aren't working within the same hierarchy. That's really nice. (I don't think my login ID will make it clear, so disclosure: I'm a Workantile member, Dave Nelson.)

Big B

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 9:19 p.m.

I am also a member at Workantile and it has been an extremely positive influence on my work and social life. I run a company that has remote employees in other states. I've tried working at home and also renting an executive suite but both were socially isolating and having an executive suite can get a bit pricey. Workantile gives me the social connection that I'd probably get if I worked in a large office but it's so much more due to the unique backgrounds and diverse jobs of the members. I get to chat it up with designers, programmers, writers, translators, artists, consultants and more. Beyond the great work atmosphere, the after-hours social events have made it easy to meet people. If you're an independent worker that's tired of working from home, by yourself in an office, or squatting at a coffee shop stop on by for a tour and introduction to this great working community.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 7:10 p.m.

"Around them at Workantile, a community was ongoing and they would often leave because they'd get sick of being asked to go to lunch." Gee, that stinks. Stop asking me to lunch!!

hut hut

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 6:19 p.m.

Thank you Workantile for being more than a great concept and Main St business.

Patti Smith

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 6:05 p.m.

I'm not a member but I have visited and it's a lovely environment! Everyone is friendly and helpful...what a great place!

Chris Nowak

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 2:47 p.m.

I'm a member of Workantile and can't stress enough how important it has been for me in becoming a part of the Ann Arbor community. When I moved to Ann Arbor I originally worked from home, which was definitely an isolating experience. Workantile is a great alternative to that as you get all the social benefits of being around people all day (e.g. going out to lunch, doing events and parties), but without any of the feel of a stuffy corporate office environment.

Tom Teague

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 1:29 p.m.

Independent workers owe it to themselves to try Workantile. It is a remarkably supportive environment and full of sparkling creativity. It's also a good place to put your head down and work; not to mention enjoying the downtown location.