Kirsten Moore, owner of Magpie and The Perch at Magpie, had the idea to open her own co-working space in Harrisonburg after drawing inspiration from similar ideas in Richmond, Virginia. With COVID-19 changing the norms of day-to-day work life, most companies went remote for the past year, and many plan to stay that way. However, working from home may not be a viable option for everyone.
When Moore was originally approached by the building developers for what’s now Magpie, they proposed the property to be made into a co-working space. The number of co-working spaces worldwide has been “projected to reach almost 20,000 this year and cross over 40,000 by 2024,” according to coworkingresources.org.
Beyond just a co-working space, though, Moore had a bigger idea.
“When I walked in the front door, I immediately saw a diner,” Moore said. “I thought, ‘What a cool thing, to be able to have, sort of, this interactive community space where people are coming to eat and socialize and dine and all of that and then have people working upstairs.’”
With natural light flowing from the diner to the workspace above, the environment is welcoming and spacious. Whether one’s in search of a comfy lounge workspace or a secluded desk by a window with a view, The Perch has a space fit for all.
After opening The Perch on July 1, 2020, Moore opened Magpie later that month. Having two businesses in one, Moore hopes, is bound to pique customers’ curiosity. Moore said the diner has benefited The Perch’s success because many of The Perch’s members join after eating at Magpie and noticing the workspace above.
Rebecca Jones, a doctoral student at JMU, said she was having brunch with her husband at Magpie when she first learned about The Perch. Hopping from one coffee shop to another and working for prolonged periods of time, Jones decided that a membership at The Perch would be worth the $125 general membership monthly fee.
“I came out of, like, a working professional world, and trying to go back to being a student was difficult for me,” Jones said. “I like the professionalism there … It nears a workplace more than a school, and that's what I needed.”
Many workers have said that having an office space that consists of members from a range of different companies and businesses can promote a positive work identity. According to Harvard Business Review, with “little direct competition or internal politics, [workers] don’t feel they have to put on a work persona to fit in.” In an unprecedented time of change, the feeling of being back to work in a co-working space can incite motivation.
“To me, it's a lot like what it felt like to go into my office or the clinic that I used to work with,” Jones said. “It feels like you're going to work, so it kind of makes you more accountable.”
The Perch has various membership options to suit the needs of many, whether it’s doctoral students, entrepreneurs or those simply in need of a quiet place to work. With three tiers of membership ranging from $125 to $650 — general, dedicated desk and private office — The Perch has many options to choose from, including a separate $25 day pass.
With added perks like freshly brewed coffee, fast internet, copiers, printers and fresh food downstairs, The Perch mirrors an office space, but with even more amenities. But for most business owners and remote workers, one thing takes the cake — the 24/7 key fob access.
“If you have a membership, but you still have your day job ... you're not going to come between eight to five,” Jones said. “You're probably going to go home, eat dinner, come back and work till midnight … Having that flexibility is pretty key.”
Amanda Presgraves, The Perch’s community manager, said she’s seen an increase in the business’s success as more people search for an alternative workspace.
“People are just eager to get out of their house during the pandemic,” Presgraves said. “They were ready to stop working from home and go into a co-working space … There’s been a huge uptick in demand.”
For many people, working from home has made it harder to focus and get work done, and for some, access to suitable WiFi and technology can be an issue. The Perch has created a space in Harrisonburg for locals to get out of noisy coffee shops and cluttered homes to do their work.
“Instead of sitting at their kitchen table staring over a pile of laundry or something, it's nice for them to have a place to go and have a routine for their day,” Moore said.
Contact Megan Crews at email@example.com. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter and Instagram @Breeze_Culture.