|By Stuart Taylor, The Valdosta Daily Times, Ga.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Dated back to 1885 by an old Sanborn Fire Insurance Company Map, the two-story building started out with a general store on the bottom floor and a printing press on the second. In 1895, the
Now, Wisenbaker building houses the Valdosta Shared Office Space. Opened in 2006, it came about -- like a good friendship -- by accident.
"I actually planned to use it for an insurance business," said
Fina decided to turn the building into a shared office space.
Working with the
"If you want to establish a professional presence, you have to move from your home," said Barnas. "The first month there was very quiet, but it was such an excellent location, we knew it was home. It helped us focus."
"Smith and Barnas were my pioneer tenants," said Fina.
After the first month, Smith and Barnas were joined by
"I call them the Mom and Pop of the place," said Gino.
Hotchkiss, who runs
Paul, who has designed over 800 homes in his career, also found himself laying out office space for colleagues.
"It's a good place to grow," said
"We try not to have competition in the building," said Paul. "And we're careful about each other's privacy."
"When one of us has success, that's the rising tide that lifts all our boats," said Fina.
"There's a peripheral support group that's there, but not obtrusive," said Barnas. "We do try to support each other....Every time Kris made a placement, he has a small horn he'd blow and we'd all cheer."
"I was looking for a place to put a business, to have a storefront," said Jensen.
As his business has grown since 2008, and as he's added staff, Jensen has moved around in the building from bigger room to bigger room.
"It's very convenient," said Jensen. "You don't have to worry about amenities or charges for all the extras...the whole space works as a business incubator." Shared Office Space did just that for
"All of the offices are private," said Gino. "People have the option of keeping the door closed and working. But working in the building together energized them. They didn't have to feel like they were alone."
Businesses would share leads with each other or point customers in the direction of other Shared Office Space tenants. An accounting service that operated out of the Wisenbaker building found customers in its neighbors. Sick tenants would find cards slipped under their door.
"We have birthday celebrations, Christmas get-togethers," said Jensen. "It's real collegial."
"I would go to Kathy whenever I needed counsel," said Gino.
When Ball was suddenly and sadly diagnosed with cancer, the community reacted.
"The doctors told us to not to visit, that she needed to rest, said Fina. "When I finally did, she wondered where I had been."
"I remember walking into the hospital and seeing Cindy there," said Barnas. "We had both come running when we heard about Cathy...I actually met my husband through her."
"Kathy was actually a painter," said Fina. "We still have this painting of a frog she was working on before. It's still not finished. She never got to sign it."
Since opening, Shared Office Space has grown along with downtown
"I've gotten to watch the downtown really grow to serve a need," said Fina. "It's become more of a business center."
While Fina has gotten to watch his business grow, he credits the community for helping get it started. "
"Everyone here works well individually, but there's a continuity to it. This building is a community event."
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