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This is a good thing!...Right?!

There are a few elements that make a Midwestern town a stereotypical Midwest town. The old cinema gracing Main Street. A Do-It-Best Center. Old brick pavers somewhere that are “original”. A nondescript dollar store on the edge of town.

Add to your small town bingo card one cafe that is open until 2pm or whenever they feel like and one bar that doesn’t really post their hours (once you’re inside the lack of windows basically means time stands still anyway) and you have the makings of a quintessential, small, Midwest town. 

Lucky towns will also have attracted an independent coffee shop to town. It’ll serve as a fundraising center for every nonprofit organization in town; a community think tank where a group of old-timers will solve the world’s problems - while not being able to figure out why there is more than one milk choice available; a meeting place for all needs personal and professional; and an inspiration for those who have been “waiting for something like this to come to town.”

Inspired by the success of the coffee shop (imagined or actual), sooner or later, someone will have the idea to open a brewery - probably with BBQ food available - and now we have the beginnings of a cultural scene. It's "just what downtown needed."

Now there is “something to do at night”. 

Now people don’t say “There’s not much going on there”. 

Now people say, “There’s a cute coffee shop and a cool brewery with a really good NEIPA. Other than that there’s not much going on there”.

At some point, someone is going to realize that there should be an Airbnb in town for the visitors to the brewery. It’ll be great for the local economy, they say.

Guests will enter the Homestead Haven Loft Retreat from a set of stairs wedged into the no man’s land between two brick buildings just one block down from the brewery (and from the coffee shop, and the diner, and the bar). 

With a charming - just don’t look too close - rustic setting, a brewery, and an Airbnb, it’s not long before some soon-to-be bride and groom decide that the Grain and Growler Brewery is what they’ve always been looking for in a wedding venue. 

Enter florists, photographers, event planners, parking debates (at both the town meetings and the coffee shop meetings), grumpy old neighbors, and now we are on the map. 

Now wedding guests walk through town and talk about how amazing the homes are -  if someone would just put a little work into them. How they could have a cute little shop here or there. And how what the town really needs is a nicer restaurant - you know, a farm to table type of place that would support local farmers. 

Somewhere along the way, some guy will drive through, drawn in by the only place in town that has a name that makes navigational sense, The Blue Building Coffee House. He'll start telling people that a coworking space in town would be a great resource for the growing number of entrepreneurs and remote workers who are - or are going to be - attracted to a town like this as they are continually priced out of the urban and suburban American dream. 

If you can’t quite tell whether this post is serious or satirical, or has a negative or positive tone thus far, that’s probably because I don’t entirely know either.

On the one hand, vacant buildings and barren fields lead to lower prices and provide opportunities for people who don’t have, or don't want, opportunities elsewhere.

One man’s abandoned barn is another woman’s art gallery and that shuttered mechanics garage sparks the imagination of an aspiring restaurateur. And people need hope, opportunities, the chance to pursue their dreams, and a chance to make a difference.

On the other hand, are we using the excuse of economic opportunity to support a new, small town manifest destiny that displaces people who have embraced a certain way of life and called these towns home for generations? Is there really such a thing as rural gentrification - and are we a part of it?

No. Definitely not…right? 

These are places that need new life, new blood, new ideas…right? 

I mean, other than the coffee shop and the brewery there isn’t much going on…right?

They say history repeats itself, but this isn’t that history. We aren’t those people. We are doing it right, for the right reasons, and with the right end in mind. 

Afterall, “Without culture, they will perish”

Or at least that was the justification in 1846 - and that quote has a basis in the Book of Proverbs, so…

Similarly in 1846, Daniel Webster noted that the western expansion wasn’t marked by the "ruins of cities and blood of the vanquished" like the escapades of the ancient Macedonians…no, this one was marked by the "triumph of freedom and civilization"…

Ok. Comparing a few city folk transplants realizing their dream of opening a cutesy Victorian bed and breakfast is not nearly the same as the Massacre at Wounded Knee. 

However. I can tell you from first hand experience that not everyone and everywhere wants change, and wants development, and wants a New England IPA that makes their town famous. 

And as a self-proclaimed explorer of towns unexplored, it would sadden me if there came a day when there were no longer unknown places, new things to discover, and long abandoned grain mills to daydream about. 

I’ve mentioned before a respect and responsibility that comes along with being a part of influencing the redevelopment of a place. Part of accepting that responsibility is being willing to take a step back and consider things from a different point of view. Are we doing the right things?

Yes. The world is changing. One door closes, another opens. Winter is coming. Etc, etc. 

I stand by the idea that small town America represents opportunity, hope, and has a role to play in reshaping and realizing the new American dream.

I also stand by a belief that entrepreneurship and small business ownership is a critical component making that happen. I stand steadfast in my mission to build a better way of work so that people have a better way of life. And I really do think every small town should have a boutique coworking space.

Well, maybe not every small town. There’s still a little part of me that thinks, maybe - just maybe - we should leave a few places alone. Just in case. 

If you or someone you know is thinking about launching a small town coworking space, please feel free to reach out. Discovery calls are always free, casual, and informative. We’d love to hear from you!


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