Not having worked in New York City for almost two years, I forgot what it was like–the energy, the buzz, the thousands upon thousands of people that run into and around you during the “lunch-rush.” These memories flooded back (for better or for worse) during my brief, but busy time while working from The Yard’s Flatiron South and Herald Square locations.
Founded in 2011, The Yard now operates nine locations in total, with eight in and around the greater New York City area and one in Philadelphia. After a quick chat with CEO Morris Levy, I learned that they have plans to open five more within New York City along with one in Back Bay, Boston, and Washington, D.C.
Upon arriving for my first day at the Flatiron South location, I was promptly greeted by two informative and amicable community managers. They showed me to my private office that included two desks, small cabinets for storage and a couple free items of The Yard swag. My workspace could have easily seated two or three people and had two glass walls that drew light into the space, however, the space did not allow for much privacy.
Working within my suburban coworking space, I have the opportunity to close my office door and be alone with my thoughts. That, however, was not the case at The Yard. When I first stepped into my workspace, I thought there was a speaker they had pumped a podcast into for ambient white noise. But when I closed that office door, I realized the “white noise” was the person chatting on the phone in the adjacent private office. If not for the partition between our offices, that person could have easily been sharing the office with me.
“We’re in a people business–a service business,” said Morris Levy, CEO and co-founder of The Yard. “We don’t go out of our way to be everything to everyone,” he added. At face value, that statement rang true during my time at both of The Yard’s Manhattan locations. But don’t let Levy’s rhetoric fool you–the thousands of members and therefore corresponding dollars keep flowing wherever he decides to plant his company’s roots.
From my own purview, I would assume that The Yard’s members define privacy by the simple act of being able to close a door to their workspace. However, there’s not much quiet, nor any opaque walls for privacy and there was scant opportunity for me to focus on my writing. But staying true to the community they serve, I see how appropriate it is for The Yard to design their spaces as such–New York City is constantly buzzing.
Back at Flatiron South, I was given a quick tour of the five floors The Yard occupies. With narrow hallways, the space is filled with a mixture of cozy private offices and communal desks. Each floor has a small corner common area with comfy couches and a view of the streets below. The wifi was fast, the coffee was brewing all day served fresh from La Colombe and an espresso maker was present for those who needed the extra boost.
But it wasn’t just the good coffee and the fast internet that made The Yard stand out among other coworking players in Manhattan.
“We don’t have gigantic spaces because once a community is too big, it’s not a community,” Levy explained. “We call it a more refined, more elevated offering. Members can decorate the space themselves to put a personal touch on their own workspace,” he added.
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That’s unquestionably the case as I walked into their Herald Square location where over 23,000 square feet of creativity abound. While occupying one big floor, it’s evident that members are encouraged to design their workspaces as they see fit. The Yard, in fact, takes design and more specifically, artwork, very seriously. Each location is outfitted with local artwork that adorn the hallways and communal work areas.
Babs Schneider, the community manager for Herald Square, pointed out that The Yard has a “Director of Aesthetics” who is responsible for partnering with local artisans at each location to curate artwork for the entire space. Every quarter, they rotate out the previous artist’s work to make room for another local artist to give them greater exposure they may not be receiving through other means.
“We are making sure we don’t feel like an outsider [to our local community],” said Tara Frankel, the Director of Marketing for The Yard.
“I wanted the culture of [formerly opened] coworking space New Work Cities and the depth of a WeWork,” said Leo Newball, who runs his own web development and design company out of The Yard’s Herald Square location for the past two years. “WeWork treats coworking like the next stage after college,” he added.
Amy Falbaum, CEO of her executive hospitality recruiting firm Amy Falbaum & Associates, echoed Newball’s sentiment as she and her team have been with The Yard’s Herald Square location since its opening in October of 2015. “I feel like The Yard is my entire office. It gives our team a hub with all the support from office staff and overall consistency to run my business,” Falbaum said.
As for what’s in store for The Yard beyond extending their physical reach while providing more flexibility for their members, they are not “looking to be the biggest” Levy proclaimed. He also sees technology playing a bigger part, with The Yard expanding their native app that currently allows members to book conference rooms and search for upcoming events in each location. “We are tapping into a community to help build things; people are not going to call it coworking anymore,” Levy added.
Is he right? Based upon The Yard’s transformative impact within each community they serve, there’s a good chance that Levy and his executive team are prescient.