(Photo by Pauline Rubin)
Robert Herrera, the mastermind of the soon-to-be-open The Mill coworking space, is quick to deflect attention from himself when there’s talk about his arguably state-of-the-art facility, which could be a game-changer for Wilmington’s innovation scene.
The fact is that The Mill, from idea to reality, exists all because Herrera, who built a successful WeWork facility in New York, wanted to come home to Delaware and build something even better.
But wait. He’ll be quick to stop you and say that The Mill wouldn’t be what it’s become without a bunch of other people, and he certainly has a point. Herrera, in fact, has purposefully — and just about exclusively — hired and worked with local companies and small businesses in the development of the space, making it a community space at its core.
“I’m from Delaware, and the talent is here. You’ve got to get people out of their own way to recognize that,” he said, adding that working with local folks also just makes sense. “When you ingrain yourself it’s just good business, and not enough business practices recognize that. I think that’s just common sense … and I love to build relationships that are mutually beneficial to everyone.”
The list of locals involved with The Mill’s development is lengthy, and at mention of just about each one, Herrera used the adjective “incredible.” Here’s who he’s tapped to help make The Mill a success:
Chris Buccini from The Buccini/Pollin Group
- Herrera has worked with him from the beginning on the project.
Jeff Flynn, from the City of Wilmington’s Office of Economic Development
- He’s helped in attracting outside companies to move to Delaware and work at The Mill.
- Pauline Rubin and John Himics have developed The Mill’s website and online presence, and they’ll have an office at The Mill. Himics agreed that The Mill has been a community effort since Day 1. “The Mill has had community in its blood — in its sawdust — ever since it started,” he said. “We really have worked with everyone.”
- “He was hugely supportive since Day 1.”
- They did metal signs in the space.
- They helped finance the whole thing.
- They’re supplying antique patent models as art (and perhaps inspiration) in the lobby. “Contributing to The Mill project has been exciting for Hagley,” said David Cole, the museum’s executive director. “The Mill is the perfect setting for using artifacts of invention from America’s past to inspire future innovators and entrepreneurs.”
- “They’ve been very supportive,” Herrera said, adding that he’s been working out of there for the past six months.
- They built a backend management system for The Mill.
- That’s local woodworker Jim Buckley, who works out of his great uncle’s professional workshop in Montchanin. Herrera called him “a local rockstar.” Turns out Buckley lives a few doors down from Herrera, and first met him while he was walking his dog. Buckley said people often approach him with grand ideas, and they often don’t pan out. But this time, it was different. He built Herrera a 28-foot long docking station made of reclaimed American chestnut, and he’s currently working on the reception desk. The Mill “should be on Mars, because it’s outta sight,” Buckley said, adding he’s enjoyed being a part of it. “It’s such a great project, such good energy from the beginning when I met him to now, and I think that’ll all translate into his project.”
- The new gym nearby is giving members discounts to fitness programs.
- They filmed things like this cool timelapse video and vignettes that will be shown opening night.
- Buckley introduced Herrera to Spiker, a local artist, and his work will be featured on The Mill’s walls. Herrera said art will change out every three to four months.
- As we’ve written about before, Nick Matarese did some branding magic. Herrera wanted to clarify he’s better at ping pong than Matarese, adding that the two initially talked about branding plans over a match. “While I was beating him at ping pong,” Herrera emphasized. We’re sure Matarese would disagree.
- Also in the Nemours building, Reliable is providing printing for Mill tenants.
- All of their local beers will be on tap. In an email, Dogfish Head founder and president Sam Calagione said that upon opening in 1995, he had to lean on a lot of locals for help, and he’s happy Dogfish can, in a sense, give back by being involved with The Mill. “We’re psyched to serve our off-centered ales to a great group of off-centered entrepreneurs and artists in Wilmington,” he wrote.
- They helped with construction (duh).
- They provided a loan (duh again).
- In collaboration with Brew HaHa!, the company is supplying The Mill’s coffee, which will include a custom “Mill” roast.
- He’ll be at the grand opening doing 3D-printing displays.
- This group of potentially at-risk youth who are learning trade skills made The Mill’s custom ping pong tables. “The work they did was phenomenal,” Herrera said.
- They’ll sponsor a jukebox in the space where they display and store CDs for upcoming artists to play at The Queen. Each artwork piece from artists will have a discount code on it for Mill Members to buy tickets.
Herrera said working with all of these people has made for a great ride so far. “The enjoyable part is the fact that I got to have a role and work with these people at all on something special,” he said. “There are so many incredible names on that list, only because I had this crazy idea to do this in Delaware.”
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