The ripples of coworking into industries far and wide have been chronicled sufficiently to date. But add the twist of commercial corridor revitalization, and the story has, in news parlance, fresh legs.
That’s where the next stage begins for the Head and the Hand Press, the Fishtown-based self-styled craft publisher that has taken up root on the fast reawakening Frankford Avenue district there and opened a coworking space for writers and illustrators who share its spirit.
H&H, founded early last year and now with a two-person staff and a host of contributors, comes from founder Nic Esposito, who turns 30 today and has what might sound like a curious business strategy today. He wants to join other small scale, niche literary fiction publishers by turning a small profit on printing words on paper and convincing people to buy them. His strategy includes the following:
- ‘Community Supported Publishing’ — The program will take a page from the Community Supported Agriculture programs that are utilized throughout the city with what amounts to a subscription model for its books. Call it a wine club for locally-minded readers, a model that is coming back alive elsewhere. Esposito will kick things off for the CSP with ‘Lion and Leopard,’ a book from Hidden City editor Nathanial Popkin. Get details on that program here.
- ‘Rust Belt Rising Almanac’ book tour — Amid coverage from the Atlantic Cities and WHYY, Esposito took to the road to promote his first in a series of almanacs. The series will combine literary work, illustrations and other creative attempts at a concept, in this case, the renewal in rust belt cities throughout the country. [Full Disclosure: This reporter was included in this anthology.]
- ‘Asteroid Almanac’ submissions — Plans launched in July to take the almanac into a new space, pushing the boundaries of what a literary work of fiction can be. H&H is currently seeking submissions to this next anthology. Find more information on how to submit here.
- Writers workshop — Esposito is taking coworking to his fellow writers, where he sees it as a viable model that also grows and connects his peers.
Esposito’s coworking, which has a dozen active members, is aiming to cultivate that community of creative contributors. He thinks he needs at least 20 monthly and 30 regular drop in members for the coworking effort to be sustainable.
Right now, the 900-square-foot space is a three-room second-story walk up accessible from tiny Sepviva Street, but by early 2014 Esposito expects to be in an adjacent 1,100 square foot space in the same building on the busily commercializing 2000-block of Frankford Avenue. It will be above a restaurant, Esposito said.
Altogether, H&H feels like a more open, entrepreneurial upstart to the University of Pennsylvania’s eminent Kelly Writers House.
“By utilizing a portion of our office space as a coworking space, we hope to foster as large a writing community as possible,” said Esposito, a Rowan University graduate, noting that he expects to only produce 3-4 books plus regular almanac anthologies a year. “But there’s a mutual benefit for us too. By inviting writers into our space, it allows us to get to know them and build relationships. And sometimes those relationships can turn into some great projects.”
That’s how Esposito can help grow a hub. Like traditional tech-minded Indy Hall and other startup coworking spaces, H&H is a for profit and in need of a constituency. Esposito seems to have a a plan to do just that.
The coworking space looks like this:
- Rates: $30 monthly passes, $20 for half-month and $5 for day. Every Wednesday is a ‘pay-what-you-can’ model.
- Operates regular business hours Monday to Friday, with weekends by appointment.
- Community of creative contributors to share ideas with and work around.
- Currently accessible from Sepviva Street but will move to space looking out onto Frankford Avenue in early 2014.
How is Esposito funding the start? In the same way that many young ventures do: some savings, an ask of friends and family and, in his case, a workforce development grant that will amount to more than $15,000 from Philadelphia Works as part of the federal stimulus funding for commercial corridor revitalization.
The very act of a fledgling writers workshop space being included in the redevelopment of a building is a window into small scale urban planning, in which the community with cache is given cheap rent to lure residential renters that actually offer profit.
That may be additional value for building owner and developer Glenn Davis, but Esposito’s mind is elsewhere.
“I’m still trying to catch the empirical and analytic side of my brain up with the creative side,” said Esposito. “I feel that we are creating a company that’s ambitious about its growth but also conscious of it too.”-30-