Company Culture

This is what suburban coworking looks like

Coworking, once a city-only phenomenon, is finding roots in the Pennsylvania suburbs — and breathing life into old downtowns. HeadRoom, a share office space in Media, is expanding.

HeadRoom overlooks Media's State Street.

(Photo by Juliana Reyes)

In the 1970s and ’80s, State Street, the main drag in Media, Pa., went the way of many other town centers.
The local business owners woke up one day and found, as local public relations executive Cindi Sutera puts it, that “a generation had left them behind.” Around the country, town centers withered as highways and shopping malls came into view and local industries relocated or shrunk. State Street was no different.
But in the last ten years, State Street has come alive again. Sutera points to the home decor boutiques, the restaurants that offer al fresco dining in the summer as part of a “Dining Under the Stars” program and the Media Theater, which hosts off-Broadway plays and even an Italian opera last year.

dan lievens

John Tooher (left) and Dan Lievens, managing partners at HeadRoom. (Photo by Juliana Reyes)

A shared office space called HeadRoom is capitalizing on State Street’s renaissance. The 3,000-square-foot space opened last fall with a handful of sole proprietorship businesses as members. Sutera is one of them and also handles the space’s public image.
The office space, said managing partner Dan Lievens, is a way to position Media as a business center for Delaware County and to show the region that Media is “not just a sleepy little town.”
“We do have innovation,” said Lievens, 40.
This April, the team plans to transform Media’s Veterns Square into a mini outdoor tech festival, complete with a beer garden and talks from local entrepreneurs, as part of Philly Tech Week, which, full disclosure, organizes.
While the tech activity locally (and nationally) has favored city centers over suburbs, the Philly suburban set is trying to forge its own innovation image.
HeadRoom isn’t recreating, say, an Indy Hall, a Benamin’s Desk or a Pipeline. They say that they’re competing with more corporate shared office spaces, like the Regus offices found in Fort Washington and Newtown Square, and the American Executive Centers in Bala Cynwyd and Plymouth Meeting. Their eyes are strictly on what they describe as “Main Street America.”
HeadRoom doesn’t have any shared open space for coworkers, which is customary in many of the coworking spaces in the city. Instead, members show up and get to use one of eight offices. It’s first-come, first-serve.
“Everyone gets a door and a window,” said managing partner John Tooher, 54, of Downingtown.
They also get access to the conference room, event space and discounted business consulting services offered by Lievens, who used to run a local “ideas accelerator,” and Tooher, who previously ran a digital agency called Yell Adworks that employed nearly 3,000 people.
Head Room is currently home to two dozen companies, including web development firms, a PR firm, a bookkeeper and a business matchmaking company called PowerMatch.
Membership goes for $300/month and everyone is on a month-to-month contract.
Even though there’s no open coworking space in the traditional sense, Tooher and Lievens say they encourage collaboration. They like to say that HeadRoom offers “strategy, space and collaboration.”
They plan to open a second location by the end of 2015 but wouldn’t disclose which towns they’re considering.
Below, see more photos inside HeadRoom.
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