BLUE HILL — Joyce Ferris, a Philadelphia entrepreneur and seasonal resident, and the ever-creative Julie Jo Fehrle of Blue Hill opened The Blue Hill Workspace at 142 Main St. in June.
“I have been lucky enough to work where I chose, but I have never liked working from home,” said Ferris, a business advisor and coach. “I find I need the transition from home to work and back and the buzz and community of a space where others are working too. Once my husband and I started spending six to seven months at our house in Blue Hill, I realized I desperately needed to get out of the house.”
Employees, at least those with a strong internet connection, began working remotely years before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
But sometimes the “remote” part of the equation can be tough.
Ferris recognized this trend years ago and opened a 14,000-square-foot co-working space in Philadelphia. The business — 40West Workspace — has been going strong for 15 years now.
Ferris and Fehrle met at the peninsula’s literary festival, Word.
“I wanted this in Blue Hill for a long time, but I was hoping someone else would do it,” Ferris said. “We want to create a hub for entrepreneurs who want to build their businesses.”
Fehrle kept telling Ferris that she would have to do it herself. So, Ferris finally relented.
The building was once a residence and had a brief life as a bakery.
But thanks to local contractor Brad Miltner, the interior has been completely renovated.
Windows were added, doorways moved, walls painted and kitchenettes installed.
“It was just chopped up in a weird way,” Fehrle said. But now the inside is light, airy and bright.
There is a strong, wired internet service.
Plenty of paintings have been hung, all by local artist Avy Claire in conjunction with Cynthia Winings Gallery.
“We provide fully furnished offices and cubicles for up to 12 people,” said Ferris. “We cover all the expenses of operating the building and providing internet, utilities, landscaping, snowplowing, trash disposal and an occasional party or two.”
There are six enclosed offices and four to five cubicles. There is still space available. The minimum lease is for one month. “We’ll keep the density down,” Ferris said.
“We don’t have a membership model where people can drop in and use open desks,” said Ferris. There is a need for that service in the area, she said, but that isn’t the mission at the Blue Hill Workspace. “I feel like we’re filling an important gap but not all of them.”
“Joyce creates good community,” Fehrle said.
Community is key and so it’s in the business description: “A vibrant community of dedicated workspaces in the center of Blue Hill, Maine.”
“People may come for the internet, but they’ll stay for the community,” Ferris said.
Speaking of interaction, the Blue Hill Workspace itself, “it’s not great for a therapist,” said Fehrle.
But, for an editor or a nonprofit director or someone who works online, the space is perfect.
The building is also perfect for an architect — Gavin Riggall, doing business as North Sky Seven Architects, leases one of the enclosed offices. Riggall moved back to Maine in 2019.
“It’s a nice space,” Riggall said of his office, which has an unobstructed view of Blue Hill Bay. “I feel really guilty working here.”
If Riggall’s last name seems familiar, sister Annaliese owns The Boatyard Grill and LDI Lobster.
Moving through the building, Fehrle has created two “Zoom” rooms, tiny spaces big enough for your body and a laptop or phone, with soundproof materials. Those are for tenants with cubicles to use when they need quiet to meet with people online.
These Zoom rooms, ironically, will remind anyone born before 1970 of the telephone booths of yore.
The building is dog-friendly.
All the kitchen appliances that were in the building, including a hood and commercial bread slicer, have been donated to The Simmering Pot — a Blue Hill soup kitchen.
For more information, visit bluehillworkspace.com.