North Texas Daily

Stoke Denton to remodel space amid increased demand

Stoke Denton to remodel space amid increased demand

Stoke Denton to remodel space amid increased demand
July 15
16:06 2019

If there’s one word that has become synonymous with the phrase “gig economy” over the past decade, it’s growth.

A 2018 study found that 56.7 million workers performed nontraditional “gig” work, a 7 percent increase from 2014. And those numbers are expected to continue rising as millennials and Generation Z embrace flexibility over what some would say are the limitations of a traditional 9-to-5 workday.

Stoke, Denton’s only co-working space, is witnessing that growth firsthand as increasing demand for memberships is necessitating a modification within Stoke’s current space.

“We’re actually at capacity for both offices and dedicated [member areas] right now, so we’ve got to start expanding capacity a bit,” said Marhall Culpepper, owner and mentor at Stoke. “Luckily, we have enough space that’s not of good use right nowlike the event space is used a lot but it’s also not smartly used, so we’re trying to build a little bit more over there and build some more multi-use type stuff.”

Stoke offers “nontraditional” workers like freelancers, entrepreneurs and startup owners the amenities of an office without the commitment of a building lease. Stoke provides workplace basics like phones, computers, printing services and break rooms to members, as well as a physical address for business owners who don’t have a brick-and-mortar location.

Software developers Ryan Plauche (left) and Terry Thomas work on their laptops at Stoke Coworking in Denton, Texas on June 28, 2019. Photo by Amber Gaudet

Stoke also serves as a supplemental space for community members or local business owners who don’t have space in their businesses to hold conferences or host company luncheons in a professional environment. Culpepper said the influx of nontraditional workers he has seen at Stoke is indicative of the larger trend toward innovation in the workplace.

“Companies are disaggregating,” Culpepper said. “The way of the future is [that] the infrastructure has to be more efficient, and co-working is just one way that the market has changed in that direction.”

Changes like this year’s upcoming remodel are nothing new for Stoke, which, although it is less than three years old, has already survived a major shakeup.

Stoke was created in 2016 as a product of the now-defunct initiative Connected Denton. Originally a joint venture between the City of Denton and the Dallas Entrepreneurial Center, Stoke faced an uncertain future in August 2017 when the Denton city council voted to end DEC’s management of the co-working space, citing costs.

Stoke’s executive director Heather Gregory, whose father Dalton Gregory is a city councilman, briefly left Stoke amid the council’s decision to assume management in light of nepotism laws that prohibited her from working for the city.

Denton assigned a temporary transitional team of city employees to take over management of Stoke when DEC’s management period was slated to end in October of that year, asking for proposals from the public. Council members received only one proposal, and Stoke was placed under new management when Culpepper, a longtime entrepreneur and Denton resident, created Hickory and Rail Ventures to assume ownership of the co-working space.

Culpepper, who also founded local startups Kubos, a satellite company and Techmill, a nonprofit for Denton tech builders, said taking on the project was a “natural extension” of his love for the city.

“I care about Denton and its potential to be an amazing city with the creative culture that it has, and how that can be much different than anything that exists in the DFW right now,” Culpepper said.

Employees said that passion is what makes Stoke more than just a convenient professional space, but an entrepreneurial hub for members.

“At Stoke, you will probably see some familiar faces if you live in Denton or if you come to Denton and walk around the square,” Laci Kettavong, Stoke’s marketing and community coordinator, said. “There’s really this sense of community.”

Culpepper said that environment is, more than anything else, a reflection of the passion that employees and members alike bring to the table and part of the reason Stoke continues to grow.

“We’re passionate about this community and what we’re trying to do here is not profit,” Culpepper said. “What I care about is that this exists, and we can build a community here. That passion has informed everything we’ve done here, and I think it shines through in how people are attracted to the space because they buy into that vision.”

Terrance Menyweather, founder of Denton-based startup Beast Exhaust and a two-year member of Stoke, said he enjoys the sense of camaraderie he has experienced there.

“Everyone’s really motivated, and they understand you,” Menyweather said. “You can feel the energy. Not all places are like that.”

With plans for construction to begin sometime this year, owners Culpepper and Gregory expect to be able to offer 25 percent more seating for “dedicated” members and six more private offices, which Culpepper said are in high demand.

“I think I’m going to be one of the first customers, to be honest with you,” Culpepper said, laughing.

As for what makes Stoke a unique part of Denton, Culpepper does not expect that to change anytime soon.

“There’s been a lot of love circulating,” Culpepper said. “A lot of things that I hoped would happen here have happened. It’s still early days, but we’ve had a lot of success.”

Featured Image: Stoke members work on entrepreneurial projects at Stoke Coworking in Denton, Texas on June 28, 2019. Photo by Amber Gaudet

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Amber Gaudet

Amber Gaudet

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