A note of disclosure before we begin. The Hypepotamus team did not actually stay up for 24 hours to this story (we value our sleep). We did, however, consume lots of Punch Card drip coffee. The following is a combination of what we saw and who we met after spending a day at the various Switchyards locations around Atlanta.
It started as a downtown club for Atlanta founders. Now Switchyards has expanded its flex office concept across the city to be a hub for startups, side hustlers, and remote workers alike. And Atlantans are using the spaces to get work done at any hour of the day.
We do mean all hours of the day. Two out of the four Switchyards neighborhood locations have moved to a 24/7 model to keep up with the shifting realities of hybrid work. “We wanted to design places tucked deep into neighborhoods where our members live,” said one of the co-founders, Michael Tavani. “A place completely separate and isolated from the endless distractions of home and the office. Beautifully designed and bottomless coffee, of course.”
So who exactly is sipping late-night bottomless coffee? It’s not just the coders or startup founders you would expect. We met part-time grad students cramming for an exam after work, freelancers staying up late to call clients on the other side of the world, and business owners prepping for big meetings later in the week. There are a few people using the coffee machine at Switchyards Decatur after midnight as people trickle in and out of the space.
The vibe is a bit different in the morning, but the coffee is just as strong. People are heads down working shortly after the Cabbagetown location opens to 8 am, and all but a few seats fill up quickly. We chat with someone in the construction industry who uses the space on dreaded “invoice day.” While he prefers to be out on sites, he said that the ‘‘non-office feel” keeps him coming back.
We met Will Perry, owner at Varnish + Vine. He uses the space as a “perfect morning escape” and it has become a spot for his team to “follow up with customers and brainstorm our next moves.” The team is also partially responsible for the ‘good work vibes’ everyone raves about; their cacti and tropical plants can be found at various Switchyards locations.
Tamay Shannon, co-founder at Black Lady Business School, joined because she wanted an alternative space to Starbucks, but has stayed because of the community vibes. She’s found that through the Women of Switchyards group, one of several small groups bringing members together for non-work mixing and mingling.
Many folks in the startup and investing scene bounce between the Cabbagetown and Westside locations. On certain days you might run into Indra Sofian, co-founder at Sora Schools, or Shubh Singhi, founder and CEO at Distilled Strategy, a company that helps clients with Design Sprints, Scalable Product Design, and Marketing Sites. Singhi said the Atlanta contingent of this team is at Switchyards every day for “the great vibes and that sweet sweet Mocha Hot Cocoa and Hibiscus Sparkler.”
When not working with other founders at Atlanta Tech Village, Overline VC’s Sara Saxner-Coughlin uses the space to get work done or have a few meetings.
Long-time “resident” Justin Hill has been building his startup Faretrotter out of the Switchyards downtown in 2016. Now, the neighborhood model has helped him recapture the community feeling lost during COVID lockdowns. “I think this community has been a crutch for a lot of people to get the interactions and camaraderie we’ve been missing the past two years. The simple fact is that you’re surrounded by a lot of people in similar situations – whether you’re starting a company or freelancing – and there’s probably somebody in the building who is solving the same problems as you,” he said.
You can catch Hill working on Faretrotter’s travel search engine and Safe Travel COVID Map, which helps US travelers keep up with country-level restrictions and policies.
More members have started adopting the “bounce from different locations” model; yet another sign that work flexibility is the name of the game in for post-pandemic work. Daniel Weiner founded www.YouShouldTalkTo.com in September 2020 to help connect brands and marketers with vetted marketing and tech leads. Using Buckhead and Cabbagetown locations, Weiner told Hypepotamus that “Switchyards feels like my extended work family, I’m on a first-name basis with most of the baristas, and I can host clients and friends there as part of my membership. Switchyards has been a godsend not only for my business but from a mental health standpoint as well.”
Switchyards has become a bit of a respite for creatives, too. George F. Baker III, aka GFB3, is an artist and muralist in town who uses the space to meet new people, create some earlier sketches for upcoming murals, or send off some emails. Yonathan Gebreyes uses Switchyards to build his latest startup, a microblogging platform designed for citizen journalists in underserved markets.
Around noon at the newly opened Switchyards Buckhead, tucked away in the Piedmont Center office space, manager Catherine Braun has been talking with members as they refill coffees in between meetings and answering emails. She described the space as something on the spectrum between a “Fancy Internet Cafe and a WeWork.” (A spectrum, she admits, the team has created in the flexible office and coworking space).
That has attracted more than just startups though. Derrek Turner, senior product designer at Mailchimp, said he found out about the space from Instagram and joined for the “low key coffee shop vibes.” As Mailchimp transitions from remote to hybrid work, Turner said he plans on keeping his membership for days when he is not at the office.
By late afternoon some people start enjoying a beer out of the fridge in Cabbagetown. But Switchyards also serves as a home base for a local cocktail venture, Tip Top Cocktails. (The brand might be familiar to recent travelers on Delta Air Lines). Music festival veterans-turned-entrepreneurs Yoni Reisman and Neal Cohen can be found having “collaborative creative meetings, comfortably grabbing coffee with new contacts and connecting to a dynamic community of Atlanta entrepreneurs and creatives. We come to the Cabbagetown location about once a week, sponsor their Made In Atlanta speaking series, and generally really enjoy the vibrance of the space and the members who spend time there,” said Cohen.
Just after midnight at the Westside location, we strike up a conversation with MeKenna and Calvin, two members working and studying respectively. Turns out Switchyards has already been the site of its very own RomCom “meet-cute” — the two have been dating for three months after first striking up a conversation at the club.
The switch to 24/7 has been helpful now that MeKenna works late on Wednesday nights. (And as a computer science student, I think we are safe to say that Calvin is working all of the time).
“It’s scary work at my laptop,” Calvin laughed. “Here, I have people.”
MeKenna joined after moving to Atlanta from Phoenix and hearing about the space from a friend. Now, she and Calvin have a group of friends that connect for lunches, dinners, and hangouts to make remote work more fun.
Given the range of freelancers, side hustlers, early-stage founders, and employees at the space, it is hard to think of these neighborhood locations as just another remote office space. But it does feel like the Switchyards team has cracked the code on what “work from anywhere” community really means.