After 29 years in a popular family-owned furniture business in International Falls, Patti Ballan made the difficult decision to close the business in 2019. Patti and her husband Darell Bradley did not want to have an empty building in the community and explored a number of options to re-purpose the building. They visited a co-working space in another community and the seed was planted to create a similar model here.
“I wanted to provide a service for the community that would be useful and something we didn’t have,” said Ballan.
The couple, with the help of some friends, re-developed the space creating three private offices for rent as well as cubicles, meeting rooms, open desks, and a lounge area. In December 2019, Ballan’s I-Space opened to provide an environment for those needing office space and high-speed internet on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
“This space can be for people who can’t work at home or don’t want to work at home because they need socialization and collaboration with other people,” Ballan said. “It can also be convenient for tourists who come to the area and need to access work while they are on vacation or if they extend their vacation.”
While it took some time to build initial awareness about the business, Ballan said it has been received well.
“People really like the ease and privacy of the space and the high-speed internet,” she said.
Then, the coronavirus hit, and the early expectations related to this start-up business experienced a set-back. However, with students returning early from college and university due to coronavirus and the return of snowbirds and seasonal residents, the I-Space became a safe and convenient option.
Since June all their cubicles have been booked and several offices have had solid occupancy. Ballan hopes that over time, the I-Space will continue to see increased usage from a variety of users, including more longer-term office space users.
“With the changes in our world now, more businesses have employees working remotely, and many student’s classes are online only. Our residents and visitors have a place to work and study that is modern with high-speed internet access and is easily accessible,” she added.