Work Nicer's second Edmonton location is now open inside the historic Mercer Warehouse on 104 Street downtown.
Located in the former Startup Edmonton space on the third floor, Work Nicer Mercer opened to existing members of the coworking company on Dec. 12. It is now ready to welcome new members, though several changes are planned for the space in the coming months.
"We call it 'Work Nicer Mercer loading' because it is a work in progress," founder Alex Putici told Taproot. "But you know, there's definitely internet, there's coffee, there's beer, there's root beer. All the stuff that you really need to get through."
Putici said Work Nicer plans to better connect the various parts of the roughly 14,000-square-foot space with fewer separated areas and better use of all the nooks and crannies. Aside from individual offices, nothing will be off-limits to members. That work is expected to take place between March and May, "around and alongside" members.
"Members are a part of this journey," Putici said, recalling the furniture building party that took place at the Work Nicer Beaver House location — or outpost as Work Nicer calls them — which opened in 2019 just a few blocks away at 10160 103 St. "The outposts have been literally and figuratively built by members."
Putici said the Mercer Warehouse was one of the first places he looked at when the Calgary-based Work Nicer was considering an expansion into Edmonton.
"Now to be in here and see Work Nicer banners and thinking about what else this place can facilitate in the future, it is a surreal, exciting experience," Putici said. "We knew that Beaver House wasn't going to be the end game for Work Nicer in Edmonton."
While the company had been looking on the south side, the Mercer's owners — in particular Devin Pope of Gather Co. — really made a difference in the decision to move there, which was announced in June.
"Nobody has been as open-minded and willing to work together as the Popes," Putici said. "They have been amazing to work with."
While Putici had no plans to share regarding a future location south of the river, he did say that Work Nicer has been looking at opportunities in Vancouver and Toronto.
Work Nicer is seeing strong demand for its offerings, in part because the pandemic accelerated the learning curve for hybrid and remote work in Alberta.
"Now there are tons of companies that may not have previously considered a flexible work option that realize they don't need their 3,000, 5,000, or 10,000 square feet of space downtown."
And there's plenty of opportunity for future growth, too. "There's a lot of demand for what we have, but there's still a number of people that don't know there's a solution to their problem, or even that they are fully experiencing that problem," Putici said.
While he acknowledged the pandemic was hard on the business, Putici said Work Nicer was able to make it through because of its strong community.
"We're a people business, not a real estate business or a desk business, despite having a lot of both of those things," he said. "The reality is, if we were just a place to work or just a desk to set up a laptop at, there'd be zero customers overnight."
Community will also be critical for the success of the Mercer Warehouse location, which historically hosted dozens of meetups and other community events.
"Work Nicer is not an events company, but we do a ton of events," Putici said. "It's a critical piece to not just what this place is, in terms of this building, but also as the Work Nicer community."
"At the end of the day, Work Nicer is the toolbox," Putici said, noting that his Calgary locations often welcome partner organizations in to meet entrepreneurs. "It's meant to meet you where you're at, It doesn't matter if you're a team of one or 100."
For now, Putici and his team — including Justin Weleschuk, "achiever of better," who is responsible for the Edmonton locations — seem content to let the space evolve organically, with members leading the way.
Anyone interested in working at the Mercer Warehouse can book a free tour online. "We're happy to show you around and share a beverage of your choice," Weleschuk said.
He and Putici are excited to see the new outpost fill up with activity, even on game nights, as it's just a stone's throw from Rogers Place, where the Edmonton Oilers play.
"There's not a cooler intersection in the city," Putici said. "It's truly iconic."