“The corporate environment is built to take everyone down so someone else can stand taller, and so we had to create an environment where everyone is VIP.”
Cole Reed | Co-Owner
At the new coworking space OpenHAUS, women, people of color and LGBTQ folk are more than just included—they’re centered and celebrated. Married couple Cole and Dayna Reed, who also own GreenHAUS Gallery, moved OpenHAUS to a sizable lot on the corner of Northeast MLK and Alberta in September.
When the Reeds took over the original existing business—then called NXT and located on Southeast Hawthorne—the aesthetic didn’t quite have the warm vibe they envisioned for their second business venture, nor did it double as the uplifting safe space that they envisioned for themselves and their community.
While getting the first walk-through as the new owners of the Southeast Hawthorne location, Cole says she was called a “nigger” by a man walking by, and in another instance, she was mistaken for a housekeeper. “I’m almost 50 and we’re having the same conversations as when my parents first got together in the ’60s. That’s crazy,” Cole says.
“There was just something about the name and the culture, and the expansive white space,” Dayna says of their previous location. “Literally everything there was painted white. We kept bringing in color, we kept bringing in programming, we kept bringing in ourselves and people… and still, we were pushing against that ingrained culture that was established there.”
Fully embracing their business identity as Black-woman-and queer-owned, they decided to change the name to OpenHAUS, in reference to the longtime grade-school tradition of welcoming your family and the greater community to the schoolhouse. Specializing in design and affordable home improvements, Cole Reed designed the interior to look like a “higher-end schoolhouse,” a deliberate poke at society’s need to go back to kindergarten basics like sharing, being aware of your neighbor, and creating a feeling of inclusion.
“We are very open about the expectations: you’re joining this community, you are here to create safe space, be aware of your neighbors, own your shit, and stay in your lane,” says Dayna. “It’s more important to protect the whole community than one person’s feelings.”
The name OpenHAUS also fits because the place has an open-concept floor plan while still feeling exceptionally cozy. Visitors have plenty of comfy places to sit, and plants and palo santo incense sticks are spread throughout the rooms.
Vibrant art by local artists like Tazha Williams and Isse Maloy cover the walls, as does an unmissable painted portrait of Barack Obama that the couple says used to hang in their son’s bedroom. A washroom hosts gorgeous artwork featuring brown women of every shade.
The shared workspace and studio community offers hourly, daily, and monthly packages that cater to the needs of artists, freelancers, remote workers, small business owners, and anyone who may find their usual home office or coffee shop too distracting. “Or if they want to have a professional mailing address, we can supply those resources,” Dayna adds. “That’s the reason that we gather, but the reason that it works is that then we have a community of folks who are all working on stuff and all supporting each other in their process.”
The Reeds say they were surprised and delighted to retain more than 80 percent of their members through the move to Northeast, and most of their dedicated work stations around the room’s perimeter are taken. But OpenHAUS has lots of “hot desks” available, in which clients can pick a seat at a massive table in the center of the main room (ideal for those who work remotely on a laptop). The place also packs in a kitchen (stocked with coffee, tea, and snacks), a conference room, one private workspace with a door, and even a library.
Soon enough, OpenHAUS’ photo studio will be set up, offering lights and paper scrolls to a photo-specific membership. Well-behaved dogs and children are also welcome to hang out while members work since the Reeds understand the realities of being working parents. “Every section is like that inner mingling of professional and personal,” Cole says of the vibe at their facility. Unlike most common workspaces, OpenHAUS doesn’t mind if you drink whiskey during the workday (“You just gotta be grown; don’t be getting crazy,” Cole says). In fact, every Friday at two o’clock, OpenHAUS holds space for whiskey and reading time.
“The corporate environment is built to take everyone down so someone else can stand taller, and so we had to create an environment where everyone is VIP,” says Cole.
Dayna and Cole agree that in their Northeast Portland location, they can reach a more diverse clientele and help build a substantial community of independent creatives, entrepreneurs and business owners. OpenHAUS offers discounts to people of color, and on Fridays, anyone can come work in the space for free from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“[If] you’re choosing this route of small business ownership or freelance work, you’re empowered in how your day looks, and where you spend time, and who you spend time with,” says Dayna. “And who you don’t want to spend time with,” Cole interjects.
“We want to see the community reflected that we’re trying to build, and by making the move we were able to really do that in a whole different way,” says Dayna. “We are attracting a lot more women, a lot more people of color, and it’s warmer—the physical space but also the community energy.”
Dayna and Cole Reed also run another business together, GreenHAUS Gallery, and are gearing up to open its new location right across the street. For the grand opening, they’re planning a Wakanda-themed black tie party on June 22.
Luckily, with supportive staff like OpenHAUS general manager Carrie Dickson, and their housekeeper Richard, the Reeds don’t have to do it all. Cole and Dayna say that while it may seem like they’re always doing a lot more, they’re trying to do less.
Looking ahead, the Reeds say they’re excited to create a “Dream Street” corridor in collaboration with many of the neighboring businesses. “Between Alberta and Killingsworth on MLK, we are going to live the dream regardless, so if you want to be a part of this… We want to do a custom crosswalk from here to there that says, ‘We build bridges, we don’t build walls,’” Cole says.
There are most definitely challenges that come with running two businesses with your partner, while also being parents to a three-year-old son. The Reeds say learning about balance, as well as how to separate business hours from family time, has been “trial and error.”
“We’re learning every day,” Cole says. “And when you’re married to your business partner? Woo! That can be a lot! So we take breaks together a lot, and we’re learning to take breaks separately.” Dayna says that “being here in this environment has tested a lot of what we had and how we work together, and how we are in the world…. Through that tension has blossomed something really profound, that I think Portland needs, and our businesses need, and as individuals we needed. So it’s like that testing ground, that discomfort, and that challenge has produced something greater.”
Author: Jenni Moore
Photos: Renee Lopez
Published: March 2019