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Astoria welcomes ‘Our House’: A new co-working and community space

Photo provided by Our House

Apr. 11, 2024 By Allison Kridle

If you were to ask a Queens resident what’s one thing they want more of, they will likely reply: Space. For Astorians, many crave a place to gather, work, create, and meet neighbors or somewhere that feels like home where they can be productive all in one. Astoria business owners Anna Budinger, Alexandra Wolkoff and Kayli Kunkel saw this void and created Our House, “Astoria’s living room.”

During the week from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., you will find Our House members in a cozy, co-working space, using their laptops on a comfy second-hand couch, in a nook, jotting down notes or musings or chatting by the communal printer, coffee bar or vinyl station. If you pass by the community space during the weekend or on a weekday evening, you will stumble upon a vendor market, yoga class or a workshop.

“There was a real need for a space like this in the neighborhood that allows people to gather organically and be a flexible space for different events and gatherings. It’s a space to make new connections and build community and access to outdoor space, which is hard to come by,” Wolkoff said.

Our House opened this past February in the former Earth and Me Ditmars store. Kunkel opened the Ditmars shop in October 2022 and closed its doors in December 2023 to make room for the co-creating space. Earth and Me Steinway is still open and is known for its eco-friendly products, refill stations and community events.

“We were going through a similar transition at the same time. I opened up a second location in the city, and Kayli was transferring just to her Steinway store in Astoria, so we were both closing our Ditmars locations. Although we were sad to leave the neighborhood we knew it was the right move, so we were trying not to mourn too hard about it but try to take the lemons and turn them into lemonade.” Budinger said.

Budinger opened Babs Home and Pantry off Ditmars in May 2022 and closed in February 2024. Babs offers unique home furnishings, decor, and local delights. Budinger’s East Village location opened this past September.

“We thought ‘What if we make a space that’s only events and co-working and just a space for the neighborhood.’ So much of what we love about retail is the people we’re meeting so let’s just take the stuff out of it and only have the people,” Budinger said.

Last year in November, a few months before Our House opened, Budinger and Kunkel met at the Astoria bar, Heart of Gold, where their idea for a shared community space blossomed. Wolkoff, who worked at Earth and Me and had a heavy hand in the shop’s events, became a partner. “The last year or two, we had all these awesome events at Earth and Me, and Kayli and I would reflect and think, ‘This was so great, this was the highlight of the year, and I wish we could do this more,’ and we wanted to grow on that,” Wolkoff said.

Photo provided by Our House

The trio loved community building and meeting people through their retail environments above all else. “I think because both of our stores were more than just retail, they also had a community and event component that made this feel similar. We’re just emphasizing a portion of what we were doing [through Our House],” Kunkel said.

The team is open to any and all event or workshop suggestions. If there is something a community member wants to teach, a public or private event they wish to hold, or anything else, they can fill out a form on the Our House website for a general idea of the space.

“Community building is the most important thing. I think that’s our most powerful resource to help us survive what is to come as a human species and have spaces where people can connect and have compelling conversations that they may not normally have the space or bandwidth to engage with,” Wolkoff said.

The trio hopes to welcome activism meetings, cooking classes, movie screenings, game nights, family-friendly events or anything of the like. Since opening, they have done clothing and book swaps, monthly maker’s markets, held a private baby shower and hosted a Misfits Iftar event, an elaborate “three-act” event called Gather. Currently, their event calendar contains a figure drawing session, ceramic club meetup, an intro to sewing class and a workshop on growth for business owners.

“My wife told me she saw on Instagram that Our House was coming, and my baby had just started transforming into her true toddler stage, where she would wander into my room all excited trying to play—to the detriment of the business I’m trying to start,” Our House member, Ray Keilman said.

Photo provided by Our House

Keilman created UPyours, which provides brand clarity for small creative service businesses to help them land more clients.

“Our House is a place where I can get some work done without going to a coffee shop where I have to buy a bunch of expensive things, and it’s crowded and there’s nowhere to sit. Our house was just perfect,” Keilman said.

As of mid-March, Our House has about 20 members. Membership costs $99 per month, which includes co-working access all month from Monday through Friday, up to 10 guest passes per visit during community hours, full amenities, storage locker rental, and 15% off eligible events. Not to mention access to the backyard, which a colorful mural by local artist Caryn Cast adorns.

For those who are afraid of a monthly commitment, anyone is free to join in on community hours for ticketed or open events, or they can buy a day pass for co-working for $25 or a packaged day pass for $150 that gets you eight co-working visits to be redeemed by a specific date.

“We’ve gotten feedback recently from people saying that Our House feels like a third space in Astoria, which was always my hope. You can’t force that to happen. You have to create a good environment,” Kunkel said.

 

*This story first published in the April issue of BORO Magazine.

email the author: news@queenspost.com
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