WINTER HAVEN — At the combined ribbon cutting last week for The Lodge and Black Oak Creative, two businesses sharing a newly renovated building at 332 Avenue B SW, Winter Haven Mayor Brad Dantzler recalled a recent trip he took to North Carolina.

Invited to go along with a group from Florida Polytechnic University, Danzler and others were shown around the campus of North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

“We toured a lot of buildings very similar to this and I remember thinking ‘we need something like this in Winter Haven,’” Dantzler recalled. “And here it is.”

Dantzler, other city officials and members of the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce packed into the former Elks Lodge June 27 to get the first peek at the trendy shared space. The Lodge, owned and managed by Six/Ten LLC, is a coworking space and Black Oak Creative is a locally-owned marketing and branding agency. 

The modern aesthetic housed within — and the ways in which the design calls back to its roots as the old Elks Lodge — were a hit with those in attendance.

“The feedback has been amazing,” said Meghan Young, the Special Projects Manager for Six/Ten who is overseeing the operation of The Lodge. “People are surprised by what they see and they think it’s awesome, because it’s something new for Winter Haven. It just has a cool feel to it.”

The coworking space, a first for Winter Haven, offers private office memberships — which sold out before the space opened — and general coworking memberships, which are currently available. These are generally associated with graphic artists, freelancers, real estate agents and other creative professionals for whom renting a dedicated commercial space might not make sense.

“There are a lot of people who are working from home or working remotely who like the idea of getting out of their house or getting out of Starbucks,” Young said.

The Lodge is on the east side of the building and Black Oak Creative takes up the west end. Black Oak, which is owned by the husband and wife combo of Steve and Lisa Bates, has seen growth over the years from Steve Bates working as a one-person operation out of their home to now include a staff and a commercial location.

“To think back 12 years ago to the very first camera that we bought as a company, to where we are now, is incredible,” Steve Bates said from his office. “To look at all these people in our space that, a year ago, we designed on a napkin — it’s a dream.”

Of course, the pairing of a coworking space, the likes of which are known to attract creatives, next to a creative agency came with some intentionality — and Bates is hopeful it will benefit the growth of his firm.

“The more and more creatives we can get packed into that space over there (at the Lodge), the better we’re going to be,” Bates said.

Collectively, the reinvigoration of an old building and the infusion of a place that could bolster the startup culture in Winter Haven are all positives as far as the mayor is concerned.

“It’s huge,” Dantzler said. “This is just another piece of that puzzle that we’re trying to do to make Winter Haven a smarter city.”

The unofficial motto of Six/Ten — and may of those invested in the growth of Winter Haven — is to make Winter Haven “the coolest small city in Florida.” And, the way Bates sees it, part of achieving that ends is having a dedicated place where a creative culture is empowered.

“That’s kind of the goal that Six/Ten and we have together — to foster this creative community,” Bates said.

To learn more about The Lodge and the general coworking memberships still available, visit thelodgewinterhaven.com. To learn more about Black Oak Creative and the services it offers, visit blackoakcreative.com/.

Contact Steven Ryzewski at sryzewski@d-r.media.

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