David Garcia, Stockton born and bred, has a background in urban policy and planning and has called cities like Baltimore and Washington, D.C., home. So when he and Tim Egkan co-founded Huddle, a new coworking space in downtown Stockton that held its soft opening last June, he knew change was possible. But that doesn’t mean he thinks it will be easy.
“People who haven’t left Stockton tend to be under the impression that it will never change because, ‘Why would it?’” he says. “But those who are not from here, or are from Stockton but have spent time elsewhere, have seen cities with similar or greater challenges overcome those challenges.”
He and Egkan work together at development firm The Cort Group and decided to start Huddle as a side project. Egkan says he moved from his native San Diego to Stockton not just to develop real estate, but “to accelerate an inevitable arts and culture movement. Huddle is the beginning of a larger real estate, community and economic development project.”
They already have around 25 coworking members, and memberships range from $69 to $129 per month. Amenities include conference rooms, printers, high-speed wi-fi, and a shared event space with a projector screen and PA system. Huddle also offers traditional office leases for private spaces that range from 150 to 400 square feet, 75 percent of which were already leased before their grand opening this Wednesday.
Part of Huddle’s out-of-the-gate success is due to a partnership with the Downtown Stockton Alliance’s Technology Incubator, funded by a $25,000 grant from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. The grant money is partly used to pay for Huddle memberships. Currently, seven of Huddle’s members are participants in the program, including digital advertising company FrankenMuffin and Tasty Carty, an app that tracks food truck locations nationally in real time.
“It just looked like the perfect space,” says Sylwia Qualls, communications manager for the Downtown Stockton Alliance. “We’re hoping that our program in conjunction with Huddle will help these local businesses develop and stay locally.”
Qualls is currently working with the San Joaquin Bar Association on a legal workshop for Tech Incubator members that will offer insight and provide tools to help with the legal logistics of getting a business up and running. Garcia and Egkan are developing for all of Huddle’s members workshops that will educate entrepreneurs on business development and business plan refinement. They are curating a series of weekly “TED-Talk-esque” events, and Huddle has partnered with the San Joaquin Angel Investors to mentor members on pitching ideas and finding investment opportunities.
Garcia and Egkan are also in the process of refurbishing 13 old police bicycles, which they will paint orange and make available to members through Huddle’s bikeshare program, an idea Qualls think will help add a unique vibrancy to downtown Stockton.
“I can just see all of these young businessmen and women zipping along our downtown streets on these orange bicycles,” she says. “It will be a really fun addition to downtown.”
Both Qualls and Garcia are in agreement that if Stockton is to chart a new course, it needs to cater to the young, bright minds already residing in the city.
“The cities that have been successful in reinventing themselves have diversified their economic portfolios,” Garcia says. “For Stockton, part of that is cultivating and keeping talented individuals who want to do more knowledge-based work here.”
For Qualls, Huddle is another addition to an ongoing trend she has been paying close attention to.
“I have been in downtown Stockton for 15 years, so I have watched it grow and change,” she says. “We are seeing more and more of these young, tech-oriented entrepreneurs moving in and using downtown to develop their businesses. We also have all of these students who come downtown to learn, and hopefully they will stay here to work.”
Huddle will host its grand opening at 235 San Joaquin St. on Aug. 20 at 5 p.m.
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