Landing a Location

Small businesses must work hard to secure just the right office space

Deborah Holloway sits with several accordion folders around her. Business is in full swing for the 2013 tax season. She peers over the mound of papers on her desk in her first-floor office and remarks how happy she is that the building has heat — and air conditioning.

While that might not seem important now, it is. Many offices don’t come with air conditioning, which could be a real problem if Syracuse suffers another summer like the one in 2012 with temperatures over 100 degrees.

Holloway looked at several spaces on the South Side for her accounting business but they were too big or expensive and lacked adequate parking for her customers.

Deborah Holloway works in her South Salina Street office. It's the height of the tax season and she says this space provides her the room she needs, not easy to find on the South Side. She's in space renovated by landlord Mark Armstrong, who is right across the hall. | Steve Davis, Staff Photo

“My business has more visibility since moving here,” Holloway said. Most of her customers drive or take the bus, so being able to easily locate her office is a necessity.

When Holloway faced the challenge of finding an affordable South Side office space for her expanding company, she eventually met Mark Armstrong of Bauer Plumbing. He and his wife, who own Bauer Plumbing, have made it possible for small businesses to flourish on South Salina Street.

“We’ve always been excited about the neighborhood coming back to what it was,” Armstrong said. “People being able to have their businesses here instead of being pushed further away from the city.”

The Bauer Plumbing building at 1911 S. Salina St. has been in this community for 100 years. The couple wanted to do their part to help out the next generation of business owners, so they renovated their building. Now they can accommodate three businesses on the second floor and two businesses on the first.

“We won’t take just anybody. We want to keep more of an office park situation,” said Armstrong, whose office spaces are all about 350 square feet. “We look at what kind of business they have, how long they’ve been in business and their plans for the future.”

Mark Armstrong of Bauer Plumbing, 1911 S. Salina, in front of a photo from the 1950s that shows a lineup of trucks for the business. | Steve Davis, Staff photo

The South Side Innovation Center on South Salina Street is a place that hosts new and existing small businesses through training and development programs. With monthly bills like rent, Internet access and utilities, things can add up quickly.

“We don’t want our clients to have sticker shock, with all these added expenses,” said Margaret Butler, operations manager at the SSIC.

For $126.75 a month, a small business can start at the SSIC. “For a 10 by 10 office … it already has the desk in it, it has the computer, it has the telephone,” Butler said. “They get a mailbox, all the utilities and copy, scanning, faxing are included.”

Most clients graduate to bigger spaces during their three-year stay at the SSIC, eventually moving up to a 400-square-foot office. Even though smaller offices are ideal for a new business, it still presents a few challenges.

“The main problem that we see with a lot of our clients is that they need a location that actually has storage place that’s affordable, and there’s nothing like that out there,” Butler said.

As a lifelong resident on the South Side, Joseph Bryant has a strong commitment to the neighborhood and its revitalization. He owns Joseph Bryant and Associates Construction Company. His company is giving business owners an opportunity to become more visible and easier to reach by renovating buildings and creating new workplaces.

“The office space that I’m creating will serve as a leasing office for residential places,” he said.

Bryant started at the SSIC, and eventually his business outgrew the space. He then moved to the Bauer Plumbing building, where he currently leases office space.

Other organizations trying to provide office space for business owners include the People’s AME Zion Church.