B:Hive Coworking’s Bridgeport location does not look like your typical coworking space — which is no surprise, considering the massive Beaux Arts structure opened in 1930 as Mechanics and Farmers Savings Bank. When the bank failed in 1991, the grand old building sat vacant on Main Street for years, gaining a blip of attention in 2007 when the Robert DeNiro-Al Pacino film “Righteous Kill” was shot at the location. An architecture firm moved into the space in 2014 and left two years later, with B:Hive Coworking relocating from a more modest Fairfield Avenue storefront in January into the building.
When wandering through the space, reminders off Mechanics and Farmers Savings Bank turn up in amusing ways. The oversized door to the bank’s safe is a distinctive portal to the back rooms, and the barred cubicle that was once the home of the safe deposit boxes is now a small conference lounge. The main conference rooms are considerably larger than today’s variety, with high ceilings and great vertical windows that enable shafts of light to fill the room.
“It’s a fun and unique space,” said Jordan Rabidou, co-founder of B:Hive, which is in its sixth year of operation.
It is ironic that the old bank building that helped launch yesteryear’s entrepreneurs is now cultivating the new wave of business professionals. But whereas the now-defunct bank gave business owners the capital, B:Hive gives them the venue to launch into the proverbial bigger and better.
“All of the co-founders of B:Hive are residents of Bridgeport and all have their own businesses,” said Rabidou. “We thought, ‘What better way to bring in businesses than to set up a coworking space?’ Eventually, some may grow out of here. This was our way to activate the community and bring together like-minded individuals and better Bridgeport as a whole.”
B:Hive offers its members dedicated desks, each with a dedicated IP address, plus three conference rooms for formal negotiations and smaller “huddle rooms” for quick meetings. Membership also covers free office supplies, a photocopier, a locker for storage and a mailing address for receiving parcels. Members have 24/7 access to the space while non-members can make use of the facility on a 9-to-5 weekday schedule.
B:Hive has 45 members at its Bridgeport location plus another 25 at a smaller outlet in Southport. Rabidou is eager to build a sense of camaraderie among those using the coworking environment. Free coffee and snacks are provided to members and the facility has a full kitchen with two ovens and a refrigerator.
“We have happy hours every Friday,” Rabidou added. “If you are working with people, you should get to know these people. We found that the true value-added of working out of a coworking space is the networking that happens with this. We have our own B:Hive app so you can look at all of the profiles of the people who are in all of our spaces. You can message them privately or post to forums.”
Rabidou cites the Bridgeport membership as including graphic designers, IT specialists, nonprofit organizers, a human resources recruiter, an event planner, a film producer and several authors working on their latest books. The award-winning social entrepreneur Daniel Trust teaches classes at the location.
And despite having a multitude of people coming in and out of the space throughout the week, B:Hive’s setting is in remarkably good condition. Rabidou acknowledged that the membership goes out of its way to ensure the old building remains in pristine condition during working hours.
“This place is about community and we ask our members to buy into the community,” he said. “Everybody treats it as if it was their own space. We give people the benefit of the doubt and good things happen.”