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Shared office space debuts in Timmins

For small-business owners who are ready to move their venture out of their home and evolve to the next step, a new office space in Timmins offers a low-maintenance option.
The renovated space at 97 Pine Street caters to small-business owners who need an intimate office space for meeting clients. On hand for the spring opening were (from left) Noella Rinaldo, president of the Timmins BIA; Mayor Tom Laughren; Sylvie Ayotte; Dan Ayotte, building owner; and Phil Barton, president of the Timmins Chamber of Commerce.

For small-business owners who are ready to move their venture out of their home and evolve to the next step, a new office space in Timmins offers a low-maintenance option.

Last fall, local business owner Dan Ayotte renovated 97 Pine Street into five office spaces catering to the small-business crowd.

“We gutted it all down to the studs and redid everything: brand-new bathrooms, brand-new lighting, brand-new paint,” he said. “I wanted to do something where you’d be proud to come work here.”

The shared, street-level entrance opens into a common area with high ceilings, comfortable seating and a modern colour scheme. The main level houses three separate offices, each measuring 10 feet by 12 feet, one of which is occupied by Boivin Law Office. There is a fourth, currently vacant, office upstairs, while the downstairs space is being rented by interior design firm Narrative Interiors. Proprietor Chantal Magny designed the décor for 97 Pine Street.

“I think she did a fantastic job,” Ayotte said. “I wanted that urban feel, like when you walk into those Toronto offices. There’s not a lot of that in Northern Ontario.”

The $800 monthly rental fee (plus HST) includes Internet and phone hookup, amenities, office furniture and private key access to the building. Ayotte requires renters to sign a one-year lease, as well as pay first and last month’s rent.

He’s targetting those business owners whose fledgling ventures have grown beyond the confines of their home offices, but haven’t yet reached a size to justify a larger location. The optimal tenant is one who wants a separation between work and home, and who needs a space to meet clients in a professional setting.

Ayotte got the idea from Noella Rinaldo, executive director of the Downtown Timmins BIA, who called him up one day to ask if he’d consider converting his empty space, a former retail location, into a series of small offices. She’d been getting a lot of calls from prospective renters looking for just that. Her timing was impeccable.

In advance of advertising it as a rental space, Ayotte had just hired a contractor to come in and clean up the place, which had been left vacant by a mattress store two years previously. After Rinaldo’s call, Ayotte ramped up the project from a cleanup to a reno, and within a few months it was ready to rent.

The concept was a no-brainer for the business owner, whose company, Paul Ayotte Insurance Brokers Inc., already took up two-fifths of the building. His other tenants include a mixed martial arts training facility and a yoga studio.

Ayotte’s father, Paul, started the insurance business in Cochrane in 1974, going on to open branches in Smooth Rock Falls, Haileybury and Kirkland Lake. Dan took a chance on opening a Timmins office in 2000, and he now employs 12 and has a little more than 7,000 clients.

But in those lean, early years when he was just starting out, a low-overhead, low-maintenance option would have been ideal, he said.

“When I moved to Timmins in 2000, it was just me, a secretary and another broker, and we had zero clients, so something like this would have been awesome,” he said. “Everything’s paid — the phone’s paid, the Internet’s paid — so, really, you pay rent and there are no other expenses.”

If the idea takes off, Ayotte said he would consider renovating and renting a second location. But he’s first waiting to gauge demand and interest from the community. And he’s very selective when choosing his tenants, preferring professional, long-term occupants over short-term renters.

“I’m in no rush to fill it,” he said. “I want that perfect candidate.”

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