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SyncGorham builds community

By Nathan Tsukroff

GORHAM – The local community gathered at the Gorham Playhouse at 28 State Street for movies for decades from its opening in 1940.

It’s closure and renovation into office space in the mid-1970’s brought an end to those gatherings in downtown Gorham.

Calling itself “The Community for Remote Workers”, SyncGorham is bringing community back to the building with newly-renovated office spaces on the second floor.

Rob Woodman recently added nine new office spaces to the SyncGorham co-working facility at 28 State Street, in the building that house the Gorham Playhouse movie theater from 1940 to the mid-70’s. (Tsukroff photo)

 Rob Woodman bought the first-floor space for SyncGorham in April 2019, converting the area to shared office spaces and opening in August of that year. “This is what we created to start with,” including seven private offices, a conference room, and an open co-working bench area made up of long, tall counters with pop-up electrical outlets.

The building is a business condominium, with several other businesses owning sections of the building and sharing the side entrance.

“The idea would be, pre-COVID, that folks would be stopping in and using this on a daily kind of basis,” he said. “But with COVID, we’ve mostly stuck with office models.”

Jessi Woodman, a school nurse in the MSAD 6 school district and the wife of owner Rob Woodman, takes advantage of the co-working bench space on the first floor of the shared office spaces at SyncGorham at 28 State Street. (Photo courtesy of SyncGorham)

Growing up in Australia, Woodman graduated college with a degree as a Civil Engineer. He met his wife, Jessi, a Boston native, in 2004 and they moved to Falmouth here in Maine a year later, then to Gorham a little more than five years ago. “We absolutely love it here! We’re starting to build our lives around this community,” he said.

They have four children in the Gorham school district – a son and three daughters, who are students in the middle school and at Narragansett Elementary. Jessi is a school nurse in the MSAD 6 school district, which is next door to Gorham.

Woodman recently purchased the second-floor condominium space and converted that to another series of small offices, mostly 8-by-12 feet in size. The open space in the middle of the second floor is dedicated to a play area, currently featuring a ping-pong table, but with room for a small putting green.

At the end of the building looking out over State Street, Woodman created a conference room with a set of movable tables and large flat-screen television mounted on one of the walls. This allows a group to configure the space to meet their needs, whether for conferences or for presentations.

Rob Woodman holds one of the complimentary theater tickets that he found when renovating the second floor of the former Gorham Playhouse building at 28 State Street for use as co-working office spaces. A replica of one of the movie posters hangs on the wall in the shared space between the offices. (Tsukroff photo)

The room was opened up to allow for multiple windows, and a set of barn doors slides aside when the room is empty to let light spill into the main area.

 With the start of the pandemic, Woodman had talked about hosting a couple of Gorham town meetings in his space, “but it wasn’t probably large enough, and they found other areas.”

And “moving forward, if the Gorham Business Exchange or the Village Alliance or any of those groups need to meet, needing a space, whether its out here in the open area in in one of the conference rooms,” he hopes they will take advantage of his facility. The pandemic has put a damper on public meetings, he said.

Offices are leased for either six- or 12-months. Five of the current tenants in the seven offices on the first floor have been with him “since the beginning,” Woodman said.

  Lessees pay from $250-$350 a month, depending on the size of the office, with access to conference rooms, open space, a small kitchen area, and common bathrooms.

Woodman sees SyncGorham as both a convenient office space for small businesses, and a way for a start-up to grow until it is big enough to find its own building, “or maybe stay for the long term.”

Most of the tenants on the first floor work remotely for companies in other states. “One of the tenants I have downstairs actualy was living in Connecticut and working for a company, and wanted to move back to Maine. And this was their company’s first experiment with having a remote worker, this is pre-pandemic. But their requirement was, they had to have a space out of the house,” he said.

“For me, I see (SyncGorham) as an alternative to being in your basement or being in your home, where maybe it’s not conducive to getting your work down,” he said. “Maybe here, not only is it more conducive, but maybe even more efficient, more effective.”

One of his tenants is both a church pastor and an insurance agent. “He knows, with a dedicated space for work, that he can essentially develop more business that over a month totally trumps the cost he pays” for the office, Woodman said. Another tenant, a farmer in Baldwin, leases one of the offices for access to the internet because of spotty network service at the farm.

Other tenants include IT workers, someone in HR, and a civil engineer.

Woodman said he is currently a national manager for a construction company based in Virginia. He worked from home for a few years after moving to Gorham. “I’s always brag to people that I loved to work from home . . . then I found myself at Panera, like three days a week, working and eating lunch. And I thought to myself, how did I get here? Why am I here? And if I told people I’m working from home, why am I not there?”

“I think I was missing what they often refer to as the water-cooler effect, the community element,” he said.

Woodman said he has a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit and thought, “You know what, why not create the community that I was seeking, and not have to buy lunch every day!”

The building is right next to Gorham House of Pizza and just steps away from the main intersection in downtown Gorham. “I was actually surprised how quickly people said ‘I need a space. I need a space’.”

Then the pandemic hit, and an engineering firm that had owned the second floor condo moved out, so Woodman said he found a way to purchase that new space in November. Renovations included removing the suspended ceiling, opening up areas to allow for more windows, and adding LED lights and a new floor for a bright and clean look.

“We just got our certificate of occupancy” on Monday last week, Woodman said, and he already has three of the nine offices rented.

The new space on the second floor has a large poster from the original movie on the wall, as a nod to the building’s history. Woodman found a stack of complimentary theater tickets when renovating the space, he said.

 SyncGorham’s website is syncgorham.com and Woodman can be reached at 207-272-4431 or syncgorham@gmail.com.

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