Did you see The Galveston County Daily News on April 18, 2010? They ran a great story worth reading.


Out of the office

Coffee houses increasingly are replacing cubicles, thanks to smart phones and Wi-Fi

By LAURA ELDER The Daily News

As a business owner, Stefan Stamoulis has his own private office on state Highway 6 in Santa Fe.

But that’s not where you’ll find the owner of Hydrogeologic/Environmental Testing most days. Stamoulis prefers to write reports on his laptop and catch up with paperwork at Mod Coffeehouse,in the island’s downtown. He easily spends more work hours at the popular 2126 Postoffice St. shop than he does at his desk.

“They’ve got good seating, lighting, and you feel like you’re in your living room,” Stamoulis said.

Welcome to the office away from the office.


Stefan Stamoulis prefers to run his business from his laptop at Mod Coffehouse rather than his office. He said he prefers the homey atmosphere, and he can wear whatever he wants.

Increasingly, entrepreneurs and independent employees across Galveston County are trading “real” offices and the walls of cubicles for coffee houses and cafes. The advent of smart phones, Internet connections via Wi-Fi — often free at shops — combined with an endless source of caffeine and camaraderie makes the coffee house an attractive place to conduct business.

While low overhead, especially the absence of rent, makes coffee houses appealing to burgeoning entrepreneurs, CEOs and established professionals can be observed sipping black coffee or lattes as they chat away in cyber conversations with employees or clients.

“The way our company is structured, I never could not have an office to save on overhead,” Stamoulis said.

But — and this might seem counterintuitive — Stamoulis heads to the usually busy Mod when he needs to concentrate or avoid distractions.

“I feel I’m more productive and don’t get as bombarded with some of the details,” Stamoulis said.

“I like the constant activity of people, not just locked into a secluded office,” he said.

Like Stamoulis, island writer Ara 13 — that’s his legal name — works more productively in public places, he said.

Ara 13 has written two books at Mod, included award-winning “Drawers & Booths.” Ara 13 also finds something psychologically soothing being surrounded by others while working, he said.

Ara 13 began going to Mod about four years ago, after moving to the island from New Jersey.

The idea of holing up in his downtown apartment for hours on end wasn’t appealing, he said.

“The environment of a coffee shop works for me,” he said. “It’s something about needing to see other people exist and knowing that other people see me exist.”

There are cons to working in a public place, Ara 13 said. Sometimes, it’s tough to shut out the world.

Overhearing one-sided cell phone conversations can be distracting, he said.

“Certainly, some people have a voice that permeates and cuts through and you can’t help but focus on it,” he said. “But if there’s a cacophony of sounds, it becomes like white noise, and I can really concentrate.”

But where Ara 13 might find dozens of distractions at home, he’s far more focused at work, he said.

He goes to a coffee shop to work for the same reasons he goes to the gym for exercise, he said. He knows that certain environments are meant for certain tasks, he said. At home, it’s too easy to lose focus, he said.

“When you go the gym, that’s the task and job you’re going for,” he said. “When I go to the coffee shop, I’m able to get some writing and editing done. At home, I weave in and out of being productive and tend toward the unproductive.”

It used to be that coffee shops and cafes discouraged long stays by customers, fearing they would hurt table turnover.

But Mod, which always has been a large draw for University of Texas Medical Branch students, through the years has expanded its capacity to accommodate Internet users.

Island newcomer Tremont Cafe, 2300 Ship’s Mechanic Row, inside Tremont Hotel, is designed with business people in mind.

Developer David Massicott, who with his brother, Roger, is known for redeveloping old downtown buildings into residential and retail projects, is a regular at Tremont Cafe, where business meetings are encouraged. The cafe features 42-inch plasma televisions that can be used as computer monitors, Internet booths and free Wi-Fi.

The cafe has aesthetic appeal and is convenient, said Massicot, whose home office is in Friendswood but whose work often takes him to the island.

“When I’m in Galveston, I like to pop into a place like that, have lunch, take care of an hour’s worth of e-mails. It’s a perfect set up and gives me more flexibility.”

Massicott is always on the move, so a traditional office doesn’t make sense sometimes, he said.

“I’m never in one spot,” he said.

Along with catching up with work, Massicott also meets clients and associates at Tremont Cafe.

“In fact, when I think of meeting someone to go over a project, I often think of the Tremont Cafe or a coffee shop,” he said.

Stamoulis said he likes the company and energy of his office away from the office.

There’s a sense of community.

At Mod, everybody knows his name and how he likes his coffee, which is black.

The diversity of people and professions represented makes the coffee shop office an interesting buzz, he said. In a way, it’s like working with friends, he said.

“There’s a lot of people who work there,” Stamoulis said.

“There’s the professor who grades papers ... It is comforting to have people moving around, plenty of fresh brewed coffee. It’s just kind of a place to hang out, see your friends and still be productive.”

Reporter Laura Elder can be reached at 409-683-5248 or laura.elder@galvnews.com.

© 2010
Mod Coffeehouse