By ROGER SCHNEIDER
GOSHEN — Four new office suites have been added to downtown Goshen.
The Exchange, which is the name of the new offices, is in the front portion of the second floor of the Menno Travel building, 212 S. Main St.
“There are four individual suites, plus common areas,” said owner Doug Risser.
The building dates to 1907, when it was reconstructed after the fire that destroyed the then-new Jefferson Theater. The theater and the Menno building share the same facade, but are two separate buildings. The theater is now the Goshen Theater.
In the past, the second floor of the Menno Travel building housed a furnished model cottage for the Smith-Clark Co., according to Risser, and was remodeled in the 1960s as offices for Oaklawn. Then in the 1980s the Indiana-Michigan Conference of the Mennonite Church occupied the space.
A wide, carpeted staircase with its original varnished hardwood handrails provides access to the floor from an entrance on Main Street. During the remodel, Risser kept the large expanse of glass windows that give a panoramic view of Main Street and fill the space with natural light. Risser said the windows are original to the building.
Inside there is a commons area and small kitchen, men's and women's bathrooms and four separate and secure storage areas for each office. There is also a conference room. All offices are wired for Internet service.
A group of Goshen residents has banded together to purchase and renovate the Goshen Theater next door, and Risser said any restoration there will not impact the second floor offices, or even the historic ballroom on the third floor of the building that may be renovated in coming years.
“They would not use the second or third floor so that is when we decided we could go ahead,” Risser said. “Originally we looked at new paint and carpet and really looked at the space, which before was a long hallway with 12-by-12 (feet) offices. It just wasn’t what was appealing to people today. So we decided to do it right.”
Risser said his wife Sharon is his partner in the project and she took care of the interior decorating.
Other downtown collaborative spaces, including The Launch Pad at the Goshen Chamber of Commerce, are available, according to Risser, but have more open atmospheres than The Exchange offers.
“What we have made is a collaborative setting, but also with security and privacy that some people need,” Risser said.
The Exchange name is taken from a December 1907 article in the Goshen Daily News that Risser happened across. The paper referred to a business group that was going to look after interests of the local business community and which had rented offices in the Menno Travel building. Back then the building and Jefferson Theater were part of the Sanders and Hay Block, according to Risser, and The Exchange rented offices on the third floor in that block.
Risser said the third floor of his building has been closed for about 70 years. The Goshen News featured that floor in its Jan. 27, 2013, edition as part of the “Hidden Places” series.
The new Exchange offices will be open to the public March 7 during First Fridays. The band Drop the Dawg will perform there at 6 p.m. as part of the festivities.
A website for the offices is being developed and will be at www.theexchangegoshen.com.