Photo courtesy of Magpie social media (@magpiediner)
Where are great ideas brewed? The Perch at Magpie, of course!
Although, let’s get it right, amazing coffee is brewed there also!
The Perch, formerly known as “The Hub,” is a co-working space above Magpie Diner where entrepreneurs and organizations come together to spark new ideas and concepts. An entrepreneur herself, Kirsten Moore, founder and owner of The Perch, is a Harrisonburg native who’s always had knowledge of what can best serve a community. She began The Hub about five years ago, after seeing how similar spaces were working in Richmond, Virginia.
“Everyone asked me what the appeal was,” Kirsten said. “For me, so much of where my heart is is hospitality. I love hosting and cooking and entertaining, and to me the coworking piece of it was as much about entrepreneurs as it was that people had a space they wanted to belong to.”
Moore (left) and Presgraves (right)
When Kirsten began looking for a new co-working space last spring for what is now known as The Perch, she met with Amanda Presgraves, who would soon become its community manager. After earning her undergraduate degree from James Madison University, Amanda moved to North Carolina where she attended graduate school at Wake Forest. Upon the completion of her graduate degree, Amanda ended up moving back to Harrisonburg and began renting office space at The Hub Coworking, where the buzz of her and Kirsten’s innovative spirits first collided.
As the idea expanded, developers in the area contacted Kirsten about a possible co-working space downtown. The triangular shaped building had two levels, a great location, and plenty of room for innovation.
I went down to look at it and my first thought was ‘I’ve always loved this building, it’s so cool,’ [and] my second thought was ‘it’s way too big for a coworking space,’ and my third thought was, ‘this needs to be a diner,’” Kirsten said, with a laugh.
And so Magpie, and The Perch above it, were born.
It’s been a few months since Magpie opened last July, and the restaurant is already a staple breakfast place in the area. Kirsten said that she was able to approach opening a restaurant as an entrepreneur, rather than a restaurateur, which has helped her tackle the difficulties seen through the shutdowns and restrictions brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Upstairs at The Perch, Amanda has also improvised and readjusted her plans for the space through the restrictions. She imagines hosting community events and connecting people in the space, but for the time being, The Perch has been an incredible place for people to escape their homes. Amanda said that she and Kirsten have been surprised with the amount of people that have been interested in a co-working space during this time, but the connection and community built at The Perch has brought back small things missed over the last year.
There’s something to be said for that serendipitous banter and conversation in a place that you really miss when you’re working remotely,” Amanda said. “It’s hard to pinpoint that that’s what I really wanted from this place until I felt it through the connections made.”
The energy in The Perch and Magpie is magnetic, and I can say from first-hand experience that it is a place that adds a great deal to the Harrisonburg community. People will notice small things about the space, like a bike rack or someone’s t-shirt, and it will spark up conversation and a connection.
I think that really speaks to the Harrisonburg community as a whole too,” Amanda said. “They’re very welcoming and friendly people [in this city] and that is what you see at The Perch as well.”
Everyday, Kirsten and Amanda get to witness the electric spark that The Perch and Magpie hold. It really is a place where things just…click. Two of the employees have a band and are able to use The Perch upstairs as a place to record. A theatre major, who waitresses at Magpie, was able to land an acting opportunity through a customer. It seems everywhere you look things are happening at the space, and that is exactly what Kirsten had hoped for. She recalled that a lot of people doubted her restaurant idea, but she knew what the Harrisonburg community needed and what people were craving (literally). Through everything she does, she approaches situations and people with her entrepreneurial spirit, and she’s found that it spreads like wildfire. She stressed that there’s a balance between being bold with an idea and also staying in touch with what’s happening around you and what the people around you need. Kirsten and Amanda also said that it’s important to voice ideas so connections and innovation can happen.
“Innovation is definitely contagious,” Amanda said. “That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to be in a space like this. When you put yourself in that environment and surround yourself with those people, you see other people chasing ideas, being brave, putting themselves out there and you’re also creating an opportunity for conversation to take place. If you never put yourself out there that’s never going to happen.”
Amanda went on to say that entrepreneurs have to be brave and put themselves out there. “You also have to be a little crazy,” she said with a laugh and an affirmative laugh from Kirsten. Amanda also highlighted that the Harrisonburg community has fostered creativity for her, and even though innovation is not easy, she said it feels much less lonely in Harrisonburg.
Harrisonburg is so perfect; I want to tell everyone but also no one because right now it’s my little secret,” Amanda said with a smile.
Kirsten and Amanda have found the perfect spot, and the great news is, it’s open to the community around them. A sense of connection is at the center of what they do, and keeps them drawn to the city of Harrisonburg. Whether sitting down at Magpie for the perfect Saturday brunch, or joining in on the innovation upstairs at The Perch, this building is a place for all, and a brilliant foundation in downtown Harrisonburg.
Photos of The Perch:
Eleanor Weber is a passionate undergraduate student at James Madison University, studying Anthropology and Public Policy. After college, she plans to pursue graduate-level education and go into a museum-related field, particularly in curatorial work. As a writer, she focuses on the human aspects of stories and enjoys using her writing to connect with members in the Harrisonburg area and beyond. The people she interviews inspire her and writing allows her to make connections in creative ways. In her freetime, she loves to read, paint and spend time outdoors with friends and family.
Speaking of connections, let’s meet a few of the people working out of The Perch.
Meet Andy Vanhook, imaginative producer at Appeal Production. Appeal Production helps its clients tell the best story to their intended target audience through the creative videography of Andy and his team. Andy joined The Perch after seeing his team’s success in the midst of working virtually due to COVID-19, and decided a separate space for production was unnecessary. He knew Kirsten for a number of years before he joined, and said that she’s been a consistent source of inspiration for him. The energy found at The Perch, the sense of community found in the space, and the opportunity to “brain bounce” ideas with others are reasons Andy has chosen this spot for his business.
Growing up, Andy was always interested in videography, but never saw himself working independently until he started Appeal Production. His grandfather worked for himself for the majority of his life, and Andy said that he likely inherited his entrepreneurial spirit from him.
Before starting the business, Andy faced discouragement all along his career pursuits. When discouragement comes his way, Andy finds that he chooses to pursue his goals even more fervently than before. “You’ll find that when I’m faced with ‘you can’t do that,’ it makes me turn around and say ‘oh ok, I’ll prove you wrong,’” Andy said. He offers three pieces of advice for those thinking of pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams: 1. Be flexible, 2. Build connections, and 3. Realize that being a great practitioner of something doesn’t always equate into being a great business owner – know your strengths.
Andy has stayed in Harrisonburg because of the close knit energy the community has to offer. He loves seeing the amount of time and resources people give to each other to make Harrisonburg a better place. In his words, Harrisonburg has a “big heart” that draws people together. In his spare time, Andy loves fly fishing, cooking (jazz music is a must), and is an avid user of sarcasm.
Meet Amy Potter Czajkowski, Director of Global Learning at Catalyst for Peace. Amy has a professional background in peacebuilding, and when she was invited to work for Catalyst for Peace she took the opportunity to apply her skillset across continents…literally. She has helped found a peacebuilding organization in Sierra Leone through Catalyst for Peace and works in other countries to develop changes in order to improve quality of life for communities. Catalyst for Peace is centered on providing the tools to make decisions from the ground up, rather than government officials or other “experts” making the decisions for communities in need. The organization gives talks, hosts learning events, and meets with peacebuilding people in other countries to better engage a community together.
Amy joined The Perch when it was The Hub back in 2014. Through her work, she was already familiar and utilizing Zoom calls and other technology for work, but the co-working space created a way for her to step away from the chaos at home while working, something many can relate to this year in the midst of the pandemic. Through The Perch, she loves the opportunity to get out of the house and be around great people.
Harrisonburg is home to Amy because of the natural beauty around and the amazing character of the people here. She loves that the city isn’t pretentious, and everyone is down to earth. Some of her hobbies include biking and hiking, so the nature found in Harrisonburg is a huge asset to her.
Working with Catalyst for Peace has allowed Amy to collect some sound advice over the years. “Cultivate the ability to listen to yourself,” she said. “That’s where the real passion comes from, from your heart.”
Culturally, humans aren’t always taught this, and Amy said that while paying bills is important, long-term passion connected to energy is what she’s found most important.
“Don’t look through the lens of ‘what are people going to think about this,’” she said. “Think of what makes you happy.”
Meet Brent Holsinger, Founder and President of On the Road Collaborative. Brent grew up in Harrisonburg, went to school, and moved back in 2010. He began working with after school programs for Harrisonburg public schools and was inspired to start On the Road Collaborative in 2014 as an independent nonprofit. The organization aims to close the opportunity gap found in schools and give students equal access to resources outside of the classroom. Brent and his team work each year to bring opportunity in the form of career enrichment courses and other programs to more than 350 kids. These career enrichment courses help expose the students to different career paths by having a community career holder teach a ten-week long program. This helps the students figure out what kinds of jobs they’re good at and what they enjoy doing.
Over this past year, Brent has worked to bring the same resources to the students through online talks and programs. Being a member at The Perch has allowed him a place to work outside of his home. Brent said he loves the unique energy found at The Perch and the atmosphere found among the members. He was a member at The Hub previously, and the good energy is what really has kept him a member.
Brent loves Harrisonburg because although it is a growing city, it still feels small enough to make connections and bring people together who need to be together to make it the best it can be. In his free time, Brent and his family love supporting downtown local restaurants. His advice for anyone thinking of starting a nonprofit or business is to find the intersection of personal passion and the needs of the community you’re working in. He also advises not to “go at it alone” and bring together a support system when starting anything.