In a city where even getting a seat in a coffee shop can be a struggle, one startup is offering a breath of fresh air.
Breather, which launched last week in New York, offers city dwellers office spaces for $25 an hour. The Canadian company, which already has a presence in Montreal, currently rents out three spaces in SoHo, Midtown West and the Flatiron District for people who need a quiet respite from cramped cafes and libraries. They plan to open more spaces in the coming weeks.
Breather wants to be the Zipcar of office space and provide customers an on-demand desk with a view: CEO Julien Smith said he and his staff carefully choose attractive, light-filled spaces with windows. Indeed, the rooms look like they were pulled from a West Elm catalog.
Smith said he created Breather for “people who need to work or people who are out of town and need some space that isn’t Starbucks.” Smith added, “Sometimes, people want Wi-Fi that works properly, or they want to take their shoes off.”
The Breathers range between 200 and 400 square feet and have enough space to host groups, making them ideal spots for meetings. Users rent Breathers by time blocks and get a unique access code to unlock the rooms.
Smith said some Breather users even rent out the spaces every day. “They don’t want to take a call in the street, so they’re willing to spend $25 an hour for a Breather,” he explained.
Smith said he isn’t worried about customers using the spaces for illicit purposes. “You don’t not invent the subway just because someone might jump in front of it,” he said. Smith said that so far, his company has not run into any problems with abuse.
When prodded for juicy stories about Breather, Smith admitted that he does have one regular customer in Canada who uses the spaces for a unique purpose. “We have one user who has narcolepsy,” said Smith. “He’ll know when he’s having an episode and if he’s about to randomly fall asleep, so he’ll use the space so he can lie down.”
It’s not quite the salacious story one might expect from a company that rents out rooms by the hour, but Breather has yet to settle into New York.
Follow Andrea Park on Twitter: @andreapark