To the best of our knowledge, Allface is the only office-space/café of its kind in Hangzhou. There doesn’t yet seem to be a standard term for these shared workspace cafés. Both “Workspace Café” and “Workshop Café” are already branded names, and in 2014 the very idea of a purpose-made coffee shop/office hybrid is no longer bleeding-edge as many a trendy blog and magazine article will attest.
Just in case it isn’t self-evident, the concept here is simple: Making the café rats and cheapskate malingerers pay rent. Don’t kid yourself, hipsters. The (non-copyrighted) workspace/café wasn’t born of lofty ideas of cubicle-liberation, a longing for meaningful interpersonal interconnectivity, or yearnings for a new kind of platform for a creative “community” – though that is, of course, the spin. Thanks here are surely due to the first bold capitalist visionary who had the cajones to market and execute a strategy of getting money out of the freeloaders who would nurse a single four dollar cup of coffee for four hours while soaking-up electricity and oxygen during their semi-adverse possession of retail space – space worth much more than the price of their one latte (one dollar per hour), especially when one remembers that front-end staff are paid whether they are pouring java and nuking muffins, or just being ready and eager to serve patrons.
Anyway, the pretty penny of the hospitality business was/is always a double-edged coin, one which made a nice ka’ching! when it finally dropped. Since cafés (and back in the day: greasy-spoon diners) have always doubled as ex officio offices anyhow, why not legitimate the arrangement and charge rent? Frankly, we welcome it, and we hope it is the start of a trend that will extend itself to the east side and to downtown.
And so, like its bold forebears in San Francisco and Shanghai (not all of whom weather the financial crisis or market realities), Allface makes available for rent workstations (with access to some office hardware and pay-to-play conference rooms) in an open-plan “office” space, which serves also as the seating/lounging area of a full-fledged (and very pleasant) café. If things go according to plan, Allface should be buzzing softly with energy and good vibrations generated by like-minded independent professionals who chat during work-breaks, and in so doing establish semi-professional relationships (or: professional semi-relationships) which lead to growth and enhancements in creativity, and in the course of which many synergies between products and projects emerge. At least the virtual tenants of the hive will feeling pretty cool about having traded in their lonely table at Starbucks for a community. And that’s what matters.
Their location is entirely logical: It is close both to the Zhifubao [Alipay] Building and to the metro-west that’s not far from the city’s tech industries; more to the point to the residential communities popular with the 30-something entrepreneurial crowd who began to achieve and enjoy their financial well-being in the last quarter of the previous decade.