The O at Backyard Dream Studios is Kenosha's first and only co-office space. And yet it’s so much more. Owner Alex Kudrna’s dream to create this service/business came from wanting to grow other people’s dreams. He’s always been about helping other people. This new space at 5823 6th Avenue in Downtown Kenosha serves as an incubator, to help other people start and grow their own businesses. He knows how hard it is to start a business; he wants to make it easier for people to start one by providing space and resources. He describes his business as “something different” and “something downtown needs”. Simply put, The O at Backyard Dream Studios is for professionals who need a quiet place to meet with clients or who need a temporary office. Home business owners can utilize the space to meet with clients, or to work in peace and quiet. People coming from Chicago and Milwaukee can meet in the middle. Out-of-town contractors or vendors doing business in Kenosha can have a remote office location.
The business, which held its grand opening in December 2017, is located in the historic Kenosha Orpheum Building. You can rent space by the day or the month. Included in the fee are free printing/copying, coffee, and wifi, as well as use of the kitchenette which has snacks, water, and soda available to purchase. There are four private offices with a desk and chair; you bring your own laptop. These are available by the month. By the month or day, there is first come, first served open seating in a group/open concept work area. You can reserve a conference room with a white board and television. A quiet room, furnished with a PC, a MAC, and more meeting space is also available. Many of the rooms come with a fantastic view of downtown! In early 2018, a video/photo studio will become available to rent by the hour. It will also serve as a multipurpose room for events.
The O stands for the Orpheum Offices - the Orpheum Building. Backyard Dream Studios is the company Alex owns. So named because he started creating videos in his backyard. It’s what he has spent his life doing. Born and raised in Kenosha, Alex graduated from Bradford High School and earned degrees in video/film from Madison Media Institute. “I wanted to open my own studio space,” Alex says. And thus, the second floor video studio.
Alex purchased the building in June 2016. He always wanted to own a theatre, and now he does. Calling it a “wonderful building” and a “cool building”, he also bought The Orpheum for its history. The building was built in 1922. He says it cost $500,000 to build, which would cost $7-8 million today. The back of the building consisted of the Orpheum Theatre - a movie theatre which offered live theater/vaudeville acts between movies. In the timeline of theatres in Kenosha, this 1,600-seat theatre was built after the original Rhode Opera House (the current building – now called Rhode Center for the Arts – is where the Lakeside Players community theatre group provides live entertainment), and before the nearby Kenosha Theatre (which hasn’t yet been renovated or reopened). He considers the Orpheum to have been a lower-end, cheaper theater at the time it was constructed.
The Orpheum is a four-story building (five counting the basement). There have been various owners and tenants over the years. The Orpheum Theatre operated into the 1970s, and then again in the 1990s until it closed in 2000. The first floor had a concessions area and a cigar and candy shop. The front portion of the second through fourth floors held dentist and doctor offices. The first Social Security office in Kenosha was also in this space, Alex says. In the 1980s all the businesses on these upper floors left and the floors have not been used since. He’s excited to “bring life back to something people haven’t seen in over 30 years”.
At this time, the co-op office space is on the second floor with two tenants on the first level: Elsie Mae's Bakery & Cannery and Myrtle Mae's Sugar Emporium. There’s not a working elevator yet, and so the renovation of the third and fourth floors will not be completed for a couple more years. He may expand the co-op space to these floors, or do something else. He isn’t sure yet.
Once the movie theatre lobby on the first floor has bathrooms, he’ll start renting that space out for parties, events, wedding/baby showers, etc. His five-year plan is to re-open the movie theatre portion of the building. The movie theatre will be on the balcony, with a live performance venue on the lower level/stage. He intends to show specialized movies – chick flick and wine nights, guy nights, award show nights, horror film weekends, and the like. He envisions the staff dressing in 1920s outfits, taking you to your seat with a silver flashlight in hand, and serving you at your seat. He wants going to the movies to be an experience – an event. This lower level space could also be a wedding/event venue.
The building has come a long way since Alex purchased it. An entire new roof had to be installed – the original roof had still been on the building, long ago covered up by more layers. He went with an industrial design inside. It’s still the original wood flooring on the second floor, and it’s probably the first time that touch-ups have been done to it. To replace some pieces, Against the Grain Creative Concepts, another business in town, helped match the existing flooring with reclaimed wood. Alex used contractors for the major work, while handling the design, painting, and finishing touches himself. He used reclaimed and salvaged materials that his family had – including a ladder, scaffolding, spinning wheel, and for the conference room table: a bowling alley!
Monthly members have 24/7 key access to the building. Non-members can have access Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the purchase of a day pass. Alex encourages anyone who wants to see what a co-office space setting is all about to “come try it out”. You can tour the facility for free – call and schedule a tour or drop by between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Street parking is available. There is a parking lot on the back side of the building on 5th Avenue and 58th Street; the entrance of the building (center glass doors) is located on 6th Avenue and 59th Street. The O is on the second floor.
(262) 484-4089, theokenosha.com
-Post from Visit Kenosha