COOK- What do you get when you combine longing for one’s hometown, time, a little luck and a lot of patience, the vision of a dynamic duo, and COVID-19?In the case of Tiffany and Brandon …
COOK- What do you get when you combine longing for one’s hometown, time, a little luck and a lot of patience, the vision of a dynamic duo, and COVID-19?
In the case of Tiffany and Brandon McCormick, of Cook, you get North Office, a brand-new office center both rustic and modern that has seven furnished offices ready to meet the needs of summer vacationers and year-round residents who need a business ‘home’ equipped with high-speed fiber optic internet.
The tale begins with Brandon, a Cook High School graduate who went off to earn a degree in construction management at Minnesota State – Mankato and then moved on to a job in the Twin Cities.
It took about two to three years, Brandon said, before he felt the pull of the North Country calling him back home in 2004.
“I decided to move up here full time and start my own business,” he said. “I worked with another company that was doing excavating and then I bought one piece of equipment and expanded from there.”
Northern Waters Construction was born in 2007, and six years ago Brandon bought a local barging company to add to the varied mix of his services.
Tiffany was raised in Mankato, but she was no stranger to the area. Her family vacationed at Crane Lake in a cabin owned by her grandparents, and she moved to the area about 15 years ago to help out with a resort her family owned.
“And that’s where I met him,” Tiffany said, turning to grin at Brandon.
The couple recently celebrated their eighth wedding anniversary, and they have two children, McKenna, 15, and Brexton, 7. Tiffany has an online marketing business, and together the couple homeschools their children. Their occupations allow travel to be an integral part of their curriculum, both domestic and foreign. Two years ago, the family spent three months in South Africa.
But how did a couple with flourishing careers end up as owners of an office center?
That adventure began in October 2019 when they discovered St. Louis County was putting a building and large garage adjacent to Lakes Gas on Highway 53 up for public auction.
Luck was on their side the day of the auction, as Tiffany was the only one to show up and bid on the property.
“So then, we’re like ‘Hey, what are we going to do with it?’” Tiffany laughed.
Then came the coronavirus pandemic, and along with it a titanic shift in how a huge swath of businesses had to operate. Instead of bringing employees into a central location, businesses started operating remotely. Also, people in metro areas began migrating to the North Country as a place to get away from the confines of the city, and as the summer season approached last year, the couple finally saw a viable opening. Their building happened to have high-speed fiber optic cable running to it, perfect for the data demands of the new age of Zoom meetings and large file transfers.
“I’d say 95 percent of the business I do is on Lake Vermilion,” Brandon said. “Working with customers, one of their big struggles is that they want to spend more time up here, but they can’t because they don’t have the internet in order for them to work. Some do get by, but the majority of them now need better internet.”
The couple’s idea for an office center got a dry run last summer before they even started building out the interior, as a single office already existed in the building.
“We actually had a renter in here from the lake, before we even made a final decision on what we were going to do,” Brandon said. “They were one of my customers and they rented this. He did a lot of work here and when he wasn’t using it his daughter was. He had numerous other friends who worked for him who came up and used it. There was a guy doing Zoom in a fold-out chair with just an old table we had in here. We just figured from that experience that there was a need for not only private offices, but also a place where you can just come in and use the internet for a day if you need to.”
North Office layout
When the McCormicks set about designing the center, they wanted to accommodate varied needs while providing a welcoming and hospitable environment.
“I wanted modern, something new that still has that ‘up north’ feel,” Tiffany said. “I loved all the different greens and the blues and everything, but I wanted barnboard and wood trim to still give it that feel.”
Seven private offices are furnished with contemporary desks and shelves that reinforce the rustic wood theme, and the walls are adorned with the work of local and area artists. Each office has its own dedicated 100mbps internet connection, ensuring data and communications privacy for occupants who provide their own computers.
The McCormicks have earmarked six of the offices for long-term monthly and annual leases, and those occupants can make the space “theirs” by bringing in their own office furniture and wall art if they wish. Each office is slightly different in size and configuration to accommodate varied needs.
One business has already signed on.
“Clarity Hearing has 27 offices across Minnesota and northern Wisconsin, and they were looking to have one here in Cook,” Tiffany said. “They wanted a great location right off the highway, and something exciting, too, and they jumped on it right away.”
Businesses like Clarity will be able to advertise their presence with signs placed on a billboard along the highway.
The seventh office will be for weekly and monthly renters, as the McCormicks continue to assess the need for various services.
Daily users can take advantage of one of four spaces at a bar-level counter near the front entrance and have the option of using Wi-Fi or direct connections. The McCormicks are also considering adding a shared printer to the area.
While the building will have standard operating hours, customers will also have access to their offices any time they want.
Making their customers feel at home comes naturally to Tiffany, and a good example of that is the kitchenette. A refrigerator, microwave and hotplate will accommodate those who want to bring in meals and snacks while they work. A well-stocked beverage cooler, coffee and a variety of teas are complimentary.
The McCormicks also anticipate tenants will enjoy taking advantage of the six-acre property surrounding the building, and plan to add a patio to accommodate both work and relaxation.
There’s another section of the building that for the time being remains unfinished. True to form, Brandon and Tiffany don’t know yet what will go in there. A small retail business could be an option, or they may find business is better suited to adding more offices. The nature of the office center business gives them ample time to assess possibilities before choosing a new direction.
To learn more about leasing options or to arrange a tour of North Office, call Tiffany at 218-750-3364, or send an email to email@example.com. Information is also available online at www.northofficecook.com and on the North Office Facebook page.