Five Questions for Steph Harty, Founder of The Indie Alley
Now The Indie Alley is officially open, we took a moment to sit down with Steph Harty who started this adventure last summer. We talked about what it means to finally find home and how the spaces that we create can determine so much of how we feel about our lives. Read the conversation below to find out why The Indie Alley, why here, why now.
Why did you choose Fairfax as your home?
We moved from Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 2014 with our kids who were 5 and 7 at the time. It was our third move since having kids and we decided it would be our last, so it was important that we get it right.
The moment we drove up Sir Francis Drake and saw the view here I was in love. The cool, old school Fairfax Theatre sign drew us in closer and then we walked in the town and felt that this was our home. I had never felt that way before and I have lived all over the country in big cities and small towns. It wasn’t until Fairfax that I found the peace I had been looking for.
I think it’s the intangible essence of the town that makes it special. There is little pretense. We are surrounded by breathtaking nature and it just lends itself to creativity, and it personally pushes me to explore myself in ways that were not familiar to me before.
You bought the building at 69 Bolinas and could have made it anything. Why a coworking and event space?
When we decided to purchase the building at 69 Bolinas last year I already had a purpose in mind. I wanted to foster a part of the community that I knew existed.
When I learned about the rich music history of the town, it made perfect sense that we landed here. Both my husband and I have worked in the music business for over 20 years.
But where do the creative and artists gather? Where do people go to feel that energy? So, I took an older dream of mine - a part of me that has been yearning to do something important for a long time - and I put the two thoughts together and came up with a co-working space that is female-focused, but designed the space for everyone to feel comfortable and welcome, and a space to find inspiration.
How has your experience both professionally and personally shaped the idea behind and the mission of the Indie Alley?
The original mission of The Indie Alley was to provide a space that offered women a place to find balance. Some of us are juggling work and motherhood. Being a working mother myself, I AM EXHAUSTED and it can be so hard to get anything done at home.
At The Indie Alley, I find myself so much more productive since I am not worried about the laundry constantly. Some of us are lost and can’t figure out who we are or where we are going and even where we belong. Some of us are aging and are not sure how to do so in a way that makes us feel connected. Some of us are trying to re-enter the workforce and have no idea how to start. I wanted a space where we could support one another.
Co-working brings people together, but the initiative in the space is to do it in a way that everybody feels safe. The networking and collaboration come very naturally when you are in a comfortable environment.
That was something that was sorely missed as I made my way through the corporate life. If I could help people gather and work and feel the freedom from harassment, I really feel like amazing things can result in that space.
We invite men to join us. It is essential to have everybody be part of the conversation. That’s why we say the Indie Alley is ‘Female-focused, Allies Welcome.’ We will have events that focus on how we can better communicate with each other as people. I’d like The Indie Alley to be a place where everybody can grow and laugh and celebrate.
Can you tell us about the interior design and elements of The Indie Alley?
Something that has become really important to me personally since moving to the Bay Area is up-cycling. I love taking an old object and finding a way to make it beautiful again or turning it into something other than its intended use.
When it came to the decorating the Indie Alley, one man’s trash is my gold. Each piece of furniture was procured from The Away Station, yard sales or in the free section of Nextdoor. There are other pieces, like vases, lamps, and tables there were once on the curb.
I used that handy dandy reverse feature on my vehicle many times. I grabbed my street side treasures and threw them in the trunk as I would hear “Mom! No! Stop doing this!” My husband would just stare at me and shake his head when I would get home to tell him that something was too heavy for me to lift alone. Still, he silently went back with me - no questions asked and lift he did.
Somehow my vision came together and the mishmash of my collection looks like it was done with purpose. With my passion for breathing new life into things, it was A W E S O M E to have Sustainable Fairfax endorse what we are doing by having their home office here at The Indie Alley. It felt right to brand with one another.
What's your goal for The Indie Alley over this next year?
I’d love for this to be the go-to place for keeping things local when it comes to networking and enjoying life with our neighbors. So many talented and lovely people live here. I love facilitating those relationships. We are all right next to each other in this small town.
We have so many ideas for the space. We want our members to weigh in on what services we should provide and events we should put on.
In my opinion, co-existing is about tolerating differences - but at The Indie Alley, I think we can do better. Let’s find how we can make life work, together.
Steph was in conversation with Jen Ciraldo.
If you are interested in Indie Design Services - ie how to do what we did here in your own home or work environment, reach out to us by email.
And if you are interested in our coworking space, take a tour. We'd be happy to show you around.