It’s no secret that finding an affordable living space to rent in the Bay Area can be a challenge. The same applies to affordable working spaces. Finding a studio/workshop with that “just right” combination of location, size, amenities, vibe, and community at a price that fits your budget can be a tall order. The good news is that with some perseverance, it can be done. Here we share images of jeweler Corey Egan’s beautiful new studio in Berkeley, and the inspiring story of her yearlong quest to find it.
I shed a few happy tears after signing the lease.
It was two weeks before Christmas during a very exhausting December. I sat in my car, gazing down at the key and lease in my hand. The very long search for a new studio was over.
I know what you’re thinking. “But, Corey! Your downtown studio is so convenient! So beautiful! So… filled with plants!”
But in truth, moving my studio to the East Bay was inevitable. I’ve spent five fantastic years at our San Francisco studio, Goldlight. I’m surprised at how quick it passed.
Sharon Zimmerman, Luana Coonen and I put down the deposit on Goldlight the same week my husband and I put in the offer for our home in Oakland. I didn’t mean for both moves to happen in such short order. But the universe dealt me two opportunities I couldn’t pass up. Even if the timing was less than ideal. Although I knew this new shop meant commuting to the city every day, I committed to making it work for a 2-year lease.
And it was amazing! In the early days of Goldlight, the place felt so big. It was so much larger than what I could afford on my own. I had two fellow jewelers with whom I could share my days, my successes, and my struggles. And it was in the heart of the jewelry industry in downtown San Francisco. Anything I might need I could get from a vendor in our building.
Two years came and went pretty fast. Luana moved out, Christy Natsumi moved in. Our lives and work kept changing. By the end of our third year, the shop felt a little cramped as three businesses grew inside. We strategically packed the shop to make the best use of space, but we were bursting at the seams. And things were getting busy! I wanted to grow my team but had no place to put them.
I was longing to work a little closer to home. I dreamed of a bike commute or popping into the hills for a quick morning hike on my way to work. I loved everything about living in the East Bay. I was ready to bring my business over here too.
So I put the word out that I was ready for a move. I began perusing the internet for listings. I set up Craigslist alerts. I drove through neighborhoods and scanned the windows for lease signs. I told friends, neighbors, anyone who might have a lead. But in truth my friends, this wait was HARD.
Eight months went by. I was growing anxious. Was my wish list too long? My budget too low? Most properties were too big, too expensive, or they lacked plumbing. Some just didn’t return my emails.
More months passed. I waded through the same properties on craigslist over and over and grew exhausted. Patience has never been my strong suit. I often think I can “hard work” my way out of a problem, but this new studio had me stumped.
My busy season was approaching and my husband asked if I would put the search on hold for the holidays. It was not ideal, but I resolved to keep myself open. I couldn’t afford to miss out if something materialized.
In December, two weeks before Christmas and over a year into my search, an alert appeared in my inbox. I opened the email, ticked through a few photos, and in less than 3 minutes had the landlord on the phone.
The location: So close to home.
The price: Too good to be true!
The size: Not too big, not too small – just enough for my little business with some room to grow.
Two rooms would give me both an office and a workshop. The windows face North and South for great light all day. It has plumbing and a sink (an improvement I learned could cost more than $13k at another property!) And best of all, it is in a building with other local artists.
From the moment I viewed this studio, I felt right at home. One by one the pieces fell into place. And a week before Christmas I was sitting in my car with the key in hand.
I’m excited about this new chapter more than you could know. This quest taught me a lot about myself. I had to answer some tough questions about the vision I had for my life and the future of my business. So it brings me great joy to share this, the home of Corey Egan Jewelry, with you.
Photos by Ryan Leggett