There is no place like St. Oberholz

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St Oberholz and I first met in 2006, but our love story didn’t really begin until in the winter of 2008. I had just moved to Berlin for the second time in three years with the solid purpose of learning German –and enjoying the city’s nightlife in the meantime.

Back then I used to work as a freelance journalist, which is, if I may say so, both an amazing and a terrible profession. You get to ‘be free’, manage your daily schedule as you wish and, most of the time, there is no grumpy boss around telling you off. The downside is, you don’t usually get very well paid and, worst of all, end up spending 80% of your life in pyjamas.

It was winter, I was a freelancer and it was extremely cold. The city was going through its cyclical November mild-depression. Nobody really seemed to care about my existence – or about anyone’s existence. I barely had any friends at the time and the most touching human contact I enjoyed was sponsored by Skype.

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Then, one random day my little life changed. I went for a coffee at St. Oberholz –which was only 2 min away from my place. It was located in the corner of Rosenthaler Platz, a spot you can’t possibly miss if you walk by. It is also highly recognizable, as 80% of the crowd are using their MacBooks –probably the closest you can get to an Apple Store without actually entering one.

The place looked gorgeous and the style of its interiors was new to me. Back then there was no Instagram and I was getting used to the traditional Spanish coffee places. If you’ve never seen one, picture this: small tables, very little light and usually packed and quite smoky. St Oberholz was different: a bright space, big wood tables, high ceilings and a je-ne-sais-quoi that invited you to stay as long as you wanted to.  And I sure did.

It was love at the first sip. The day after I went to drink a new Milchkaffee at St. Oberhoz. Only this time I brought my laptop with me so I could enjoy the whole experience. Is there any better feeling that responding to your e-mails sitting somewhere far from your bedroom/living room/ apartment? This might sound a bit strange, but from that moment on my life became just a little bit better.

All of a sudden I was surrounded by a community of Berliners and expats –insiders/outsiders like me – with whom I had so much in common. We all worked in communication, start-ups, marketing or new media. We had dreams and were young (-ish). We didn’t really talk much but the atmosphere was quite magical, very library-like, super smooth, just lovely really.

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St. Oberholz saved my life the winter of 2008 and months after I left the city for good. Since then I have been in Berlin several times and we all agree on this: in the last few years the dynamics and the landscape of the city has changed dramatically. It is the gentrification – or Westernisation – of Berlin.

There are a lot of new stores, new cafés and other interesting and funny new businesses in the city. On the other hand, some of my favourite small stores, cafés or little bars have simply vanished.

Luckily, St. Oberholz isn’t one of them.

Throughout almost a decade of constant changes, its concept has remained the same, but its influence seems to be larger than ever. Taking advantage of its own nature, in 2011 they launched a space on the second floor of the building where they set up an official co-working space.

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Ever since then, they have been renting workspaces to people who, like me, already feel at home at St. Oberholz. A brilliant idea so ahead of its time that I only wish I could have enjoyed it myself, too. It is now, officially, a place where you can arrange business meetings, get your mail sent, work in your space upstairs or have a coffee downstairs surrounded by people in a more laid-back atmosphere.

I don’t think there are many places in the world like St. Oberholz.  But I certainly hope there will be more like it in the future. Its endless evolution shows how important is, from a management point of view, to create a space that respects its DNA while it grows and changes constantly.

We love coffee places where you sense a feeling of belonging, places that allow us to become part of their daily-written story. And as much as we love technology we love humans much more. People watching, chit-chats, dates, networking. You name it.

I am just glad that places like St Oberholz exist.