Switchyards co-working cafe concept comes to Buckhead’s Piedmont Center

Small tables draw laptop workers and mini-meetings. Credit: Rob Knight

Switchyards, Atlanta’s homegrown mix of cafe and co-working space, has come to North Buckhead as part of the renovation of the Piedmont Center office mega-complex.

The Buckhead location opened Feb. 22 in Building 3 of the complex at 3565 Piedmont Road. During a visit by Buckhead.com three days later, dozens of customers were already occupying work tables and soundproofed “phone booths” that are among the several amenities.

The refreshment counter. Credit: Rob Knight

Catherine Braun, the location’s manager, or “clubkeep” in company lingo, says the clientele so far was a mix of freelancers, remote workers and employees of corporations that cover the membership fee.

“Something we’re seeing in recent years is, a lot of jobs could have been remote the whole time,” she said.

A patron sits behind a bookshelf. Credit: Rob Knight

It’s the fifth location of Switchyards since its Downtown debut in 2016. The concept is the brainchild of Michael Tavani, an Atlanta startup guru who previously co-founded the once-popular online marketplace Scoutmob. He has since opened locations, called “neighborhood clubs,” in Cabbagetown, Decatur and the Westside.

Inside a main seating area of the new Switchyards. Credit: Rob Knight

The concept revolves around well-appointed seating areas with hip decor and a small-menu cafe with unlimited coffee and tea included in a relatively low monthly membership fee. A $50 membership gives access to both the Buckhead and Cabbagetown locations, which are open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. A $100 membership grants access to all locations, which have 24/7 access.

Patrons seal themselves inside soundproof “phone booths.” Credit: Rob Knight

“We were inspired by the scale, setting and location of Piedmont Center, and saw an incredible opportunity to open a new location that’s convenient and unique for members,” said Tavani in a press release. “Nestled within a canopy of trees in the middle of the city and surrounded by open-air spaces, walking trails and accessible parking, we’re thrilled to bring Switchyards to Buckhead and give the community a place to concentrate and recharge.”

People sit in the Piedmont Center courtyard outside Switchyards. Credit: Rob Knight

The idea of Switchyards is a place to focus on work. For those with a more hardcore definition, the Buckhead and Decatur locations have a quiet room, dubbed the library, for what Braun calls “more of a deep-focus vibe.” (The Decatur location was originally pitched online as a “private library” called “The Library of Deep Work and Focus,” which drew some social media criticism and mockery.) The soundproof booths at Buckhead are already popular enough that Braun sometimes needs to call a time-out on users.

Inside the new Switchyards Buckhead. Credit: Rob Knight

For more decorative purposes, the location has an actual antique phone booth, too. Above the coffee counter is an analogue population counter for Atlanta, echoing a historic one outside the historic Darlington apartment building on Peachtree Road.

The quiet-room “library.” Credit: Rob Knight

Each location has what Braun calls “Easter eggs” amid the decor for patrons to discover as “surprise and delight.” In Buckhead, the theme is cats, which pop up in various artworks and even business-card holders.

A meeting table includes a small cat decoration, one of several throughout the facility as “Easter eggs.” Credit: Rob Knight

Braun estimates about a third of the regular customers so far are in the tech world. Some customers work remotely for out-of-state businesses. Some are between home and the traditional office with their employer covering the Switchyards membership. And the spot is popular with freelancers, such as journalists, artists and graphic designers.

A newsstand and merchandise are among the offerings. Credit: Rob Knight

Braun, whose previous jobs included working the desk at the legendary Hotel Clermont, says the staff’s job is to make Switchyards not just another co-working spot, but something with the familiar touch of being a regular at a cafe.

The putting green in the courtyard. Credit: Rob Knight

Switchyards occupies about 5,500 square feet of what was formerly an accounting firm in a circular building in Piedmont Center. It fronts on a courtyard that includes a putting green — with clubs available within Switchyards — and a bocce court.

A sign in the entrance informs patrons about the “clubkeeps,” or managers, on duty. Credit: Rob Knight

The courtyard is part of an updating of the enormous, 14-building, 50-acre complex by Ardent Companies, which fully acquired the site last year. The complex remains a tricky maze of towers and multi-level parking decks, but finding Switchyards was easy enough thanks to some improved signage.

Another overview of the Building 3 courtyard. Credit: Rob Knight

“We know the market’s office and residential community is looking for a place outside of the home and office to recharge and connect with others,” said Ardent CEO Matt Shulman in a press release. “We’re confident that Switchyards will be an incredible amenity for not only Piedmont Center’s tenants, but for the entire Buckhead community.”

For more information, see the Switchyards website.

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