2014 Premiere Issue

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92 Venice THE BOY NEXT DOOR L Joshua Miller is the creative mind behind FATVillage's latest hotspot, Next Door at C&I Studios. BY NILA DO SIMON PORTRAITS BY EDWARD LINSMIER 68 Venice ike all good ideas created by young, fear-of-failure-adverse entre- preneurs who opt for fitted jeans over business trousers, it started with the phrase, "It would be cool if…" That's exactly how the story of Next Door at C&I Studios began. Nearly a year ago, Joshua Miller and his team at C&I said, "It would be cool if we could create a place for people to hang out." It was that simple—build a hangout spot. Just what Miller, founder and creative savant of C&I Studios and its accompanying Next Door, wanted: to bring people to- gether in a casual and hip environment conducive to good conversation and ex- changes of ideas. What was formerly a 2,650-square-foot printing company in the heart of FATVil- lage has morphed into an urban oasis just north of downtown Fort Lauderdale's concrete jungle. During the day, Next Door is a relaxed coffeehouse manned by local favorite Brew Urban Cafe. And, on weekend nights, it becomes a laidback bar with specialty cocktails and a craft beer list curated by Riverside Market. Next Door shares a wall with the 4,000-square-foot C&I Studios, where the 31-year-old Miller and his cool, progressive staff of media production professionals create buzzworthy video, graphic design and photo projects. He came to Fort Laud- erdale in 2008 by way of Washington, D.C., with the desire to develop and incubate a creative community here. And with Miller leading by example, it's safe to say that movement is happening right now. Next Door is a new chapter to C&I Studios' established community events, such as its popular Live at C&I series, where up-and-coming musical acts perform, and its movie nights, BBQ Friday get-togethers and Art Walk parties. But that wasn't enough for Miller & Co. For them, it was more about bringing the community to- gether in a lasting way. "We're trying to give the city something we're proud of," explains Miller, who also produced and penned an independent feature-length film in 2012 called "Me You & The Road." Ask him if he had an initial vision for Next Door, and Miller will tell you yes. That vision is on a single sheet of white paper folded up inside a black, thread- bound notebook. Drawn sometime during the early summer days in 2013, the initial sketch describes Next Door to near perfection. Diagrammed is what we see today: a long walled walkway that leads patrons to the big reveal: a spacious gathering spot with exposed-beam ceilings, a vintage chandelier, banquet seating, a rustic wooden bar and more than 3,000 hardback books (sans dust jackets) standing at attention on a near-floor-to-ceiling, custom-built bookshelf. The washroom walls and ceiling are painted black and littered with clever sayings scribed in chalk. And what gathering spot would be complete without a vintage Airstream and photo studio? Since opening on Nov. 8, Next Door has achieved another requisite on Miller's list. "We wanted people to know people," he says. At any given time, young, plaid- wearing hippies sit next to suit-wearing business executives at Next Door, and it all just fits.

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