Women Get Pop-Up Office Space of their Own in Sag Harbor

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From left, Amanda Fairbanks, Sarah Cohen and Liza Tremblay are the founders of The SHED, which pops up every Tuesday at Estia's Little Kitchen. Christine Sampson photo

Forbes Magazine on Wednesday named the top American “coworking space” companies for women, which have names like “RISE” and “The Riveter” and have locations in New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle, Phoenix, St. Louis and Washington, D.C. They’ve got amenities like aromatherapy, yoga and meditation classes and rooms for naps and lactation, in addition to necessities like desk spaces, wifi, outlets and coffee.

A coworking space is a sort of cool, flexible office that professionals can rent temporarily or regularly without needing to sign a lease on a brick-and-mortar space. Forbes previously reported “the coworking space industry has seen growth in recent years and that swell is only going to continue.”

There’s a chain of up-island coworking spaces called LaunchPad, with locations in Huntington, Mineola, Stony Brook and Westbury, and there’s Bridgeworks in Long Beach. Hamptons Virtual Office Center is in Southampton, as is The Spur, which bills itself as a “private coworking and entrepreneurs’ club.”

But none of those spots can claim they are for women only. Amanda Fairbanks, Liza Tremblay and Sarah Cohen, who all live in Sag Harbor, began to imagine something like that closer to home. They’ve now launched a women’s coworking space called The SHED, a name that plays on the phrase “She Shed” that they also felt was homegrown and welcoming.

The SHED will pop up on Tuesdays starting October 2 at Estia’s Little Kitchen, 1615 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each Tuesday, women can drop in for a day or join monthly as members. “Bring your laptop and let us take care of the rest,” The SHED’s website promises.

There won’t be aromatherapy or yoga just yet, but there will be free Kobrick’s coffee; internet; printing and scanning with equipment donated by GeekHampton; plenty of electrical outlets; and flowers to brighten up the space from Sag Harbor Florist. Packaged lunches from Estia’s will be available for purchase. Eventually, there will be events and networking sessions.

The SHED is a coworking space for women in Sag Harbor. Christine Sampson photo

“This is an experiment. We want to see what the need is, what the demand is,” said Ms. Tremblay, who is closing her other businesses, Bay Burger and Joe and Liza’s Ice Cream, in the coming weeks.

Ms. Fairbanks, a journalist and soon-to-be-author who recently returned to the East End after a brief time in California, said finding a coworking space when she lived on the West Coast was “transformative.” It helped her forget about the chores and concentrate on her work. She even wrote an article about one for The San Francisco Chronicle.

“Working at home can be incredibly isolating and lonely,” she said. “This is sort of an antidote for that.”

Ms. Cohen, a veteran physical therapist who oversees Stony Brook Southampton Hospital’s Center for Parkinson’s Disease, and who recently finished 20 weeks of chemotherapy for breast cancer, said The SHED took about a year to come to fruition.

“I was working on my own project,” she said, “I was constantly in coffee shops, then I’d have to go to the library to print. I’d be in my car making phone calls, shifting and moving and never quite with everything I needed in one place.”

This time last year, Ms. Cohen read an article about coworking. A few months later, when Ms. Fairbanks was visiting the East End for book research, the two ran into each other at Citarella, along with another woman, Christina Martin, and soon the three of them started talking about the concept. It wasn’t long before they were having weekly conference calls and pricing out commercial spaces to rent.

“We were horrified by the numbers,” Ms. Fairbanks said. “Sarah came up with the idea of finding underutilized space on the East End and starting to think out of the box — how can we get up and running sooner rather than later?”

Ms. Martin has since taken a step away as a founder, and runs the business’s lively social media feeds now. Ms. Cohen and Ms. Fairbanks then tapped Ms. Tremblay, first asking her to help them contact local restaurants as potential spaces.

“When they reached out to me, neither of them knew Bay Burger was closing,” Ms. Tremblay said. “Around Labor Day, they asked me to be a partner. It was cosmic timing.”

When they approached Colin Ambrose, who owns Estia’s, about leasing his space on Tuesdays when the restaurant is closed, the idea resonated with him almost immediately. He called The SHED’s founders “professional and well-organized.”

“It is very appropriate for our neighborhood,” he said. “They’re providing women who otherwise are homebound professionally with an outlet. To me, that’s a worthwhile cause.”

They set their rates at $25 for a drop-in day and $75 for a monthly membership.

“There’s so much on the East End that’s cost prohibitive for year-round residents,” Ms. Tremblay said. “We have no interest in being one of those things.”

The three founders are all moms with kids around the same ages. Ms. Cohen said it’s particularly meaningful that her nine-year-old daughter is watching her mother start a business.

“She hears we’re on the phone, we’re texting. She’s learning a lot,” Ms. Cohen said. “She has this incredible association of, ‘Wow, my mom is creating a space for women to be successful.”

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