Down at Estia’s Little Kitchen on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike, an enterprising group of women have launched a beehive of an experiment: the first women-only co-working space on the East End.
Known as “The SHED,” the space is organized by friends, mothers and working women Sarah Cohen, Amanda Fairbanks and Liza Tremblay, who know firsthand the challenges that confront the almost 1,000 self-employed women documented in the U.S. Census on the South Fork.
They held a grand opening celebration on the evening of Oct. 1.
Ms. Cohen is a physical therapist who designed and launched Stony Brook Southampton Hospital’s Center for Parkinson’s Disease; Ms. Tremblay is a chef and entrepreneur who just closed her nearby restaurant, Bay Burger, which she owned with her husband Joe; and Ms. Fairbanks is a journalist.
The high cost of commercial rents make permanent office space prohibitive, they say, and consequently, self-employed women work in the spaces they can find — rotating among local coffee shops, working from home offices that can be distracting and isolating and making conference calls behind the dashboards of their cars.
“We were demoralized by the cost of commercial rent, but [Estia’s Executive Chef] Colin Ambrose offered us space here on Tuesdays, when the restaurant is closed, and we’re hoping that we can gain traction in the community here,” said Ms. Fairbanks, a journalist who is working on a non-fiction book titled “The Lost Boys of Montauk,” about the crew of the trawler Wind Blown, lost in a 1984 storm off Montauk.
Ms. Fairbanks first became acquainted with the idea of a female-only co-working space when she set up shop at The Hivery in Mill Valley, California. She later wrote a story about the experience for the San Francisco Chronicle.
“I found it transformative. There was such tremendous productivity,” she said.
Ms. Cohen, who was living in Sag Harbor while Ms. Fairbanks was in California last winter, was scrolling through her Facebook feed one day when she saw Ms. Fairbanks had posted the story there. She saw her own life echoed in the story, and urged her friend to help her set up something similar here.
The SHED has drawn a great deal of support from the Sag Harbor Community. GeekHampton has set them up with wireless printing, charging stations and WiFi; Anastasia Casale of the Sag Harbor Florist provides a floral touch to brighten the space; Kobrick’s Coffee is on hand for all workers; and Estia’s offers a private room for meetings, indoor and outdoor work spaces, and boxed lunches available for purchase.
Women working at The SHED pay either $25 per day or $75 per month, with the workspace open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays through the winter.
The SHED’s founders hope over the next year to offer their year-round and seasonal members a place to work five days per week.
More information is online at theshedworkspace.com or on their Instagram feed at @theshedworkspace.com.