Local trio creates affordable office for innovation and networking

Women’s-Only Workspace Pops Up In Sag Harbor

Independent/Desirée Keegan

Three Sag Harbor women saw a need for a designated co-working space for entrepreneurial and freelance females on the East End, so they decided to create one.

Physical therapist Sarah Cohen, journalist and author Amanda Fairbanks, and chef Liza Tremblay, founders of The Shed, launched their pop-up workspace at Estia’s Little Kitchen in Sag Harbor this month behind the mission that women of diverse backgrounds throughout each stage of their career need a nurturing environment from which to work, connect, and thrive.

For those who work from a home office or find themselves bouncing around from coffee shop to coffee shop, the trio believe the space — named after the phrase “she shed” (similar to “man cave”) — will rid women of isolation and other distractions.

The home, children, laundry, cooking, cleaning, and the plethora of busywork that women do “gets in the way of actual, focused work,” said Fairbanks.

“I think there’s a seriousness and purpose to committing to a space and a community, and showing up for yourself and for others,” she continued. “There’s something powerful about leaving your house, getting out of your pajamas, and taking yourself seriously, and I think your work reflects that.”

It all started when Cohen read a story of Fairbanks’s through a Facebook post. The writer’s article for The San Francisco Chronicle focused on an all-women co-working space in Mill Valley, CA. That’s when the wheels in Cohen’s mind began turning.

The Stony Brook Southampton physical therapist, who started the hospital’s Center for Parkinson’s Disease, ran into Fairbanks at Citarella back in January, and asked the former New York Times and East Hampton Star journalist if she wanted to give it a shot. Fairbanks was enthusiastic and the pair arranged to meet in March, coincidentally, at Estia’s, with Christina Martin, The Shed’s social media coordinator.

Little did Cohen know that two weeks before the scheduled get-together she would be diagnosed with breast cancer.

A Personal Journey

“That day we met was also the date of my first medical appointment to figure out what my journey would be,” Cohen said. “Paralleled with this development of this amazing business with these amazing women, for me, it has been a very personal journey. Fighting breast cancer while doing this has definitely shaped who I am. This is something to hold onto, seeing it as the future and something I’m working toward, and something that I believe so strongly in. It has been a true gift for me.”

Tremblay joined the group in August, after deciding with her husband, Joe, to close their restaurant Bay Burger after 12 years. All three women have children in the Sag Harbor school district around the same age, and Tremblay first met Cohen as a patron at her restaurant. Tremblay and Fairbanks also discovered they attended Smith College at the same time.

“I’m excited to get involved in another local business,” Tremblay said. “Everyone has been so generous helping us get this project off the ground. And with the timing, this all just seemed meant to be.”

“We wanted to bring people onto our team that don’t have the same skillsets,” said Fairbanks. “Sarah and I are a little more idealistic. Liza has a lot of amazing qualities but she’s also really, really experienced.”

Fairbanks added she thinks what The Shed has to offer is unique compared to other workspaces like The Spur in Southampton, which is for men and women by invitation only, and costs upward of $200 a month.

“We want this to be more democratic, and we never want it to be an unaffordable option,” she said. “We’re trying to be as inclusive as possible so every woman can take advantage of it.”

Since the cost of real estate is high on the East End, Cohen came up with the idea of using restaurant space. That’s when they approached Estia’s owner Colin Ambrose, bringing the idea full circle. For Ambrose, the decision to let the trio use his restaurant on Tuesdays, when it would otherwise be closed, was also a personal journey for him.

“I was concerned at first that this was women, women, women, but there’s a reason,” he said. “This helped me find my place in this women’s movement of today. In this new world that we live in I want to support a group of people in my community that are helping other people.”

At The Shed, which is now open Tuesdays from 10 AM to 4 PM for a $25 drop-in fee or $75 monthly rate, there is free Kobrick’s coffee, WiFi, printing and scanning courtesy of GeekHampton, and Estia’s food for purchase. Sag Harbor Florist is delivering fresh flowers weekly. There are private meeting rooms and seasonal indoor/outdoor workspaces. Shed members also get a card to use for promotions and discounts throughout the East End.

While it is for women only, Tremblay said there are plans in the future to host bring-your-partner and family events. The founders also hope to host mixers and other networking events, and even educational seminars with motivational speakers.

“The co-working space itself is for women only, but our greater community outreach will be more than that,” Tremblay said. “The only way to afford to live here is to have a side hustle. I think there’s a lot of women out there, and now we just have to reach them.”

desiree@indyeastend.com