There are many ways to describe W@tercooler, the cool new co-working space in the heart of Tarrytown, but owner Jenifer Ross describes it best. “It’s the loft you’ve never had, part office, part coffee shop, part lounge, a swank kind of space.”
Ross is right on all accounts. The spacious second-floor space at 21 North Broadway in the heart of the town is certainly comfortable, with its hand-carved settee, ornate desk lamps, books galore and wall paintings that change on a monthly basis. This month’s exhibit features the work of local artist Lynda Fassa.
But what’s most important, said Ross, is that the space is more organized than the average home office, giving independent workers the chance to be inspired and to work collaboratively with other like-minded professionals.
A native of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Ross moved to Tarrytown 14 years ago in search of a quieter place where she and husband Tom Schumacher could raise their two children. Having spent several years in New York City as a project manager, Ross, who has a bachelor’s degree in fine art and business from Skidmore College, decided to open an art space in Tarrytown, calling it the Red Wing Gallery.
Following her stint as a gallery owner, she went on to establish the town’s now familiar Tarrytown Third Friday initiative, a monthly downtown arts/culture/commerce event, and served as a consultant for Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow’s land portion of the annual inter-community Ferry Go Round event produced by the Ginsburg Development Companies. Other jobs that Ross has held include director of development for the Warner Library, downtown coordinator of the Sleepy Hollow Downtown Revitalization Corporation and consultant to Kirkwood Spiro Marketing Communications, a Montville, N.J. company.
As if that weren’t enough to accomplish in a lifetime, Ross wanted more. While having coffee with a colleague one day in town, both working on their laptops, she thought about the possibility of finding a better, more conducive, place to work as a freelancer. She had heard of co-working facilities in the city for writers, but didn’t think there was anything similar in Westchester. “I started floating the idea around Tarrytown, and I think that because people knew I was the kind of person who could get things done and I already had a good track record, the idea seemed to stick.”
A whiz at project management, Ross, who holds a master’s degree in architectural preservation, handily turned what was once a Taekwondo studio, complete with venetian blinds and fluorescent lighting, into a fully functional space suitable for independent workers. That includes an open work area that can serve between 10 and 12 people, a kitchen and a conference room.
While the renovation was the easy part, Ross found it difficult to convince people about the merits of co-working. “It wasn’t just about selling the business idea, it was about teaching people about the concept of co-working and how it works,” she added.
A year after opening the business, the idea of co-working, at least in the Tarrytown area, seems to have taken off, with a variety of clients using the space in several different ways. Ross offers a number of plans and payment options, which include WiFi, light printing, faxing and scanning, as well as coffee. W@tercooler members get some additional benefits, including the use of an intern, once-a-week yoga classes, and a co-working “visa” that can be used in other area co-working spaces.
Some clients may want to use the space for a day or even an hour, noted Ross. Others can opt for “5 desk days” or five hours of conference room time, and yet others can become “community members,” giving them unlimited desk days and four hours of conference room use. For creative types, W@tercooler is particularly beneficial, giving them access to other like-minded people and the kind of collaboration that wouldn’t happen in one’s home office, explained Ross.
In true entrepreneurial spirit, Ross, a Sleepy Hollow resident, is expanding her business in other directions, too. Currently she has three different initiatives in place, including an internship program that partners with Sleepy Hollow High and the EF International Academy in Tarrytown, the W@tercooler Advantage Program (WAP), which provides W@tercooler members with a myriad of valuable discounts from various merchants in town, and a program called “Unemployed Mondays,” which will give job seekers free desks for the day.
“I really wanted to create a lifestyle business, the kind of place where you could work but still stay connected to your life,” explained Ross, who admits that it’s not uncommon for her children to stop by to do homework after school or for the family dog to pay a quick visit.
The facility is becoming quite the place for networking groups, non-profit organizations and writers groups. It even caters to evening gatherings and workshops that cover everything from social media topics to self-publishing. “I’ve found that people really take ownership when they belong here,” said Ross. “There’s a real feeling of family, community and connectivity that takes place here.”
Upcoming events at W@tercooler include a free day of co-working on June 7 in conjunction with two other area co-working groups, the BeaHive in Beacon and The Inc. in Hastings, and a special one-year anniversary Speakeasy party on June 9.
Other upcoming events at W@tercooler can be found on the events page of the company website (www.watercoolerhub.com). For more information on W@tercooler’s membership plans, or to book the facility for a meeting, party, workshop or small gathering, call (914) 332-1400.