Originally published Wednesday, February 6, 2019 in the Wilmette Beacon
By: Alexa Burnell, Freelance Reporter
More than 100 guests came out in the snow and cold to celebrate the five-year anniversary of CoWorkers on Jan. 19, recognizing a local business that has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception, while contributing to the economic and social health of the Village.
Founded by Wilmette residents George Rafeedie and Mike Chookaszian, the business was first created to give locals a place to work when not heading to the city, or those seeking to free themselves from the distractions of the home office. But, it didn’t take long for these entrepreneurial spirits to develop creative ways for the CoWorkers space to be utilized, soon becoming a community center of sorts.
“On any given work week, you can see about 30-40 people consistently come in and out of CoWorkers, using the space as it was first originally intended — to work,” Rafeedie said. “But, CoWorkers is not only alive during business hours. On a regular basis, there are community groups and residents who meet outside of the 9am-5pm work hours, benefitting the entire Village. Just think, during the day, business lunches are often scheduled at Valley Lodge or Napolita. During the evenings, happy hours are often held at Nicks or one of the wine shops. Not only is CoWorkers earning a reputation for a great place to work, but CoWorkers brings increased traffic downtown, quickly becoming the economic engine of the Village.”
With the purpose of CoWorkers quickly evolving and earning a reputation around town as the best place for space, Wilmette’s Claire Hoppenworth, a CoWorkers member is working alongside Rafeedie, opening the doors even further, by offering space to book clubs, fantasy football groups, guest speakers and more. Over the past few months alone, CoWorkers has hosted a variety of community events, allowing residents like Beata Kirr — head of private client core strategies for Bernstein Wealth Management — to host a lecture about women and finance. For her, having access to event space near home, hosted by people who want her to have a great experience, is priceless.
“CoWorkers was a wonderful space for a conversation I led on the topic of Women & Money. [George and Claire] thought of every detail and created an engaging environment, where much great conversation ensued. Everyone that attended walked away more informed and empowered, and enjoyed terrific food care of Napolita as well,” Kirr said. “CoWorkers is a terrific space to host a work or personal event.”
Beyond providing valuable space for a variety of work and personal events, business relationships often blossom among those who use the space regularly.
“Yes, CoWorkers allows people to achieve that work-life balance, by providing professional office space,” Rafeedie said. “But, CoWorkers is so much more than that. I cannot tell you how much work occurs between members. Think about it, we have professionals from all walks of life, sharing space to work, and inevitably friendships form, people learn about each other’s line of work and new business start to get to done. For example, I myself have turned to people within CoWorkers to enlist their services, because I have developed relationships with them, seen how they operate and know I can trust the person who is working alongside me, in their own area of expertise. This happens frequently around CoWorkers.”
With all this booming business, it was no surprise the Jan. 19 anniversary party was a lively, vibrant event that started at CoWorkers and ended at Napolita with food, drinks and dancing. Local businesses like Backyard Barbecue and The Bottle Shop, provided treats during the pre-party and local band, the Dew Droppers, played, honoring a homegrown business that is committed to keeping the economic engine chugging along for years to come.