The Shaker Heights Development Corporation (SHDC) and the Economic Community Development Institute (ECDI) have partnered to create The Dealership, a co-working, event and office hub that will be unveiled to the community this Thursday, Dec. 1, from 4 to 7 p.m. during the “Dealership Debut" at its location, 3558 Lee Road. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is encouraged.
The innovative new space will offer its members short- or long-term office space rental amid 16 offices and a co-working area for up to 50 members. They will also have access to lighting-speed fiber optic Internet and will be able to host meetings in three conference/training rooms. The facility will be available to them around the clock.
As for the ECDI partnership, SHDC sought out to find an organization with a proven track record to operate the co-work space and conduct programming.
"We talked with a handful of qualified potential partners and ECDI rose to the top of the list," says SHDC Executive Director Nick Fedor, adding that they maintain a consistent presence at The Dealership, with ECDI's marketing and communications coordinator Alexis Coffey staffing the space five days a week. The organization's relationship managers and trainers also work out of the iconic Lee Road building on a regular basis.
Known as the largest non-profit economic development organization in the state, ECDI will provide The Dealership's members with services addressing all stages of business development. That includes training, one-on-one technical assistance, advice regarding networking events and access to capital services.
"To my knowledge," says Fedor, "there isn't another co-working space in the region that is operated by a small business lending and technical assistance provider such as ECDI."
And ECDI's track record spells success. It has provided more than $35 million in startup or expansion capital to small businesses in Ohio since its 2004 inception. With the organization’s help, more than 1,680 loans have been disbursed to innovative entrepreneurs over that time, creating or retaining 6,100 jobs in Ohio.
Fedor believes ECDI’s partnership will benefit future tenants and Shaker’s business community at large. He adds that the early response to the venture has been strong, with more than half of the office tenants remaining when the property transitioned earlier this year from LaunchHouse to The Dealership.
"Since then, two new office tenants have leased space and three new co-work members have joined," says Fedor. "There is a robust pipeline of potential office tenants and co-work members."
Of the transition, he adds that continuing to provide a flexible office solution and co-work space for entrepreneurs and small businesses in Shaker was important. The move has also included some freshening up in the funky space, with updates such as new furniture, interior paint colors, a new coffee bar and an entrepreneurship resource library provided by the Shaker Library.
The SHDC-ECDI partnership’s dedication to the area’s business community will be on full display at the Dealership Debut event. Shaker Heights businesses that met a Nov. 15 deadline will compete in a pitch contest, presented by Huntington Bank. The most convincing entrepreneur will receive a $2,500 first-place prize. Second place will receive $500.
The Dealership’s name plays on the building’s history as the former site of the old Zalud Oldsmobile dealership.
"The name came from a brainstorming session," says Fedor. "We hired the branding and design firm Little Jacket to develop the branding and they did a great job. We are very happy with their work."
The venture is part of the effort to revitalize Shaker’s Moreland District as an emerging neighborhood in the city and region.
"A vibrant co-working hub is important to SHDC's broader vision for the Chagrin-Lee commercial district," says Fedor. "The Dealership provides a jumping off point for small businesses and entrepreneurs to start – and hopefully grow – their businesses into other buildings on Lee Road and in Shaker."
The City of Shaker Heights and ECDI are both members of Fresh Water's underwriting support network.
Erin O'Brien contributed to this article.