Need office space?: Dixon business offers suite spots

Lance Schaefer (left) and Chance Munroe operate RiverWorks Coworking, a place where businesses and individuals can rent office space or even something as small as a desk and chair to get work done in a professional setting.

DIXON — Ever hear that old familiar reply when you call a business or organization: “I’m away from my desk right now, but if you’ll leave a message …” ?

But what do people do when they don’t have a desk to be away from?

Some of them go looking for office space, and they’ve found it in Dixon, at RiverWorks Coworking, a company where anyone who needs some office or meeting space can rent some – be they emerging entrepreneurs, a longtime business, social service organization, or anyone else who needs a professional place to stay on task.

It’s the kind of business that you probably wouldn’t have seen a lot of just a few years ago, but shifting trends in the workforce have put the business in demand – helped in no small part by a virus.

Coworking is a relatively recent concept in which people from different companies share a common office space. It predates COVID, but the business model began to really take off once the pandemic changed the way people do business.

People don’t necessarily work under one roof anymore; many are working under their own roof. Home offices have become extensions of our employers, where one-time office workers get the job done at home now.

But sometimes, you just need some space – office space, meeting space, a place to podcast. That’s where RiverWorks can help.

Dixon-based Everest Hospitality owns the business, along with another one like it in Madison, Wisconsin, where the operation did so well that owner Lance Schaefer decided the time was right to expand. That’s when he bought a building in Dixon, near the busy intersections of East Everett Street and Galena Avenue, and after nine months of renovations, RiverWorks Coworking opened in November 2021.

“The experience of opening [the Madison] office led to the idea that something like that could work here in Dixon,” Schaefer said. “It really depended on the right location and building. When this building became available, it was a good fit. With remote work becoming more and more popular, and with startups and with people deciding to go out on their own, it seemed like this concept fit that pretty closely.”

Two floors of space are available, both with dedicated office suites as well as stand-alone desk-and-chair pods (called “flex desks”). Offices are furnished with desks and chairs, and clients have access to high-speed internet and wi-fi service, faxing, copiers, printers, shredders and office supplies. There’s even a cafe-style break room with coffee and kitchenware provided.

Of the suites, 20 are furnished with three desks and a flex-style chairs, and there’s a larger, team office with five full desks and a pair of smaller ones. Nearly 15 businesses occupied RiverWorks’ spaces at the end of September.

The building also has a 14-chair conference room with tables, an 85-inch monitor and speaker set-up for computer presentations, and a tiered lighting system. The conference room has been used by several local business and social service organizations.

Overseeing the Dixon operation is Chance Munroe, the Dixon office’s community manager. It’s a position that encompasses tasks big and small, from keeping supplies stocked to handling rental arrangements and managing utility bills. His job is to make client’s jobs go off without a hitch. Keeping things running smoothly helps clients focus on the work they came there to do, and that can go a long way in helping them succeed in their business, Munroe said.

“They’re investing into that rather than going out and getting into a brick-and-mortar and setting up all of the utilities,” Munroe said. “It gives people who aren’t ready to make that jump to their own brick-and-mortar and running their own facilities an opportunity to grow.”

RiverWorks draws a mix of clients: professionals who need a place to meet, people from outside of town looking for some conference space, a business that’s being remodeled and needs some temporary office space, people running a home business who need a break from distractions at home.

“We have a lot of social services here, a lot of therapists and counselors,” Munroe said. “They all really enjoy it because it’s a nice and quiet setting.”

Leases are monthly, with discounted rates for arrangements of more than six months.

“We have a variety of different types of people who are working here,” Schaefer said. “We have startups, where someone has a business idea but doesn’t know how it’s going to go, but they’ll give it a shot. You’ve got small businesses where they’re just a one- or two-person office and the space works perfect. You’ve got remote workers who may have started at home, but are like, ‘I got to get some stuff done here.’ They’ll come in maybe three or four days a week for a set period of time, whenever they like, and it’s a place where they can just settle down and get things done without distractions.”

RiverWorks also has a room where podcasts can be produced. Seating is available for two or three people, with two quality microphones and a top-of-the-line Rodecaster production board inside, and a red-colored “on air” light outside the studio door. Rates are hourly, with a four-hour discounted rate available.

Podcasts’ popularity have increased in recent years, and both Munroe and Schaefer see a lot of potential in the medium’s ability to share information.

“I’ve been pushing to try to get more people to utilize it,” Munroe said. “It’s an education process. It’s a pretty new thing to this area, and most of the people who are already into that already have their own setup, so it’s trying to get them to come here to see if ours is on par, or better, than what they are using.”

Need some help? Podcasting 101 sessions are offered once a month to help people become better acquainted with it.

“The challenge for us is to try to get people who have toyed with the idea of podcasting,” Schaefer said. “We’ve found ways to get some sort of training going on, or get someone paired with someone to show them how it works, and take it from there.”

It’s all part of the company’s goal of giving people the space they need to succeed.

“What we do with our space is to pull a lot of things together to help someone grow and take it to the next level,” Schaefer said.

Cody Cutter

Cody Cutter

These days, Cody Cutter primarily writes for Sauk Valley Media's "Living" magazines and specialty publications in northern Illinois, including the monthly "Lake Lifestyle" magazine for Lake Carroll. He also covers sports and news on occasion; he has covered high school sports in northern Illinois for 20 years in online and print formats.