LOGAN SQUARE — Ampersand Co-Work, a co-working spot and event space, is shutting down at the end of the month, ending a four-year run on Logan Square’s Fullerton Avenue.
Owner Mary Nisi, who also runs the local DJ company Toast & Jam, is selling the building that houses both companies to a tech company, Nisi said. The tech company is taking over the co-working space, with plans to move in early next year, she said.
Ahead of the sale, Ampersand is not accepting any new members or booking anymore events. However, Toast & Jam, which operates on the second floor of the building at 3317 W. Fullerton Ave., will remain a tenant under the new ownership, Nisi said.
It was one of Ampersand’s members who approached Nisi about buying the building in October, Nisi said. She wouldn’t say how much the building is selling for or provide any details about the buyer because the deal hasn’t been finalized, but she said she will likely break even after years of making repairs to the building.
“We weren’t looking for this, but it was a great opportunity, and so I accepted,” Nisi said in an Instagram post last week. “While this is an exciting time, it is extremely bittersweet. I have spent the better part of the last decade putting my all into two successful businesses, and while I focus solely on Toast & Jam, it is hard to let Ampersand go. But onwards and upwards!”
Nisi and her husband, John Pirnat, bought the Logan Square building in spring 2017, thinking the top floor would be Toast & Jam’s headquarters and they’d rent out the bottom floor to another business, Nisi said. But taking her listing agent’s advice, Nisi decided instead to open a co-working spot on the ground floor.
Nisi wanted Ampersand to be different than other co-working spots in the city, which she felt had become too focused on happy hour kegs and foosball breaks.
“A lot of co-working spaces have a ‘bro-y’ atmosphere. It can be distracting and fratty,” Nisi said in 2017. “Our whole idea is to make this the ‘anti-bro’ co-working space.
Over the past four years, Ampersand became a community hub, an office for up 40 members and a venue for a range of neighborhood events, including “Broad City” watch parties which attracted Hannibal Buress himself. It was home to everyone from graphic designers and public relations professionals to an entrepreneur who helps run chicken farms in Ethiopia, providing a reflection of Logan Square at large, Nisi said.
“Everybody here is scrappy and hustling and figuring their stuff out — and not wanting to work out of their homes,” she said.
Ampersand and Toast & Jam took a big hit during the pandemic, but Nisi said she was able to make it through the crisis thanks to a line of credit, loans from the state and federal governments and generosity from members.
“When we shut down, I was like, ‘Can everybody just pay the next month’s membership? I’ll give you a month of credit down the line.’ That really helped us,'” she said.
With Ampersand closing, Nisi is refocusing on Toast & Jam, which is seeing a surge in business right now, she said. Nisi launched Toast & Jam in 2005.
Nisi said she’s looking for more DJs to work weddings and other events, particularly women, people of color and people who identify as LGTBQIA. No experience is necessary. She also plans to expand the business and launch an online DJ course and a podcast around DJing.
“Because of the pandemic, I had to start DJing again, which I realized I really love and I’m really good at it and I had forgotten about that,” she said. “I realized I have a lot more room to grow. I’m just recommitting to Toast & Jam and recognizing that’s where my passion lies.”
With about a month until move-out day, Nisi said she’s already nostalgic for the Ampersand community, which “brought some amazing creativity to the space.”
“I feel very good that we’re ending with our head held high, that I have no regrets, and that people are generally supportive and happy for us. I think that says a lot,” she said. “I wish it could keep going, but I also think it’s time to move on.”
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