Listen To This Post
When it comes to taking advice on her new business, for Sara Witt — founder of Lincoln Square’s forthcoming co-working space, cafe and child play center Itsy Bitsy Play & Cafe — there’s one person whose opinion rises above all the rest: her 10-year-old son.
“He actually came up for the name for my for my business — he’s like my little partner, advising me on a lot of things,” Witt said. “I’m really excited to be doing this venture because my kids are so invested in it. We have a lot of energy towards it.”
It makes sense that Witt would listen carefully to her children’s input. After all, they represent the demographic that could prove to be her most influential customer: The bulk of the Itsy Bitsy’s 3,200-square-foot space, situated at the ground floor of a newly-built condo building at 4210 North Western Avenue, will be devoted to little ones.
Itsy Bitsy will be the kind of place Witt wishes had existed when she herself first became a work-from-home mom. She’d struggled to work undistracted for even a few hours at a time while being at home with her son, but she also didn’t want to be too far away from him. Indoor play spaces offered room for him to play, but didn’t have anywhere for parents to work. Babysitters could help but were inconsistent, and the distractions that came with working from home remained. Daycare was expensive, and Witt wanted still wanted to be in close proximity with her son.
“I’m thinking of the young parent like myself, who maybe wasn’t ready to being that far away from my child,” Witt said. “You’re wanting them to be close but also wanting flexibility, with set time to focus for a few hours.”
At Itsy Bitsy, flexibility will be the core of its business model. Parents will be able to purchase monthly memberships that cover reservations in one of the space’s 10 private rooms for three-hour blocks, with tiers for two, three or five days a week (prices are still pending). While parents work, their children will be guided by staff in enrichment activities like art, music and yoga, or will romp around with others in a playroom with a CedarWorks playset and custom houses by Lilput Playhomes. The children will likely be given snacks — all nut-free, to avoid allergy issues — while parents will get free coffee at the venue’s on-site cafe, which will be open to the public. The cafe will serve coffee and espresso drinks by Groundswell Coffee Roasters as well as prepackaged sandwiches, chips and other items.
Activities at Itsy Bitsy won’t be limited to the workweek. On the weekends, Witt plans to offer open play at the play center in the mornings and reservations for birthday parties in the afternoon, with discounts for members. A big fan of birthday celebrations,Witt is looking forward to spreading the joy by creating space for them at Itsy Bitsy. They even worked their way into the business’s motto, “Play, Work, Celebrate.”
“I love how birthdays are a person’s own special holiday, and I think it’s just so much fun,” she said. “Kids are this reminder that we can enjoy and celebrate those moments.”
Besides providing a place for parents to work, kids to play and everyone to celebrate, Witt hopes to establish a sense of community within Itsy Bitsy as well as among parents in the neighborhood. Not having any family of her own in Chicago, she knows the value of making connections with other parents.
“I really want to be a part of the community as a place for parents of young children to come and meet other parent and find resources for them to lean on,” she said. “Building community has been really important to me in raising my children.”
Itsy Bitsy plans to launch sometime this fall or winter. Interested parents (or kids) can sign up for updates on its website.
This article has been updated with Itsy Bitsy’s official address.