IRVING PARK — For a timeshare, the property at 4318 W. Irving Park Road is lacking in a number of the usual amenities — namely a beach or anything remotely resort-like.
Then again, this is no ordinary timeshare.
From 9 a.m. til 1 p.m., Cara Pollard operates the storefront as Away We Play, awash in tots under the age of 3. In the late afternoon to early evening, Scott Barbeau transforms the space into UpBeat Music and Arts, which offers group music lessons to kids ages 7 to 17.
It's an unusual approach to small business ownership, made all the more unique by the fact that Pollard and Barbeau had never met prior to becoming partners of sorts.
"It's not like we sat down together and created a business plan," said Pollard.
The pair were introduced by a mutual friend who knew both were looking for a place to hang their respective hats, but didn't necessarily need to occupy a building 9-to-5.
"I called Scott and said, 'This is going to sound crazy. Would you ever want to share space?' He said, 'You don't sound crazy,'" Pollard recalled. "It was just meant to be."
After that initial phone call this spring, Pollard hit the real estate trail and secured the Irving Park location by July.
The arrangement came together so quickly "we didn't even talk about rules and guidelines," said Barbeau.
It helps that while their businesses are completely separate, they're also eminently compatible. Neither demands a permanent set-up of furnishings, and their equipment easily fits into a storage nook.
Away We Play, which Pollard founded five years ago and previously ran out of the Menomonee Drucker Center in Lincoln Park, provides a creative play and learning environment for children ages 6 months to 3 years. Classes range from sensory development for the youngest learners to pre-preschool for the oldest, with a heavy emphasis on music.
Barbeau, who makes a living as a member of the popular '80s cover band Sixteen Candles, teaches beginning, intermediate and advanced guitar and piano. UpBeat also offers summer camps for budding musicians.
The similarity in their services enables the two to cross-promote their businesses among the older and younger siblings of their students.
"For us, being small business owners can be a challenge, you're doing everything yourself," said Barbeau. "She's my best advocate."
Having a shoulder to lean on during city inspections or "dark" days when only one person shows up for class is an added bonus, according to Pollard.
"Scott coming into my life is like a shining star," she said.
Barbeau concurred: "We're not just co-leasers, we support each other."
Being open-minded, flexible and respectful have been key to the pair's successful co-existence, he said, as well as a shared mindset.
"I think we're both community driven and oriented. There's goodness in this business," said Barbeau. "We have a holistic view of children connected to the community."
His emphasis on group classes allows his students to challenge and inspire each other, he said, while also giving him with the opportunity to impart life lessons, like the importance of treating a less-talented student with kindness.
"It's everything you'd find in a mentoring program," said Barbeau.
For her part, Pollard is studying to become a certified parent coach, a role that will have her providing parents with strategies and tools to deal with family challenges, such as the introduction of a new sibling.
"Sometimes you don't need therapy, you just need a plan," she explained.
"I believe I'm meant to do this. It's the same with Cara," said Barbeau. "Everyone has their cause. It's about having the confidence that you're doing what you believe in."