Win This Space winner Jess Bommarito


Mar. 29 – Jess Bommarito has no trouble describing the moment she was crowned the winner of Norfolk County’s first ever ‘Win This Space’ contest.

“I was on my way to my full-time job knowing that this could happen but it also might not happen so I was preparing myself for that,” Bommarito said. “To hear Kayla’s voice say ‘you won’, my mind was literally blown in that moment.”

Norfolk senior planner Kayla DeLeye’s words meant a complete career change for Bommarito. After receiving free rent for a year to house a business at 56 Norfolk St. South in Simcoe, she left her gig and poured her heart into ‘Groundswell Coworking’.

Groundswell allows entrepreneurs a chance to work remotely and be surrounded by fellow small business owners in downtown Simcoe. Memberships can be purchased monthly, weekly or even daily.

Win This Space is an initiative of the Norfolk County Urban Renewal Partnership Project. Its objective was to fill at least one empty downtown space, assist an emerging entrepreneur and add to the revitalization of downtown Simcoe. A total of 22 applications were submitted and judged on criteria such as creativity and uniqueness, relevance to downtown, and market need.

“It was amazing working with Jess,” said Chris Garwood, Norfolk County economic development supervisor. “A business like this gives us not just one location but potentially many. This is a space for small businesses and ultimately what we’re hoping is that they move into their own space as they grow. This was a perfect fit.”

Groundswell hosted an open house Mar. 27 to much fanfare. On hand were a number of users – photographers, graphic designers, filmmakers and software developers among them.

Groundswell Coworking open house

“The reception has been absolutely amazing,” Bommarito said.

“People that already knew what we were doing and have been inspired by the idea have been so supportive from the start. Our members jumped on board before we even had desks in the building – we had people signing up for memberships before it even existed. Now that we’re here we have so much interest from the community.”

Bommarito said that even folks who can’t utilize the space see its benefit to a blossoming downtown. She describes the feeling in the core as a “party” atmosphere.

“There’s so many places popping up, not just us,” she said. “That plus the individual brilliance of all our members, it’s like having 25 businesses in one shop. They’re all here, they all have ideas and they’re all excited.”

That’s music to Garwood’s ears as Norfolk aims to add forward-thinking individuals onto its business roster.

“Right now we’re looking at the empty store registry,” Garwood said. “We’re identifying all the empty stores here in the county with a view of having them filled. With this opportunity in the downtown, it’s perfect.”

Jess Bommarito and Haldimand-Norfolk MP Diane Finley

For more information on Win This Space, log onto