You might consider Sonny Caberwal as somewhat of a social butterfly, and you’d be right to assume so. It’s kind of hard for him not to be one, considering he’s the owner and creator of Union Member House, a 900-member social club in Durham.
A Sikh who grew up in Asheboro, it was easy for people to see Caberwal as different. But, Caberwal says, “I can find common ground with almost anyone.”
Since he was a kid, Caberwal has shown a passion for putting people with common interests together. While attending Duke University, he’d commonly organize events and parties to help bring different kinds of people together in various social environments. That was only the start of it.
After moving around to New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and India, Caberwal, an entrepreneur, came back to Durham to open his fourth startup, Union Member House. The beautifully designed space, complete with plush couches, luxurious decorations and a bar, restaurant and lounge, provides a way for people in Durham and the surrounding Triangle area to facilitate meaningful connections with a diverse range of people.
“People can be their best sense of self through each other,” he said. “Helping people connect is an important mission that not only has benefits for individuals, but creates a lot of opportunities in our communities.”
To join Union Member House you must first pay a yearly fee of $250, about $20 a month. Caberwal purposefully made the price affordable in order to help create diversity within the space and to make it accessible by all. Next, members answer questions, much like a dating site, so the club can get to know you better, and discover what your interests are.
Union Member House uses the information you share with them to help make meaningful connections with other people they feel you’d get along with, create programming, show you some good times and give you a place to do good work. Programs include workshops, happy hours, book clubs, discussions, game nights, mindfulness sessions and dinners with strangers, where you literally go to a group dinner knowing no one.
Intimidating? Maybe. But Caberwal felt the need for a place like Union Member House for Durham and Triangle residents to have somewhere where they can connect and come together, especially in the age of the Internet and social media. Because while online communities can certainly bring people together, they can also make people feel very far away. “We all have more in common than we have differences, and sometimes it’s hard to see that when we engage through these online conversations,” he said.
Stephanie Angelini, 42, joined Union Member House shortly after moving to Raleigh from New York City in November, where she was a member of a social and networking club in Manhattan, as a way to meet like-minded people in her new home.
“I’ve made a handful of new friends at Union Member House and have met many interesting people,” she said. “But most of all it’s a cool little spot with a great, relaxed vibe in the heart of downtown Durham that has good food and great drinks where everyone is welcomed.”
With such a diverse population of members, it’s easy to find someone to connect with at Union Member House, whether it’s through a shared hobby, interest, or just the fact that you sat down next to each other during lunch. Members include both males and females, and a range of ages and ethnicities.
“The beauty of a club like this is the opportunity to meet people whose paths you might not cross otherwise in everyday life,” said Angelini said.
If you’re interested in meeting new people and being exposed to new things, Union Member House is worth checking out. It’s a gorgeous, inviting space where people from all over the Triangle can come together and engage in social activities, while allowing individuals to feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves.
To join Union Member House, visit unionmemberhouse.com