When it comes to offering a jaw-dropping work environment for tech-savvy coders and marketers, Baltimore’s Groove has their stake firmly planted as the place to be. This award-winning young company stuns in a newly renovated factory building where wood beams and exposed brick harmonize with modern furnishings and vibrant colors. But CEO Ethan Giffin said their space hasn’t always been a true reflection of their brand.
Since its founding in 2007, Groove has changed addresses four times, struggling with slanted floors that sent chairs rolling away, loud heating and cooling systems that made phone calls nearly impossible and cheap furniture that failed to deliver on comfort or function.
“We always took someone else’s second-hand space and just repainted it. But I’ve always been very interior design oriented, and I knew that our space was the one thing that was missing to push us to the next level,” said Ethan.
Groove struggled to find a balance between the open floor plan the team wanted for collaboration and the quiet spaces they needed to focus and strategize. Knowing that putting up walls would limit group interaction, Ethan spent his weekends contemplating modern office furniture, trying to discern which gaps needed to be filled in order to make a bad situation better.
“Physically getting everything ordered, scheduling deliveries and then unboxing everything from [a large chain retailer] was so painful. I was in the office trying to arrange furniture on Saturday and Sunday, only to find they sent me the wrong stuff. It was just painful. But at that time, I thought it was the only option for my budget.”
That perspective changed the night Ethan reconnected with Todd Ghattas, an old friend who just happened to own “I knew that our space was the one thing that was missing to push us to the next level.” hyperspace, the Steelcase dealership in Baltimore. Todd began showing Ethan workspace options from turnstone and used Steelcase research to teach him the science behind great spaces.
“Once I connected with Todd, I started reading recent issues of 360 magazines and realized there are all kinds of workstyles: there are people who like to be social and still work, people who like to have whiteboards handy, people who like the quiet. We tried to design this space to address all of those needs—and more,” said Ethan.
This educational approach, coupled with a trip to Steelcase Global Headquarters in Grand Rapids, Michigan, proved to be a turning point in Groove’s office evolution. Coordinated by hyperspace and hosted by Jeff Schutte, turnstone’s Director of Sales, the trip gave Groove leadership the opportunity to see, touch and fully experience the impact of great workspaces on employee wellbeing and productivity.
“When I went to turnstone, I saw someone working at a treadmill desk. I literally couldn’t believe it. I thought, What kind of place is this?! Even Mack, my VP who came along, was shocked. That image of working where you want, and not necessarily at a desk, really stuck with me,” he shared. “That’s one thing I learned in Grand Rapids and from the Steelcase research I was reading—that it’s ok to seek out the kind of environment you need to be productive.”
Upon returning to Baltimore, Ethan had his hands full. He had just leased an old factory building (now Groove’s current home) and was quickly discovering the enormous amount of work left to do to transform the space. At that time, the floors were dirt, trash was strewn everywhere and much of what was standing required demolition.Luckily, with Todd’s help, turnstone’s design planning services and months of dedicated work, plans for a new Groove began to take shape
“This space shows what can happen when clients and dealers trust each other and really work together with The duo rejected initial designs for cubicles and turned their attention to the concept of an interconnected workplace equipped with collaborative work tables. Because the Grand Rapids visit had brought the concept of “I” and “we” spaces to life, Ethan and Todd intentionally planned for private areas, small group collaboration spaces and breakout rooms that offered separation by incorporating a modern lounge furniture environment.
“Now, people can’t believe it when they come in here. Their mouths drop open. Our goal was to put people tightly together for collaboration but provide breakouts for thinking and privacy. The building we’re in now is as much a reflection of what to do as what not to do.”
Todd agreed. “There was literally nothing here, so hyperspace was able to do what we do best. It makes me really proud that people are so overwhelmed with this space because it shows what can happen when clients and dealers trust each other and really work together with open minds.”
Aside from providing a gorgeous workspace for his team, Ethan says their new headquarters have completely transformed the culture of Groove. Now free lunches, happy hour, movie nights and office hangouts are the norm. In fact, their space is listed as a perk for job candidates!
Equally important to Ethan is that the era of meeting clients for lunch down the street has officially ended.
“I bought into the idea that space matters. I want to put out amazing work, win awards and hire great people, so I was willing to commit unequivocally to do whatever it took. I went all in. Now, we’re closing 75-80 percent of our business when we can get them into our space. Our clients realize that if we think this much about where we work, we’ll give the same attention to detail when it comes to their business.”