Second to None moving headquarters to ex-Sweet Lorraine's in Ann Arbor's Kerrytown
Lon Horwedel | AnnArbor.com
One of Kerrytown’s most visible building vacancies will be filled this winter when an Ann Arbor-based company that measures consumer satisfaction moves into the Marketplace building.
Second to None will move into the lower level, bringing its corporate headquarters back to downtown.
The lease, signed at the end of summer, ends the run of restaurants that filled the space, starting with Sweet Lorriane’s when the building was built in 1990.
For Second to None, the deal also ends a search for new office space that started in January, owner Jeff Hall said.
That search was focused on downtown spaces of 5,000 to 8,000 square feet.
“One of our big criteria was a unique space,” Hall said.
By choosing the lower level, it will get that unique feel, thanks to the location of the space between the historic part of the building and newer portion, which creates varying ceiling heights and other characteristics.
And because all remnants of the restaurants were removed, Hall will get to essentially start from scratch to create the atmosphere he’s looking for.
The company is working with building owner MAV Development, Hobbs + Black architects and Facility Matrix Group to design the space in the building shell that spans the lower level under both the historic and new parts of the building. About 90 percent of the design plan in complete.
The vision was aided by MAV’s decision over the summer to take the space down to a shell, taking out all signs of the space’s former life as various Ann Arbor restaurants, most notably Sweet Lorraine’s.
How it will end up looking is what Hall describes as “an industrial chic urban loft kind of feel.”
Materials will link to the essence of the Farmer’s Market via the use of reclaimed wood, and Michigan-made office furniture and products will be used to outfit the new space. Eco-friendly products and design also will play a big role in the outcome.
“We’re moving from a nature-oriented focus to a bit more of a historic district kind of feel,” Hall said. The space, he added, “really lends itself to something creative.”
Second to None grew in Ann Arbor as national retailers sought the company’s services to learn more about their in-store performance and their customers.
Founded in the mid-1980s, it’s a business that’s changing, as the business’s traditional “mystery shopper” services for retailers now is equal to its customer satisfaction division.
The efforts are distinctly different, Hall said. The mystery shopper gives a highly detailed report on visits to a single location. The customer satisfaction reporting uses toll-free survey numbers handed out to customers on receipts or via emails to customers, gathering data about their experience and whether they’d shop there again.
Customers are national companies like Starbucks, Staples, Krispy Kreme and Converse.
The company expanded from its first office in Nickels Arcade near the University of Michigan Diag, where it operated in less than 100 square feet.
It moved to other offices over time, including a historic building East Ann Street, near the Washtenaw County Annex, and to South State Street at Liberty, in space previously occupied by Ideation.
But about a decade ago, the company moved to Forest Cove, the office park next to M-14 at Miller Road.
“That was primarily driven by the need to provide parking for 65 employees,” Hall said.
That space, at 12,000 square feet, provided the type of presence the company needed for its national corporate clients, and the setting capitalized on the adjacent Botsford Nature Preserve.
But the firm’s space needs changed over time as the type of work requires fewer people on-site in the Second to None office, Hall said.
“Our business systems have matured to the point where the majority of employees are home-based,” Hall said. “That freed us up to consider coming back downtown.”
The company employs about 60 people, with half planning to make the move to the new office and the others working from home.
The size of the new office is at the lower end of the initial target, but Hall says that won’t be an issue. Telecommuting will be an option for all employees, and growth likely won’t hinge on having to provide desks for staff because they’ll be able to work from elsewhere.
The move to the new office should take place by the end of the year, Hall said, though early January is possible.
Work will continue next spring, when work on the lower-level courtyard -- once the most visible entrance to the restaurants that occupied the space -- begins to turn the space into a retreat for employees.
The entrance to the office, meanwhile, will shift to the center of the building, between the historic offices on one side and the Marketplace on the other.
The fit for the building - which is now 100 percent leased - is perfect, says Jeff Harshe of MAVD.
“Second to None is an Ann Arbor success story and a national success story,” he said. “We’re happy to have them here.”
Paula Gardner is business news director of AnnArbor.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2586.