Ten months ago we were in the same trap that most small business owners find themselves in: our lease on our Corktown HQ was ending in 2021 and we’d either have to move to another building or renegotiate our lease terms. Since Ford and other companies have moved to Corktown there has been an explosion in both commercial and residential rent prices. Last year our building was put up for sale by our landlord making our future entirely unclear.
(If you haven’t been following along, it’s a good idea to read the prior post right here.)
This is when I started searching for a forever home so we could put down serious roots. Since founding our company in 2011 we’ve moved our entire operation every 2-5 years, packing up everything we own, disassembling our bus garage, changing our address, and saying goodbye to the neighbors we’ve met along the way.
This is no way to build a durable business. It’s no coincidence that the oldest businesses in a neighborhood generally own their buildings. If you don’t know where your home will be in a few years you’re generally just visiting a neighborhood rather than staying. I knew if I wanted to build a thriving business that would outlive me we’d need a proper home.
So we bought a building. A very big, old building. 55,000 sq/ft of it.
Our new home used to be an envelope factory for the last 50 years that employed tons of hardworking people running machines, filling orders, making plates, moving ink, and so much more. They used to make millions of custom envelopes for everyone from AT&T to the National Park Service to the Waldorf Astoria hotel in NYC. They’d also make just a few for very small businesses both here and abroad. The factory closed a few years ago due to a number of reasons: the owner, the son of the original founder, passed away. The machines were too old to compete with modern digital presses. Time marches on.
But much like Detroit and cars this building has made other important things before it was known for making envelopes. Before envelopes it made mattresses. Before mattresses it made car parts as Lear Siegler. The west warehouse was built by Link-Belt who made cranes, conveyors, and tractor treads. These old bricks don’t exist to just make envelopes – they exist to shelter work and innovation.
Today begins our journey to restore this beautiful old building to a new glory. We’ll preserve as much of the building as possible while preparing it to thrive for another 100 years. We’ll employ Detroit-based labor, sustainable practices, and good design to make a healthy, nurturing environment.
We’ll also be inviting other Detroit-based innovators, creators, makers, and doers to share our home with us. It’s critical to us that our new development is diverse, inclusive and equitable not only for our future residents but also for our neighbors, our builders, our investors, and our young.
We’ll keep you updated on our progress as we go along. If you’d like to get updates emailed directly to you about renting space and investing, sign up for our infrequent mailer by clicking here.
Here’s to a solid future together.