Anybody who’s anybody in the up-and-coming Charleston tech industry knows that it’s OK to drink beer in the office after, like, 2 p.m.
That’s the main thing we took away from a recent whirlwind tour of the Holy City’s swankiest office spaces, many of which featured complimentary bars for their employees.
With the advent of Dig South upon us, including today’s Space Walk tour of offices, we thought it would be a good time to scope out our city’s most compelling variations on the boring old cubicle.
These offices made us envious. They gave us ideas to pitch to our bosses. They made us want to bring our dogs to work.
Photos by Jonathan Boncek
What They Do: Web-based software for real estate professionals
Address: 635 Rutledge Ave.
Number of Employees: 127
In 2013, Outside magazine named BoomTown the No. 32 best place to work in the country — and for good reason. Between twice-a-week ultimate frisbee sessions in Hampton Park, lunchtime yoga, and a widely adopted bring-your-dog-to-work policy, it’s hard to imagine when they ever come back inside to get work done.
Will Munce, BoomTown’s talent coordinator, said the idea was to “eradicate the Sunday blues” and keep people from dreading the office when the company moved into a renovated grocery store downtown. The vibe is inviting and casual, with several lounge areas, indoor and outdoor showers for lunchtime exercisers, a back patio, a dog park, and — of course — a complimentary bar with a rotating selection of beers on tap.
What They Do: Design, marketing, and digital branding
Address: 301-B King St.
Number of Employees: 12
It makes sense that the designers would work in the most gorgeous office on our tour. Thoughtful details abound in architect Kevan Hoerfdoerfer’s design, a renovated attic loft of what used to be Granny’s Goodies. Exposed rafter beams cast shadows from the ample sunlight that streams in through the windows of a third-floor deck, exposed brick meets sleek white lines, and wavy corrugated-metal forms hang from the ceiling.
Works by local artists including Patch Whisky, Marius Valdes, Kevin Taylor, and John Pundt adorn the walls. Woodworker Bryan Deel crafted the tables and seats on the upper deck.
Looking at the decor, one thing’s for sure: These people are serious movie buffs. Backlit film cells grace the entryway and stairwell (we spotted one from Bottle Rocket on the way in), and the salvaged-wood bar in the kitchen area is modeled after the one in The Shining where Jack Nicholson’s character orders a drink from Lloyd the ghost-bartender. Creepy or cool? Both.
SIB Development & Consulting
What They Do: Expense auditing and cost-reduction consulting
Address: 796 Meeting St.
Number of Employees: 50
Dan Schneider, CEO of SIB, was something of a kid prodigy when he went into business at age 18, so it made sense that he would make a few playful decisions when he moved out of rented space on lower Meeting Street and built his own office in a renovated car dealership garage near the northern end of town. “People were thinking I was a lunatic,” Schneider says of the move toward the Neck, an area quickly overcoming a stigma of crime and industrial sprawl.
The office features a dog park and an electric car charging station. Schneider is a fan of good food, so he included a commercial kitchen and hired chef de cuisine Jordan Marhoefer, a veteran of the Holy City F&B scene, to cook lunch and snacks for the staff every day. Out back, the office shares a few picnic tables with Edmund’s Oast, the hip new brewpub that has become a favorite after-work hangout for SIBers. Overhead in the sleekly redesigned office, a Big Ass Fan (actual brand name) help everyone keep their cool.
Oh yeah, and there’s one big perk: If you stay with the company for at least five years, you get a $50,000 lump-sum bonus. No strings attached.
Flagship and Flagship2
What They Do: Incubate startup companies
Address: 475 East Bay St.
Number of Tenants: About 100, working for 30 companies
This pair of city-supported co-working spaces has helped launch many a successful tech venture, including PhishLabs, the now-massive People Matter (see their much-hyped King Street office below), and Good Done Great. For a reasonable price, you and a business partner can rent a workspace by the month, log on to the free WiFi, and be up and running just as quickly as you can code, sell, or graphic-design.
Flagship and Flagship2, housed in a renovated Blockbuster and TV station, respectively, are sparsely appointed on the inside, but with helpful details. There are private rooms for taking cell phone calls, conference rooms for meeting with clients, and big windows that let in ample sunlight. Another major attraction is CODEcamp, an entry-level course in web basics and GitHub that the Charleston Digital Corridor offers in a classroom at FS2. Startups in the office spaces have been known to recruit workers from the class.
Jeff Whitehead, a veteran of the Silicon Valley tech boom, says Flagship2 was ideal for his startup UBL Interactive. He planted his company on the second floor just over a month ago with three employees. “I came in here, plugged in, and was productive from day one,” Whitehead says.
What They Do: Software and services for nonprofit organizations
Address: 2000 Daniel Island Drive
Number of Employees: 1,100
We had to pay our respects to Blackbaud, the granddaddy of Charleston tech firms. While the company’s ’90s-vintage office is starting to show its age (it’s in the middle of a complete, brick-by-brick façade makeover right now), it still boasts a few luxe appointments and a soothing atrium area at the center.
There are a few perks to working for a company the size of Blackbaud, like the full gym on the ground floor. Employees tend a vegetable and herb garden in the spring. Also, we can’t confirm this, but Blackbaud might have been the first office in the Charleston area to include an arcade (Terminator 2 pinball, anyone?).
What They Do: Workforce management software
Address: 466 King St.
Number of Employees: Almost 100
We’ll start at the top: The fourth floor of PeopleMatter’s downtown office opens onto a rooftop patio featuring — you guessed it — an open bar. There are three beer taps, and the office votes on the brew selection.
Like BoomTown, PeopleMatter is pet-friendly, with a few dogs running around the second floor one afternoon. Unlike any other office on our tour, PeopleMatter’s third-floor engineering department features an honest-to-goodness play area for adults, including Nintendo 64 and Wii, a big Lego table, a throne, and a foosball table. Some employees take on the role of Makers of Mischief and Merriment, planning office Olympics and parties and making sure everyone has a good time while they work.
PeopleMatter’s HR rules are a little unorthodox. Employees can take unlimited vacation as long as it’s approved by management, and every three years, employees get a one-month sabbatical. Kenny Oubre, who works in the sales department, says that after working “crazy hours” for three years, he took his sabbatical to Thailand this winter and came back with a tan that was the envy of his coworkers.
What They Do: Graphic and web design
Address: 95 Cannon St.
Number of Employees: 15
Fuzzco’s new office, designed by architect David Thompson, takes clean, austere minimalism to its logical conclusion. When you walk in the front door, the lobby smells like a Home Depot because the walls are covered entirely in unpainted plywood and the ceiling is made of garage-style pegboard. The downstairs kitchen, eat-in nook, and lounge area look like Ikea showrooms, and a ’50s-style fridge keeps employees’ beer cool (it’s BYOB at this office, it seems).
Quirks are everywhere: A rotary phone in the server room. A glass-encased live beehive installed in a corner of the office by Bee Cause, a Fuzzco client. Eerie taxidermy pieces from Etsy and local artist Becca Barnet.
Fuzzco still has a small staff, and the office includes plenty of breakout rooms and private nooks to be alone with your creative thoughts. “It’s a very collaborative, inviting space to be creative,” says office coordinator Chloe Gilstrap. “It helps that people can get along.”