Richard Kaiser and his marketing agency’s staff spend a lot of time at work.
But their distinctive and inspiring work space helps with the long hours and significant demands on their creative talents.
The Wilderness Agency's offices in east Dayton belong on the short list of coolest places to work in Dayton.
The ground floor has a “rustic industrial” atmosphere, with lots of plants, room dividers, exposed-brick walls, exposed ceilings, a counter made of reclaimed wood and amenities, like stereo-surround sound.
The upstairs has a kitchen, pool table and large open space for social events and sales meetings. There’s a grotto with bean bags in the basement area.
And an outdoor courtyard features a fire pit, hammocks, vegetable garden and Koi pond with fish and turtles.
“Right now, we’re focused on what makes the team smarter, faster, better,” Kaier said. “But we’re not done.”
About 60 percent of the Wilderness Agency’s clients are local, and it’s also helpful to have a space they will enjoy visiting to use for brainstorming and other needs, he said.
Outside on the street, the building at 17 Front St. looks much like countless other aging commercial structures in and around Dayton.
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But inside is a whole different story.
That’s because the upstairs was already rehabbed and unique and Kaiser and others put about 400 hours into renovating other parts of the old warehouse to make it their own. Kaiser said he has spent around $30,000 on renovations.
The Wilderness Agency’s offices have modern and historic features and character. Various spaces are meant to feel authentic and compelling but also relaxing and stress-relieving.
The Wilderness Agency moved into the property on April 1 along with another tenant, Randy Johnson, who is an online retailer, web designer and consultant (Eight Deuce, Low Label). Kaiser is leasing the Front Street space with an option to purchase.
“It’s definitely a creative space that most companies don’t have,” said Randy Johnson, who occupies about 800 square feet of the Front Street property.
Founded by Kaiser in 2016, his full-service marketing agency does traditional and digital marketing, public relations, videography, photograpy, SEO and plenty else.
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Kaiser and others pressure-washed the brick walls, installed a wood deck on top of a sunken floor and removed junk and dead critters and replaced them with modern office fixings.
Wilderness has 10 full-time-equivalent employees, but it also uses many contractors, some of whom regularly visit the office to work at “hotel desks.”
They turned a coal room in the basement into an “inspiration space,” with bean bags for lounging and dimmed mood lighting.
The space has a “1970s den vibe,” which is perfect for relaxing or deeper and intimate conversations and reflection, said Mary Beth Reser, Wilderness’ director of operations.
The walls, once covered in black soot, have new paint, hangings and art. One wall is covered in weathered wood boards.
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The den has book shelves, old photography equipment, Edison bulb lights and an IKEA lighting chandelier inspired by the Death Star from “Star Wars.”
The Wilderness Agency wants to offer different kinds of spaces team members can use to spark the imagination, Reser said.
Some people prefer stand-up desks. Others like bean bag chairs. An outdoor courtyard, which feels like an urban oasis, has hammocks.
Koi fish share a pond with two turtles. There are bird feeders. Tomatoes and vegetables grow in the garden, offering fresh ingredients for salads.
Kaiser said he likes workers who value nature and outdoor experiences. He said staff can take sales calls while lounging in the hammocks and enjoying the sunshine and a taste of nature.
One member of his team brought his dog, “Ziggy,” to work.
Kaiser said he contemplated building a log cabin out in the woods to house his offices. But, he said, then he wouldn’t be near urban amenities and delights, like Thai food. His offices are a 10-minute walk from the Oregon District.
Future plans include hanging photos from team members’ nature trips and adventures in the woods.
The upstairs has acid-washed concrete floors, flat-screen TVs attached to the walls, a pool table, couches, a kitchen island and full-sized refrigerator.
The property remains a work in progress, Kaiser said, but the space is already one of the most unique places to work in Dayton.
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