An Ode To The Office
By Trevor Hubbard
In March 2020, as San Francisco became the first city in the US to institute a stay-at-home order, we closed our beautiful office downtown at 432 Clay Street. For 8 months, we kept the office on life support, with a monthly expenditure of $35k for recurring services and rent.
Instead of looking at this expense as a massive liability, we used this time to ask: Where is the opportunity here? We worked through months of diligence, brainstorming, Pre-mortems, conversations and live, open Zoom group calls with other agency leaders.
We now see this as a rare opportunity to change our relationship to space and promote the opportunity of being an office-less agency. Of course, it prompts many questions that we don’t necessarily have all the answers to: What parts of our process need a space? What do our employees want? How can we reallocate funds to our employee experience? What new workspace products can we create? Do others want to invest in a collaborative space that you pay for when you need it? Can we create more summit occasions for our entire company to get together around the world? Can we increase employee salaries to be more competitive? Can we help our employees buy homes wherever they want? Does our talent search get a large pool of diverse talent when the Bay Area location is not a factor? All of these questions push us to think differently.
But also, DO things differently.
One question that needed to be answered was “do we need our office right now and in the future?” The latter was “no” but the former is “the opportunity.” About a month ago, we put in our notice to surrender our office in San Francisco at 432 Clay Street. On November 16, 2020, Butchershop will no longer have an office. We are an office-less agency that forces all sorts of smart thinking to flourish. To mark this occasion, I wanted to write an “ode to the office,” as a farewell that remembers the past and prompts new beginnings.
Where It All Began: 371 11th Street
Butchershop started at a coffee table in my cabin on Telegraph Hill in North Beach in 2008. I remember pitching clients without an office until we won a sizable piece of business and our client probably expected an office. So we found a space in 2009 that one of the former partners used as a photo studio. 371 11th Street was next door to DNA Lounge. It was a pretty seedy area when the sun went down. We subleased the space to some “friends” who were growing weed in the back (pre-legalization). It was a cool, 2nd floor industrial open studio with 20 foot high beam ceilings and windows overlooking the street. It was next to Costco where we would frequently get lunch from their $1 menu. It was a great and unhealthy way to save money. It was awesome. I would walk each morning from North Beach all the way to the office with my dog Jackson, a hundred pound red Vizsla. Then we got robbed. Everything was stolen. Luckily we had insurance.
450 Mission Street
We moved to 450 Mission Street in 2011 which was a ground floor space and the former sales office for the “leaning” Millennium Tower. It was really cool, but the back of the office was a model unit that had a backlit faux windowscape of the 17th floor 7pm views of San Francisco. Very Scarface. People would look in from the busy street across from where the Salesforce Tower is now and only imagine what went on inside “Butchershop.” I think we traded the landlord design services and our rent was $3k per month. We even launched the Truck Stop in the alley next to our office which was the first food truck alley for downtown workers in San Francisco. Everyday we had three trucks serving all sorts of things. It was a hit. The landlord kicked us out to turn the place into a coffee shop and to this day, it never happened and still remains empty.
679 3rd Street
After that, we moved to 679 3rd Street in 2012 across from AT&T Park. Luckily the Giants were a client (and also winning championships) when we designed the concept for The Gotham Club. I used to go to games at lunchtime and have a beer and hot dog in the bleachers before heading back to the office. This was when I actually ate lunch. It was a moody space that was a former bachelor pad of sorts, identified by a window from a former bedroom (conference room) looking into the shower. It was weird. I remember the first client meetings before we boarded it up were always full of suspect and anxious chuckles.
Nonetheless, we threw down in that space. We often had bands who were performing at Great American, Regency, Cafe Du Nord, Civic, Mezzanine perform little set parties for after parties. We threw some of the most epic “Mistletoe Mistakes and Memories” Christmas parties. We had ice sculptures, axes, pigs heads, Michelin star chefs, DJs, bands, all sorts of cocktailing from TrickDog, BonVivants, etc. So actually, not that dissimilar from our annual standard MMM soirees. It was a great place with a lot of memories for me. I will never miss the elevator that broke down at least 50 times with people in it, clients included. The disgusting scent of bar wash from the bar below us and the lovely scent of weed growing above us. Our craft was as raw and unapologetic as the space itself. But it was time to grow up.
99 Green Street
In 2014, we upgraded to 99 Green Street. We thought this space was going to be our home! It was perfect for us. And then we outgrew it and realized we were changing the way we worked and there just wasn’t enough private space. It has one conference room. It was also on the ground floor, which made it super fun to be spotlit on the corner with all the Jackson Square folks walking by at lunch or on their daily commutes. It was a great neighborhood too, very close to The Battery who became a client and the owners, good friends. We learned a lot about ourselves at 99 Green Street. I remember the ONE conference room being used to work partner issues out, which usually ended with screaming and the entire office feeling awkward for the rest of the day. That wasn’t good. So we moved out and up.
432 Clay Street
We moved into 432 Clay Street in 2016. Our own 9,000 sqft standalone building, next to the TransAmerica building near Jackson Square. It was our first office that we actually built out the way we wanted to work. It was a difficult search. We looked at 30 properties before we landed here. We negotiated $140k in rent credit to build out the space. Like all our offices before, I said to myself, ‘this is our space, this is our home.’ I thought we were set. We would never have to change or find another space ever again. But looking back, each time I said this to myself, I was wrong.
432 Clay Street was the most important and memorable space to me. It was quite an accomplishment to be able to create a space that felt cultural, comfortable, flexible, customizable, and enjoyable. It really did us good over the last four and a half years. If you can believe it, it’s been that long. All the friends, guests, events, crew and clients. It really was a place to envy. Our own little piece of San Francisco.
I will miss the echo of the door opening and closing when people either arrived or left. I will miss our dichroic windows at all hours of the day. I will miss the evolution of our space over the years and how we became more polished and professional. I will miss the lunch table in the kitchen and seeing everyone take a break in the day. But most of all, I will miss staring out over the desks at moments, and thinking to myself, how proud I was of our company. Sometimes a space, like a home, can do that. I loved being there early and staying late with many of you. Some of my fondest memories were ordering food for everyone who was there around the dinner hour. But it really was the people. All of my crew. That is what makes it so great regardless of this space or that space. Every office that I’ve ever had, came to end, and a new beginning revealed itself.
So here we are in 2020. If you believe in history, then you know that this is a new beginning, not a chapter ending. I can’t wait to journey through what’s next for our business and crew at Butchershop. We have lots of ideas of what the future might look like, but for now, let’s appreciate the space we had. Let’s adore the memories. Most importantly, let’s appreciate the space we created, which we can take anywhere we want.