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Grooms Office Environments Vice President Audrey Garard showcases a residential commons area the company recently outfitted at Farmers Park.Click here for more photos.
Grooms Office Environments Vice President Audrey Garard showcases a residential commons area the company recently outfitted at Farmers Park.

Click here for more photos.

Business Spotlight: Office Form, Function

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The office chair is quite a character.

In the 1970s and ’80s, it showed up as a kneeling chair and a NASA-researched zero gravity chair. More recently, lumbar support was everywhere, and in some offices, chairs have exited in favor of standing desks.

Grooms Office Environments got in to the office chair business in 1977 – although it actually started in office filing systems.

“We kind of backed into it,” says founder Olin Grooms.

Much like the evolution of office chairs, Grooms has adapted its business from filing cabinets to planning entire office spaces. The company’s team of interior designers and furniture installers help clients with carpet colors and lighting fixtures to canopy systems and workspace flow.

“We sell more than just a chair,” says Marketing Manager Victoria Gorham.

Last week, Grooms crews delivered and installed furniture at Farmers Park to outfit a shared office space, a residential commons area and apartment balconies. The work for developer Green Circle Projects LLC is among some 280 active clients. With most jobs in the higher education, health care and small-business sectors, Grooms’ clients include Missouri State University, CoxHealth and Intuitive Web Solutions.

Monett-based Jack Henry & Associates Inc. has worked with Grooms for more than two decades.

“We started them with eight workstations, and now we have 6,000 or 8,000 all across the United States,” Grooms says.

The banking software developer recently went wireless throughout its offices, a move that shifts Grooms’ role to design with collaborative workspaces in mind.

“They’re not bound to their desk. They can go work in a cafe on campus. It’s really changing how they can work,” says Grooms Vice President Audrey Garard.

“As technology changes, furniture changes.”

For example, Grooms supplied chairs equipped with power supplies for e-readers to the Springfield-Greene Library District, and sit-to-stand desks that change at the touch of a button are becoming more common.

However, not all technological changes are practical in the office. Treadmill desks have received mixed reviews in recent years on the market.

“It sounds dangerous,” Garard says. “A treadmill desk is a really horrible idea, I think.”

One thing that’s unchanged at Grooms Office Environments is the man whose name is on the door. Seventy-nine-year-old Olin Grooms remains in the corner office on East Montclair Street. Though he maintains the president and CEO title, Grooms admits his function is more as a figurehead today.

He’s appointed Garard chief operating officer for day-to-day tasks, and Chief Financial Officer Toyia Adams is over the books.

Grooms says annual revenue is just now returning to pre-recession levels. The company dipped below $3 million in 2008–09, as clients restricted spending and held back on development plans, but he’s projecting nearly $7 million in 2014 sales.

All about the products
Garard says while technology influences office functionality, brick-and-mortar issues remain in office design and setup.

“Sometimes, columns and doors dictate a lot,” Garard says, noting at Farmers Park, some pieces were too tall for the elevator and had to be hauled up flights of stairs.

The key product line for Grooms is Herman Miller Inc., for which the company has been an authorized dealer since 1982, but other popular brands include National Office Furniture, SitOnIt Seating and Nemschoff. Grooms works with some 300 product lines.

Grooms was contracted by commercial interior designer Sherry Barton-Young to order Herman Miller furnishings a few years ago for AG Financial Solutions’ headquarters in Chesterfield Village.

Owner of Creative Design Consultants Inc., Barton-Young says she accepts bids from such companies as Grooms, Thomas Brothers Workplace Solutions and Midwest Office to meet client specifications. AG Financial officials chose Herman Miller, which secured the bid for Grooms.

“Everybody has their version of Herman Miller,” she says, noting she does mockups of each premier product line for clients to evaluate.

At Texas County Memorial Hospital in Houston, Grooms supplied some $200,000 in furnishings by National Office Furniture. In the health care field, Garard says products have a unique characteristic.

“It’s not just about being attractive. It’s about how it functions, first,” says Garard, whose first sale at Grooms eight years ago was an endoscopy cabinet. “It has to be built like a freight train.”

Office trends
Though her niche is in health care design, Barton-Young says workspace flexibility is trending across most industries.

“Everything seems to be more multiple-task oriented because jobs require multitasking. You just don’t do one job anymore,” says Barton-Young, who designed for Grooms in the 1990s before breaking out on her own. “People are working in teaming environments and open spaces.”

With the fading of cubicle farms, Garard says such changes can affect job attraction and retention.

“For students coming out of college, they’re shopping for a place to work,” says Garard, who earlier this month attended training sessions at Herman Miller’s Michigan headquarters. “Sometimes, it’s not all about the salary, it’s about the environment.”

Bright, saturated colors are making a cyclical return, she says.

“Teal is back,” she says. “It’s OK to have fun again. People are ready for it.”

Garard says the banking industry is venturing away from traditional designs, and Grooms is preparing to pitch a purple color scheme to a prospective bank customer. She says Grooms already has outfitted Prime Inc. with purple desks.

“They love purple,” she says. “They have their own custom paint color with Herman Miller.”

And almost every desk needs a chair. At Grooms, single office chairs range from $200 to $1,000.

“We can compete with Staples when we have to,” Garard says. “But once you’ve been sitting in a nice chair, you become a chair snob.”[[In-content Ad]]


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