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Casual atmosphere catching on at Springfield businesses

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by Ann Bucy

SBJ Contributing Writer

The casual work atmosphere is catching on locally for a variety of reasons.

In some cases it's just practical employees who do a lot of standing, lifting, shifting or getting their hands dirty don't want or need to wear restrictive, uncomfortable, dry-clean-only business wear.

For others, the casual atmosphere is a means of fostering individual creativity.

At Hooked on Books, 2756 S. Campbell, the employees, like the atmosphere, are casual and laid-back.

Lavonne Foster, the store's owner since 1984, oversees five employees, and dress is casual.

"We wear jeans and a sweatshirt type shirt, something without a collar, and tennis shoes or other comfy shoes," she said. "The reason for that is that we're squatting down, carrying boxes (some of which are dirty or dusty) and climbing ladders. The work we do could ruin good clothes. I'm not pushy about what the employees wear, so long as they do their job."

And customers don't seem to mind the casual approach, Foster added.

Tucked away on the seventh floor of the Woodruff Building, 333 Park Central East, is Newkirk Design, a company that creates print and web page designs, advertising, marketing, illustrations and digital image enhancement.

The company is owned by Jeff Newkirk, who oversees a staff of five. Newkirk said he started the company three years ago, and the dress code has always been casual.

"It's more conducive to creativity," he said. "We're a small enough staff that everyone here is creative: no one's in active sales. It's a relaxed atmosphere. ... If the employees were forced to dress up, I think it would adversely affect their work," Newkirk said.

He added that a tailored, professional image is not necessary in his industry his company is judged on what it produces.

"We don't get people off the street, so we're not subject to any scrutiny. We'll put our designs against anyone's. Our work speaks for what we do," Newkirk said.

The design company's clients are various and include the Osmond family in Branson, the Endless Summer catalog, Stainless Fabrication Inc., a firm that makes stainless steel tanks, and a company in the Napa Valley that manufactures wine barrels.

PHOTO CAPTION:

Newkirk Design employees enjoy a casual work environment. From left: Susan Goller, office manager; Ruth Briggs, designer/illustrator; Rhonda Newkirk, creative director; Jeff Newkirk, president; and Ryan Barnes, web developer.[[In-content Ad]]

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