Company circles back to its original neighborhood

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  • | 12:00 p.m. March 12, 2010
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by Max Marbut

Staff Writer

A 94-year-old company has come full circle.

Perdue Office Interiors has moved its office and showroom from the suburbs to Main and Forsyth streets Downtown. The new location is the original Woolworth’s building that existed when R.W. Perdue first opened Perdue Office Furniture in 1916 nearby on Laura Street.

“Downtown is an interesting neighborhood,” said Perdue President Vince McCormack.

While the new urban environment was an adjustment for the people who work in the office and showroom every day, they’ve taken to it.

“There was some apprehension among the staff when we decided to move but Downtown is working really well. We have all embraced it,” said McCormack, who used a daily ritual as an example.

“At the old office it was impossible to walk to lunch, but Downtown, there are plenty of options within a couple of blocks,” he said.

One of the first things you see when you walk in the door is a map of the office showing the locations of 29 product lines from desks and chairs to office storage options. The displays show how the products work in a real-world environment.

That’s quite a change from when Perdue Office Furniture first opened Downtown.

“When R.W. Perdue founded the company he sold machinery, equipment and some office furniture,” McCormack said.

Over the years the company evolved with the business market and gradually phased out its other products until office furnishings became its sole focus. In the early part of the 20th century, business needs in terms of fixtures were limited to desks, chairs and filing cabinets.

Walk into Perdue’s showroom today and you’ll see that as the needs of the workforce have become more complex. Outfitting an office has become a scientific process.

“Collaboration, learning, focus and social — those are the four work states,” said McCormack.

Perdue’s business address has changed a few times, including a move to the suburbs in the early 1980s. McCormack bought the company in 1986 and decided late last year to return Downtown.

He said he considered more than 20 properties, but believed that Downtown had the most advantages, including having a substantial customer base within walking distance.

“A lot of customers have visited our new showroom, not just from Downtown but also from the suburbs,” said McCormack. “They haven’t had any problem finding us or finding a place to park. I think it’s helping them see Downtown in a different light.”

Coming to work in a place that’s part of Jacksonville’s history has also been part of the relocation experience, he added. In one corner of the showroom is a restaurant-style bench that has been modernized for the contemporary office environment. There’s also a reproduction of a Woolworth’s menu on the table in the break room display.

“This has really been a good move for us,” said McCormack.

The Woolworth Building circa 1916, about the same time Perdue Office Furniture was founded.

Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce President Wally Lee, McCormack and Mayor John Peyton shared the honors to cut the ribbon March 4 celebrating the opening of Perdue’s new showroom and headquarters. McCormack said he appreciates that the City is supporting Downtown’s revitalization.

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