This story begins in 1914, when Steelcase Inc. in Grand Rapids, Mich., was granted a U.S. patent for a low-cost, durable, fireproof wastebasket.
At the time, it was an innovation. Eventually, the company started manufacturing a full line of office furniture.
Chapter 2 came two years later, when R.W. Perdue founded a machinery and equipment company Downtown along Laura Street.
Also in 1916, F.W. Woolworth Co. opened a “dime store” at the corner of Forsyth and Main streets.
The latest chapter was capped Tuesday evening, when Perdue Office Interiors was recognized for the 100th anniversary of the company.
Perdue President Vince McCormack said the company’s history from a century ago wasn’t really recorded.
But it’s not outside the realm of possibility that R.W. Perdue was so impressed with the revolutionary trash can that he added some office furniture to his product line.
McCormack started working at Perdue in 1986, part-time in the warehouse while he was in college.
It became a full-time job and he began working his way up the company ladder.
He moved to inside sales, then outside sales and later into management.
In 2002, he was promoted to general manager and then became president.
McCormack and a partner bought the company in 2007 and in 2009, moved the showroom and offices from Baymeadows to 5 W. Forsyth St. — the former Woolworth’s building.
“We moved Downtown before that was cool,” he said.
He’s watched the office furniture market and its trends change during his 30-year career.
As the Steelcase dealer for the region, Perdue has furnished offices and other workspaces for all sizes of private-sector business customers as well as clients in banking and finance, health care, higher education, manufacturing and distribution and government.
“It feels like it’s going full circle,” he said last week as he was planning the company’s centennial celebration.
“In 1912, everything was an open floor plan. Then customers wanted cubicles and then private offices. The open floor plan design came back several years ago, but with collaborative spaces,” McCormack said.
The latest trend is health. Desks that allow people to stand up while working are popular and some even have treadmills.
Perhaps the greatest driver of office environment evolution in the past decade has been technology and how people use it.
McCormack set up a living showroom for Steelcase’s high-tech line on the second floor of the building when he partnered with CoWork Jax, the cooperative workspace that provides the specialized environment sought by entrepreneurs.
Perdue expanded its sales force into the Tallahassee market last year and recently opened a new showroom near the state capital building.
While he knows business and how people want to interact with their work environment will continue to change, he’s bullish on the future of the office furnishings business.
“Our industry changes constantly, but I don’t see offices going away. Corporations want to have headquarters,” said McCormack.