At the new Zumiez building in Lynnwood, dome mirrors in the hallways serve an unusual purpose: to help skateboarders see around corners and prevent accidents.
Teen-clothing chain Zumiez moved to the custom building off Interstate 5 last summer after seven years at a nondescript office park in Everett.
The company was bursting at the seams and wanted to be closer to Seattle for talent recruitment and retention. At the same time, it preferred the economics of owning rather than renting but couldn’t find a building that suited both its needs and wants.
The result is an offbeat headquarters designed by and for Zumiez employees on eight acres near Alderwood mall.
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Like Zumiez stores, the entrance evokes a chaotic teen bedroom. There’s an orange thrift-store couch and a graffiti-style mural showcasing top salespeople.
Conference rooms are named after highways to local mountains, and an old Mount Baker chairlift (No. 78, for when the first store opened at Northgate Mall) overlooks a freshwater pond dubbed the “Jacuzzi.”
But perhaps most notable are the ramp staircase for skateboarding and the outdoor plaza with grind rails, a quarter pipe and a basketball hoop.
“This has become the local skatepark for this community,” Chief Executive Officer Rick Brooks said this past week.
“It’s kind of like our own lab. We’re out here with kids living the lifestyle. It’s pretty cool.”
Zumiez, which spent $15 million on the land and building, operates about 500 stores aimed at skateboard and snowboard enthusiasts in North America and Europe.
The company reported Thursday its first-quarter sales rose 14 percent to $148.5 million, but its profit fell 44 percent to $2.5 million, mainly because of costs related to its recent purchase of European retailer Blue Tomato.
Wednesday, at Zumiez’s annual shareholder meeting, Brooks gave a guided tour of the new building after an upbeat overview of the business. He attributed Zumiez’s growth to a corporate culture that places a premium on competition as fun.
Each winter, Zumiez treats its top salespeople — those responsible for $100,000 or more in annual sales — to a trip to Keystone, Colo., and it annually hosts a managers retreat to Winthrop, Okanogan County, to work on customer service.
Brooks, joined by Zumiez founder and Chairman Tom Campion, said the new building is meant to encourage collaboration. Employees work in open areas at desks separated by stained-glass partitions — only senior executives have enclosed offices. The old headquarters, said general counsel Chris Visser, “looked like a warehouse near Boeing,” which it was.
“This is a good space, and it helps with recruiting. Driving from Seattle to Everett versus Lynnwood is a big difference.”
The new building, at nearly 70,000 square feet, also provides plenty of room for Zumiez’s 180 corporate employees.
Campion, 64, who initially described the old offices as boring and Spartan, then turned diplomatic — “They were, uh, productive.” He said the Zumiez work environment should be fun, and he seemed pleased with the new digs.
“You can create here,” Campion said, standing near a window where a pair of Nerf darts was stuck to the glass. “It’s teenage clothes, so you’ve got to create constantly.”
— Amy Martinez, email@example.com
Boeing a key client for software outsourcing firm
Perhaps St. Louis and Charleston aren’t the only cities whose names ought to worry Boeing information-technology workers. How about Kiev, Warsaw, Bucharest and Dnipropetrovsk?
Luxoft, a growing software-development firm with about 5,000 software engineers mostly in Russia and Ukraine, filed plans this past week for an initial public offering estimated to raise up to $80 million.
Boeing is its third-largest customer, after European financial firms Deutsche Bank and UBS.
The aerospace giant revealed this month plans to shrink by nearly one-third its 4,700 information-technology jobs in the Puget Sound area, through layoffs, attrition and relocation of some jobs to new “centers of excellence” in Missouri and South Carolina. It also will increase IT outsourcing.
While it’s not clear how large a role Luxoft may play in those plans, the IPO papers make for some interesting reading.
Luxoft, which is officially based in Zug, Switzerland, has a “delivery center” in Bellevue — and more than a dozen others in countries including Romania, Poland and Vietnam.
Its IPO filing cites a report estimating that “wages in Eastern Europe are 75 percent and 82 percent lower than wages in Western Europe and the U.S.”
Although the English version of the Luxoft website divulges nothing about the nature of its Boeing work, the Russian version says it does “software development, migration of legacy systems and applications support for mainframes.”
According to the website of the Russian Software Developers Association (RussSoft), one Luxoft project for Boeing was updating a Boeing software system called REDARS, originally created in the 1990s, that stores more than 10 million engineering and tooling drawings for airplanes.
“The previous version had become woefully inadequate in terms of performance, capacity and security,” the website reports. “Special importance was placed on security due to the highly sensitive and classified data handled by REDARS.”
The project employed 30 Luxoft developers for 10 weeks, according to RussSoft, and now provides appropriately controlled access to more than 150,000 users at Boeing and its suppliers worldwide.
Luxoft sales rose 16 percent to $314 million last year, while net income reached $37 million.
A Boeing spokesman said it would have no comment on its relationship with Luxoft.
— Rami Grunbaum, rgrunbaum@seattletimes .com