Downtown has made good progress reinventing itself in recent years. The steady demand for upscale loft living has given new life to a number of historic, formerly underutilized properties. Chris Jacobs' Avalon Development has joined the renovation wave by redeveloping a half dozen properties in the Theater District. But instead of housing residents, his buildings cater to businesses, and many of his tenants are in the 'creative' or tech sectors.
Jacobs' properties in the 600 and 700 blocks of Main feature loft-like office environs that are a natural fit for entrepreneurial firms, something downtown needs more of. One of his newest tenants is Block Club. The design and marketing studio recently moved into 2,700 sq.ft. of space at 731 Main Street.
Founder Patrick Finan, Brandon Davis and Ben Siegel started Block Club Magazine in early 2007. The trio worked out of their homes and coffee shops to produce the publication. 20,000 copies of the first, well-designed magazine were distributed throughout the region and a short time later, Block Club moved into its first office, a 200 sq.ft. space in The Neighborhood Collective located at 810 Elmwood Avenue.
Magazine advertisers started requesting design work and Block Club expanded its focus and team. Block Club Creative was formed to offer design and marketing services.
In 2010, Block Club created Buffalo Dining Cards that provided $10 discounts to 50 locally-owned restaurants and raised money for Women and Children's Hospital. The City Dining Card program is now in eight cities including Boston, Pittsburgh, Rochester, Philadelphia and Albany.
Today, Block Club employs eleven people, the magazine is now published quarterly, and the firm was recently named one of Western New York's top 15 advertising agencies and the No. 3 fastest-growing company in WNY by Business First.
"Despite our growth over the past few years, we are still perceived as a small magazine; people don't know that the magazine has become the smallest part of our business," says Brandon Davis, Block Club's creative director. "We continue to publish it because it's a passion project of ours. We're deliberate in how we describe the company: we're a design and marketing studio that publishes a quarterly magazine."
As Block Club expanded, partners wanted a new space that reflected who they were as a company, near the action of downtown, had room for growth, and allowed an easy commute for employees, many of which bike to work.
"When looking at office space, we were in search of spot that we could grow with," says Davis. "We looked at spaces at Genesee Gateway and in the building owned and occupied by Carmina Wood Morris. We ultimately settled on 731 Main Street for numerous reasons. Chris Jacobs, our landlord, offered the best price for amenities, offered a build-out that we couldn't refuse, and we love this neighborhood."
Kathy Lewandowski of Inside Designs worked with the company to lay out a space that accommodates Block Club's current needs and future growth.
Block Club's office was designed to embrace Main Street. The space is long and narrow, with hardwood floors, a brick wall extending the length of the interior and huge windows at either end. Walls were installed to give privacy in the conference area and a few small offices, but windows were installed in most walls to allow natural light to travel throughout the space. Walls, doors and baseboards are light gray or white in order to accent the hardwood floors and the wood desks, shelves and work spaces.
"In terms of having first-floor windows on Main Street, we were sure not to cover them with blinds or cubicles," says Davis. "I was inspired by all of the first-floor architectural and design studios I've seen intermingled with restaurants, cafes and shops in Copenhagen, Helsinki, Toronto, and even on my recent trip to Venice, California, where you can look in and feel and be inspired by the physical design of the space, as well as the creative energy of the people working there."
"When people look through our windows, they'll usually see life and movement. We might be having a quick meeting on the lounge and chairs up front or meeting in our conference room. If nothing else, Miles, our big 90lb labadoodle is usually manning the front window. You can stand at the front of our space and look directly through to the back."
"The space we've created definitely says something about our company," says Davis. "It's collaborative, comfortable, minimalist. It's a combination of old and new."
Just like downtown.
Get Connected: Block Club, 716.507.4474