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May 30, 2017 Likes Comments

Rockport’s new HQ is a perfect fit

By Cindy Bailen

The latest in a series of articles looking at office design in the Newton-Needham region.

Rockport shoes are all about combining a sense of classic with a touch of modern.

That same philosophy is apparent in the Rockport Group’s new global headquarters on Washington Street in West Newton.

“Our CEO, Bob Infantino, feels very strongly about having a workplace that people want to go to, that you never want to leave,” Susan Dooley, senior vice president of global marketing at Rockport, says of the company’s beautiful 70,000 square foot headquarters.

Created by the Baker Design Group (responsible for the TripAdvisor’s interior in the N-Squared Innovation District), Rockport’s facility is more reminiscent of a mountain lodge than a corporate environment.

Baker’s design reflects the brand’s DNA and features. As you enter the building, you’re drawn to the gas fireplace in the lobby. A deep leather sofa, wood-framed armchairs, and a pair of orange ottomans communicate comfort and ease. Posted on an exposed brick wall in the foyer are large brand signs for Rockport, Aravon and Dunham (The latter two are smaller imprints, sold mostly by independent stores).

The company’s kitchen is enormous, with windows overlooking the Mass. Pike, huge arched mirrors on the walls, a long stone counter and intricately patterned tiles on the backsplash. Employees enjoy catered meals here twice a week. Coffees, lattes and cappuccinos are free every day.

Rustic wood adds tremendous character to the two-story office space. The vinyl floor tiles resemble slate. Horizontal surfaces feature terrariums filled with living plants.

There are walls of leather hides, and racks of footwear are everywhere, in Rockport’s latest styles. As you pass them, it’s hard to resist picking up the shoes, since they’re displayed in such appealing ways.

Founded in 1971, Rockport went through a series of ownership changes, and its journey reads like a shuffle through some of the world’s foremost shoe companies. The company was purchased by Reebok in 1986, then Adidas acquired Reebok in 2005. Finally, in 2015, Rockport merged with New Balance partner The Drydock Group.

“We’re a freestanding company for the first time since the eighties,” says Dooley.

Employees moved into the renovated building at the end of last year. The Drydock Group space in the Seaport only had room for 40 employees. Rockport accommodates five times as many workers in West Newton.

Open collaboration areas provide lounge and meeting space, and small phone rooms for private conversations are furnished with leather seating that look like it might have come from the Mad Men era.

Technology is pervasive here, too. Monitors show real-time information about what’s happening on the website. Employees bring their laptops to training rooms, and plug in to connect. Some conference rooms are set up for focus groups.

Every work station, from Infantino’s office to the cubicles where most employees sit, has an identifying plaque showing some personality: name, shoe size, a couple of words expressing the occupant’s main interest, and the title, “Shoemaker.”

Everyone at Rockport is a shoemaker.

Rockport’s latest marketing campaign employs their trademark phrase, “Made for Movers.” As Dooley says, “A shoe has the whole world ahead of it. That’s what makes it beautiful.”

Cindy Bailen is a real estate reporter and architectural color consultant. She can be reached at cindy@cindybailen.com.

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