AUBURN — Chris Straw set out to build an attractive “front door” for downtown Auburn.
Friday’s grand opening of the Straw Building showed what lies behind that door is equally impressive.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony unveiled the new, two-story structure that houses the headquarters for Straw’s Team Quality Services company and a new branch office for 1st Source Bank at the corner of 7th and Jackson streets.
“Being born and raised in Auburn, I’m a big believer in: ‘If your front door doesn’t look good, nobody wants to go any further.’ We wanted to create something that was a front door to this wonderful community,” company founder Straw told a crowd that gathered on a cold, sunny morning for the event.
“I want other people to see what we’ve got and how great Auburn is, but it’s got to start with the front door,” he added.
“Our company, Team Quality Services, is about helping people and improving quality of life, and what better statement than this to make the quality of life for Auburn people and the people that visit better than it’s ever been.”
“Chris has made a tremendous improvement in the west side of our downtown here. … We think it represents the city extremely well,” Mayor Mike Ley told the crowd.
“This is a key investment — the creation of jobs, really bringing lifeblood into our downtown and people utilizing our restaurants. This is the exact type of investment that we’re excited to see,” said Anton King, executive director of the DeKalb Economic Development Partnership.
After entering the building’s lobby, visitors walked up a staircase to the Team Quality Services office, a one-block-wide open space with 17-foot ceilings, large windows and desks for sitting or standing.
Straw, who is a pilot, wanted a “statement piece” for the 25-foot-high atrium. He found a model of a DC-3 airplane with a 15-foot wingspan to hang from the ceiling,
“It really makes it a fun space. When people come upstairs, it’s a ‘wow’ moment for them, which is cool,” Straw said.
A basketball scoreboard hangs near the model airplane.
“We’ll actually use it to keep statistics,” Straw said about the scoreboard. “It’s a neat, fun thing for our employees in the space for them to gather.”
The workspace houses 28 employees now, with plans to grow to 40 in the next five years, Straw said. They are accompanied by office cats named Luke and Leia.
Worldwide, Team Quality Services employs 206 people. The new Auburn administration office houses sales, marketing, information technology, customer service, accounting and operational management in its 7,500 square feet.
The rear of the office uses the exterior wall of the neighboring building to the east.
“We wanted that industrial brick look and feel, to make it seem like it’s been here for 100 years, not 100 days,” Straw said.
Before visitors entered, Straw gave credit to his wife, Teri, for her contributions to the design and decor.
“All the great things you’re going to see as you go through the building today, she had a lot to do with,” he said.
In addition to the lobby and bank, the building’s first floor still has room for a tenant on the southwest corner.
“We’re hoping for a restaurant. That’s what I’d really love to see,” Straw said. The available space totals 3,000 square feet, plus outdoor covered seating.
“I still am kind of shocked” at how the building turned out, Straw said. “You have this vision, and you just keep pushing and pushing. With a great vision like that, you get great things.”
Straw reflected on building a new landmark in his hometown.
“The community and the city and the people have all been really good to me,” he said. “It’s a great place to raise a family, and now we get to work here, too. The least thing I can do is give back in any way I can. Everybody can give back in different ways, and we’re just blessed that we’re able to do it this way.
“It’s a humbling, but proud moment, for sure.”