WIND POINT — A local online seller of upscale kitchen and bath hardware and lighting is planning to move the company headquarters from Wind Point to Pleasant Prairie this month.
Executives of eImprovement, which employs about 70 people here and another 35 in Denver, said the move is necessary to accommodate rapid growth. Employment at the headquarters, 4061 N. Main St., has nearly doubled in the past 12 months, company Chairman Parvez Patel said.
For at least eight months, Patel said, a six-person team explored potential locations, while he removed himself from the process. The three criteria were timeliness, cost and the least amount of disruption.
“The goal was: the best location to meet the needs of the three-year business plan,” he said. “And it had to be close to (Interstate) 94.”
That’s because the company, also known as eFaucets, its other website, wants to be able to draw talented professional and technical people from the Milwaukee-Chicago corridor. That means it needed to be more centrally located, said Heather Asiyanbi, the company’s communications manager.
Asiyanbi also said the new office at 8401 102nd St. in Pleasant Prairie was almost move-in ready, could be customized, had furniture and ample meeting space.
Cannot win them all
During the search for a new headquarters, Racine County Economic Development Corp. worked to keep eImprovement in this county.
“This one kind of took me by surprise, given the amount of time our staff has worked with this company,” Jenny Trick, RCEDC’s executive director said.
The challenge, Trick said, was to help eImprovement find about 20,000 square feet of office space in the I-94 corridor. RCEDC retention specialist Laura Million had found an existing building and lined up potential financial incentives from local municipalities.
But in the end, RCEDC couldn’t fill the gap between the price difference locally and in Kenosha County, where eImprovement found a lower lease rate, Trick said. “It just came down to a financial decision.”
“It’s hard getting that kind of news because we want to win them all,” Trick commented. “… We did our darnedest, and elected officials stepped up.”
The upcoming departure of eImprovement from the Racine area angers Nick Fox, who started the company in 2003 with his brother Michael Fox, who is still CEO. Nick, who had been chief technical officer, left last May, 2½ years after the four owners sold the company to Hajoca Corp., a large plumbing distributor.
“We had differences of opinion on a lot of things,” Nick remarked. “I was the founder; I was one of the few people who would speak up.”
Nick acknowledges that eImprovement was “crammed in” and needed a more attractive office.
However, he views its upcoming exodus from this area as a betrayal on promises made to employees at the time of the acquisition. At an employee meeting then, he said, “Executives from Hajoca stood (in front of the employees) and said it would not be moving.
Patel did not join eIimprovement until December 2016. “This is the first time I am hearing that,” he said about promises to keep the company Racine-based.
Throughout the search for new quarters, Patel said, managers kept employees informed about options with monthly meetings. And, Patel said, managers have been talking with anyone impacted by a longer commute about ways to accommodate their schedules, such as the possibility of working from home one day a week.
Regardless of the move to Pleasant Prairie, Patel promised eImprovement will continue working with community organizations such as Veterans Outreach, which developed James A. Peterson Veterans Village, Racine’s tiny-house community. Asiyanbi said, “eFaucets and the generosity of several vendors outfitted the community building at the Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin’s tiny home village; bathroom sinks, faucets, toilets, showers, shower faucets, kitchen sink and faucet, bathroom fans and lighting.”
“The goal was: the best location to meet the needs of the three-year business plan. And it had to be close to (Interstate) 94.” Parvez Patel, eImprovement chairman