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September 18, 2015

News & Opinion: Memories of the Phoenix Building from Sally

By: Blyth Meier @ 11:00 AM – Filed under: The Company

For 18 years we have made our home here in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward, but with books covering every last spare inch and spreading out over multiple floors of the sturdy Phoenix Building, we know the time has come to move. Many of our staff members have worked here on the third floor for all or most of those years, and we'd love to share some of their memories with you. Thank you to everyone who does business with 800-CEO-READ in a variety of ways, who has made this expansion possible! (Read more about our move here.) As of September 21, you can find us at: 544 S. 1st Street, Milwaukee WI 53204.

First up is Sally Haldorson, our General Manager.


When it was finally confirmed that we were moving, the first thought that came to mind was that I needed to go out and walk these streets around our building as much as I could before we move. Our new digs in Walker’s Point are going to be awesome, but I have always loved that our office is located in Milwaukee’s Third Ward. Driving to work from my house in Bay View, I get to glimpse Lake Michigan, cross a bridge over the Milwaukee River, and weave through the old brick warehouses, and new construction too, that is, to my mind, the most “alive” part of our city. Crossing under the sign that reads Historic Third Ward always makes me feel lucky. The neighborhood features the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, shops like Anthropologie and West Elm, the Milwaukee Public Market, and more coffee shops than we truly need. Over the years, the Third Ward has changed, and some of my memories happened in places that are now gone. I remember Roy and Scott going over to the Broadway Bar and Grill on Broadway that offered $1 hamburgers after lunch, and I remember their grilled cheese with tomato as life changing. I remember the La Boulangerie’s cinnamon rolls, and when [former 800-CEO-READ employees] John and Janice took me over there to offer me my first promotion.

As for this office, I’ve worked here nearly 20 years, so the memories are too many to count. But the early days, when our offices (called “the bullpen”) and warehouse were one in the same, stick with me: I remember what I wore to my interview with [former Vice President] John Decker and his assurance that I could stay after hours to use the computers to write my novel (that remains unfinished, as does Roy’s, whom he gave as an example of the artists we had working in the office); when, on my first day, I met [our founder and president, now retired] Jack Covert and he asked me if I swore, because that was the true test of being an employee here—little did I know that that question, as odd as it seemed, was representative of the comfortable culture we still value; the symphony of sea foam green that was our earliest decor, and the relief of finally being profitable enough to justify the expense of painting and recarpeting it; “stinky lunch” when our microwave was in the middle of the room and Jack was on a diet of microwave dinners; the boom box in the shipping area that we shared, and how sick to death we got with Roy’s techno music, [former employee] Scott’s show tunes (Linda Eder particularly) and Ryan’s Dixie Chicks and Billy Joel; the first time we had a website, the first time we changed names, the first time we all got laptops, the first time we heard the name Amazon.

Luckily the best part of working in this office—the people who remain—moves to the new place with me where we will make new memories, but still, there are other firsts that won’t be replicated. I remember baby showers, and birthday lunches, and holiday potlucks, Jack’s retirement party, and the cocktail party we held for authors attending our Pow Wow. I remember Shawn bringing his dog Mac to work when he was a puppy and that we kept him in the back in our supply room, with someone assigned to play with him every hour. I remember when Roy first brought his mother and brother, of whom we’d heard so many tall and true tales, to visit the office. And I can picture my new baby sitting on Dylan’s lap, being held by Meg, and now that Noah is older, giving Aaron a high-five and holding onto Roy’s hand.

 

About Blyth Meier


Blyth Meier joined us to lead our marketing department in 2015 after doing that work for the Milwaukee Film Festival for the previous five years. While she made good use her filmmaking degree at that job, here she returns to her first love—books. As an undergraduate English major at the University of North Dakota, Blyth’s favorite time of year was the annual Writers Conference, which brought many of her soon-to-be favorite authors to the remote Northern Prairie: Sherman Alexie, Peter Matthiessen, August Wilson, Toi Derricotte, Mark Doty, Natasha Trethewey, and Terry Tempest Williams. Blyth lives in the Riverwest neighborhood of Milwaukee, where she gardens, cooks, takes photographs, and participates in a yearly 24-hour bike race. At 800-CEO-READ, she runs our social media accounts, writes for In the Books, and is the keeper of all our marketing spreadsheets.