SHP Gives Tire Discounters A Modern Space That Facilitates Communication and Collaboration

Honoring their Cincinnati roots, Tire Discounters, with the help of SHP, renovated a 100-year-old building in Cincinnati’s Central Business District. 

When Tire Discounters, the country’s largest 100% family owned and operated tire and service provider, decided to create a new consolidated headquarters, it turned to SHP’s Workplace studio.

The brand wanted a contemporary workspace that would facilitate more fluid communication and collaboration across multiple, previously physically disconnected business functions. The end-goal: even better customer service, one of the brand’s hallmarks.

Tire Discounters also wanted to honor its Cincinnati roots — the company was founded there in 1976 and it remains its largest market to this day. So, the company purchased a 100-year-old, 32,684-square-foot historic building in Cincinnati’s Central Business District.

Of course, while SHP was pleased to help Tire Discounters acknowledge its proud past, the firm was particularly focused on its future — including how the future of work at Tire Discounters’ 140 retail locations in six states impacts its headquarters. With recent technological advancements in the automotive industry, including the rise of autonomous vehicles, Tire Discounters’ customer base and service offerings are in a constant state of evolution. And this has a bearing on work at the main office.

During SHP’s workplace strategy sessions, it became clear that innovation would be one of the core design considerations.

“For example, we learned that certain changes in their business might require different approaches to how they sell their services and to whom,” said Jeffrey Sackenheim, vice president at SHP. Tire Discounter’s record of innovating in a manner that pleases customers — and frustrates their competitors — is one of the reasons the company was named “Tire Dealer of the Year” by Modern Tire Dealer magazine.

SHP and Tire Discounters built on the innovation theme and other concepts and arrived at five foundational design drivers. From there, design sessions included exploring visual directions and deep conversations around each design driver (culture, technology, innovation, etc.). These conversations and explorations led to a host of key design elements, most significantly the decision to cut a hole through five floors of the building to insert a custom, six-story open tread wood and steel staircase.

“This is truly the jewel of the new environment,” Jeffrey said. “Symbolically it says to all who work here that they are connected, part of the same brand, the same vision, the same customer-focused team. Practically, it facilitates collaboration and the sort of spontaneous conversations that research has proven to juice innovation.”

Overall, Tire Discounters wanted its new workspace to feel comfortable not only for the employees who work there, but store managers who come to visit and the CEOs of the world’s largest tire companies who regularly come in for meetings. The new headquarters reflect the Tire Discounters brand throughout and have unique and flexible features:

  • An historic elevator cab, original to the building, was salvaged and repurposed as a small group meeting room on the first floor. The elevator shaft was filled in on each of the floors to gain back valuable square footage.
  • The majority of the community-type amenity spaces are on the first floor and are not distributed through the building, including a main professional development room, which opens up to a common area with food, beverage and coffee stations, and a formal conference room.
  • The first floor is bright, airy, and inviting with no assigned seats. It features a variety of spaces and furniture solutions, which are a free domain for visitors, like store managers, who may need a space to work for the day.
  • On each floor, there are spaces designed to flex to either open up the areas for collaboration or be closed off if needed.
  • The technology department wanted to make sure there was a room where they could recreate the various customer-facing points of sale and interface within a typical store. It will allow them to problem-solve and troubleshoot in the moment, should they get a call from the field.
  • The building is on a high-traffic street corner, so connectivity and activation at the street level were essential considerations. Elements of the company’s history, accolades, and recognition are highlighted throughout and a new five-story mural of the brand’s logo is visible to both vehicular and pedestrian traffic throughout the day. The mural takes advantage of an otherwise blank wall that is part of an original egress stair that is held back three feet from an exterior, full-height window wall.

When was the project completed? 

The project was completed in 2021.

How many SF per person?

The space includes 32,000 square feet and was built with the company’s growth in mind and has the capacity to house 140 team members. Currently, 90 people work there. The new headquarters features roughly 300 square feet per person.

How many employees work here?

90 people work in the downtown headquarters

What is average daily population?

90 employees

Describe the work space type.

The workspace is a hybrid of open plan, small- and large-group huddle spaces and enclosed offices. The first floor is bright, airy and inviting with no assigned seats. It features a variety of spaces and furniture solutions—such as work “booths” and comfortable couches—which are a free domain. The remaining floors include spaces designed to flex and accommodate individual needs throughout the day. A handful of private offices are reserved for key business operations functions that require privacy and discretion, such as HR.

Another highlight is within the technology department, where the team can recreate various customer-facing points of sale and interface within a typical store. It will allow them to problem-solve and troubleshoot in the moment, should they get a call from the field.

What kind of meeting spaces are provided?

The first floor is intended to host all-staff meetings and social functions, with the lower landing of the central staircase providing an elevated platform/podium for more formal presentations. Also on the first floor, connected to the large community space via perforated overhead rolling doors, is a formal training and professional development room. This space, which is immediately adjacent to the entry lobby, can also be used for client-facing meetings. The first floor also includes an architectural gem: an original, historic elevator cab that was discovered, salvaged, restored and repurposed as a small group meeting room.

Each floor then contains two different types of meeting spaces, with the key differentiator being formal vs. informal. The result: conference rooms with walls and doors + open meeting spaces with flexible furniture. Both types of spaces are fit out with analog (whiteboard) and digital technology solutions.

It’s important to Tire Discounters to have a place where Tire Discounters employees can gather and share meals—and a beer on a Friday or after-hours. There’s a coffee bar, beer tap and café seating available. Since moving into the space, it’s been neat to watch this area filled with the team at lunch time to share a meal and connect with one another. It’s thrilling to see it being used as they envisioned.

An elevator car that was original to the building was salvaged and repurposed as a small group meeting room on the first floor. This is one of the clever reuses of interesting architectural details in the space. The elevator car has already become a favorite place to hang out or have an impromptu meeting. The elevator shaft was filled in on each of the floors to gain back valuable square footage.

A hole was cut through five floors of the building to insert a custom, six-story floating wood and steel staircase. This is the jewel of the new environment. Symbolically it says to all who work here that they are connected, part of the same brand, the same vision, the same customer-focused team. Practically, it facilitates collaboration and the sort of spontaneous conversations that research has proven to juice innovation.

What other kinds of support or amenity spaces are provided?

The majority of the community amenity spaces are on the first floor, rather than being distributed through the building. This includes a common area with food, beverage and coffee stations, and the previously mentioned formal conference room. The former build-out had small coffee and kitchenette stations on each floor, but early in the design process, SHP consolidated these stations on the first floor to encourage employees to move about the space, resulting in opportunities for serendipitous learning and in-the-moment communication and collaboration.

Each floor also features cubicle seating that are nooks and private spaces where employees can take a break from their desks.

On each floor, there are spaces designed to flex so that they can either open the areas for collaboration or close them off if needed. For example, the marketing department may require a higher degree of privacy for something in the early development stages before it’s ready for public consumption. The room features a rotating door that also serves as a whiteboard.

The recording studio is another unique feature is added for Tire Discounters’ audio equity and history. It will be outfitted and finished soon.

The technology department wanted to make sure they had abuild room” where they could recreate the various customer-facing points of sale and interface within a typical store. It will allow them to problem-solve and troubleshoot in the moment, should they get a call from the field. POS and technology in the store so developers can work on it live and train, and trouble-shoot.

Overall, Tire Discounters is planning for future growth: a technology lab and “build room” are where they can recreate the various customer-facing points of sale and interface within a typical store as well as the space for expansion for more programmers and developers as they offer more ways for our customers to interact with the company through their computers/smartphones.

What is the project’s location and proximity to public transportation and/or other amenities?

The building is on a high-traffic historic street corner in downtown Cincinnati’s Central Business District. It is within three blocks of the city center, Fountain Square, a large public piazza surrounded by dining, hotels and retail establishments. Within a five-block walk are connections to the city’s stunning riverfront walk, football, soccer and baseball stadiums, large-scale music venue, ice hockey arena and convention center. Public transportation is plentiful, with several bus lines servicing the area and the city’s centrally located transportation hub a five-minute walk away.

How is the space changing/adapting as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?

The new headquarters opened in the middle of the pandemic. Tire Discounters is considered an essential business and has been working throughout to make sure that cars could stay safely on the road.

Having the right people, processes and systems in place has enabled Tire Discounters to expand its footprint rapidly, but it also helped the company manage through the pandemic.

The company also used the pandemic as an opportunity to launch several new customer-focused initiatives that were already in pilot mode. The new space allowed for the collaboration and development of the programs.

Any other information or project metrics?

Tire Discounters is growing rapidly and leads the way in providing unique and innovative customer benefits designed to make tires last longer and maximize the overall performance of a vehicle. The company’s new home is completely renovated and personalized to fit its needs today and the future. It is important for Tire Discounters to honor their Cincinnati roots — they were founded in Cincinnati in 1976 and it remains the largest market to this day. It’s also important to us to be downtown in the heart of Cincinnati.

Was the C-suite involved in the project planning and design process? If so, how?

Yes, the C-suite was fully engaged throughout all phases of the project, beginning with a series of Workplace Strategy sessions and culminating with the construction and close-out phases.

What kind of programming or visioning activities were used to create the space?

During its Workplace Strategy sessions, it became clear that innovation would be one of SHP’s core design considerations. For example, SHP learned that certain changes in Tire Discounters’ business might require different approaches to how it sells its services and to whom. Tire Discounter’s record of innovating in a manner that pleases customers — and frustrates their competitors — is one of the reasons the company was named “Tire Dealer of the Year” by Modern Tire Dealer magazine.

Early design sessions included activities centered on precedent analysis, cultural assessment, program development and plotting critical adjacency and functional relationship diagrams – all underpinned by the desire for innovation, learning, collaboration and communication. These conversations and explorations led to the development of five key design drivers that would set the tone for the planning principles and design aesthetic:

  • Technology: The integration of new, smart business tech.
  • Serendipitous Learning: The sharing of institutional knowledge.
  • Cost to Value: Smart expenditures will yield value.
  • Fun/Community: The adoption of daily fun will build the future work community.
  • Privacy to Collaboration: Cross-functional teamwork will foster growth.
  • TD Brand: The story, focus and future of TD.

Were any pre-planning surveys conducted to get employee input?

Departmental level surveys were conducted to gather practical and functional data to define mission-critical components for efficiency and effectiveness.

Were there any other kinds of employee engagement activities?

At key design milestones, the Tire Discounters and SHP team shared virtual walk-thrus and plan reviews during all-staff meetings.

Please describe any program requirements that were unique or required any special research or design requirements.

Custom design solutions were certainly considered for the marketing and creative department. The design challenge centered around their desire to allow for all staff to see active works-in-progress that spoke directly to the future direction of the company, but would also allow for extreme privacy (when guests visited) due to sensitive and confidential information.

The resulting solution revolved around custom designed and fabricated eight-foot-wide pivot doors that were clad with a magnetic markerboard material. When work-in-progress is on full display, the doors are in the full open position. When confidentiality is required, the doors pivot to a closed position.

Another small but mighty custom space, also connected to the marketing department, was an on-site recording studio. Tire Discounters is well-known for their playful radio and television spots, all of which are produced internally. This activity was previously performed off-site studio spaces, but now, can be executed 100% on-site.

Was there any emphasis or requirements on programming for health and wellbeing initiatives for employees?

Programming for health and wellbeing was a key contributing factor. Resultant design solutions included things like: a six-story communicating stair, which encourages staff to physically move through the space instead of taking the elevator; a large, first floor bike storage room and adjacent locker rooms with staff shower; and the creation of a sanctuary room that allows for moments of silence and respite during the normal work day.

Were there any special or unusual construction materials or techniques employed in the project?

Working in a 100-year old historic building always presents interesting and unusual opportunities for material application and construction techniques. The project included to-be-expected things like masonry and terra cotta restoration, historically appropriate window replacements and the like. As much as possible, SHP paid homage to and celebrated the original construction by cleaning up and incorporating the original concrete structural system (including exposed pan joists) and masonry walls.

Cutting the opening for the six-story stair required structural reinforcement of the existing concrete frame. This was a labor intensive process, with certain engineering decisions being driven by the practical physical logistics of inserting a new steel frame on each floor of the building.

What products or service solutions are making the biggest impact in your space?

Tire Discounters’ goal was to have a contemporary workspace that would facilitate more fluid communication and collaboration across multiple, previously physically disconnected business functions. This goal has been brought to life, as has all of the community-type areas being a gathering space for employees.

What kind of branding elements were incorporated into the design?

Tire Discounters’ brand is built around fun and quirky elements such as its “spokesperson,” The Phantom Tire Buyer. The company leans into this unique positioning in all elements of its operations, so it was important to bring it to life in the design as well. Some of the unique elements include:

  • A five-story mural of the Tire Discounters logo was painted on a recessed egress stairwell facing the street and is visible to vehicular and bystander traffic both day and night.
  • A floating, deconstructed wheel-and-tire sculpture is suspended from the ceiling in the company’s lobby.
  • A cluster of smart TVs form a pop-art style digital portrait of The Phantom Tire Buyer that greets visitors and is visible from the streetscape.
  • From fabrics to furnishings, the design is awash in the brand’s primary color palette of red, charcoal, black and white.

Overall, it’s important to Tire Discounters that the new workspace feels comfortable not only for the employees who work here, but store managers who come to visit and the CEOs of the world’s largest tire companies who regularly come in for a meeting.

What is the most unique feature of the space?

The most unique and dramatic feature of the space – as well as the most significant design decision – was to cut a hole through five floors of the historic cast-in-place concrete building to insert a custom-fabricated, six-story, open tread, wood and steel staircase through the center of the building. This stair serves as the literal and figurative heart of the space, is the central organizing element for each floor, contributes to employee health, and spurs moments of serendipitous learning, communication and collaboration. The existing building’s concrete frame was reinforced with a new structural steel frame to allow for a large hole to be cut in the center of each floor plate. A custom-fabricated, open tread wood and steel stair was subsequently inserted piece by piece.  Cable railings contribute to the openness and transparency of the stair, allowing for unobstructed line of sight to and through each floor.

Are there any furnishings or spaces specifically included to promote wellness/wellbeing?

Programming for health and wellbeing was a key contributing factor. Resultant design solutions included things like: a six-story communicating stair, which encourages staff to physically move through the space instead of taking the elevator; a large, first floor bike storage room and adjacent locker rooms with staff shower; and the creation of a sanctuary room that allows for moments of silence and respite during the normal work day.

Who else contributed significantly to this project?

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