Tech startup goes into phase two of any successful business trajectory: the phase where you move into an old post office.
Photo is still taken from Mobelux’s video at saunders.mobelux.com.
My favorite story about the Saunders Post Office–that’s the one on the 1600 block of W. Broad, across from Lowe’s–is one I heard while interviewing someone who had aspired to be a beekeeper at some point in her life. She got reamed out by one angry USPS employee because they were convinced the bees she had ordered in the mail were escaping, due to the fact that there was one bee in the office. She tried to explain to them that there’s no way they can get out of the box, and plus, it wasn’t a bee buzzing around, it was a wasp, which is totally different. But they were convinced the beekeeper was endangering all their lives. For some reason, I found that idea to be hilarious– someone shouting at someone else in a post office setting, while a lone wasp wonders how the hell it got into this room with all these shouting humans.
My second favorite story, via Jeff Rock of Mobelux, who has purchased the now-closed post office, is that there’s an “inspector walkway” that allowed postal inspectors to spy on employees to make sure they weren’t doing anything sketchy with the mail–even in the showers.
My third favorite story is that they have showers at the post office.
“A post office from the ’30s is a lot different than a post office today,” says Jeff Rock, who has learned a lot about post offices in the year and a half since he’s been cooking up this idea. Mobelux creates beautiful and functional software platforms (among other things). In 2008, Jeff and his business partner Garrett Ross started working on mobile just as mobile was becoming a thing. They made an app for Tumblr, which Tumblr eventually purchased, and suddenly they had more work than they could handle between the two of them.
They’ve been adding employees ever since, with more than a dozen coming on board just in the past year. It was time to consider a change from their 4,000 square foot Corrugated Box Building address, which–with 26 employees distributed between a few community tables and a couple of offices–is starting to feel pretty cramped.
It turns out that the working environment at Saunders Post Office was kind of similar to the one Mobelux currently provides: a bunch of people around common tables, with a manager creepily spying on them from above. Just kidding, Jeff and Garrett have no intention of using birds-eye surveillance.
All a suspicious inspector would see anyway is a couple dozen people on headphones, typing away. But inside those computer-boxes, wizardry happens. “We hear a lot of people [who are not Mobelux employees] complaining about open offices, but I think that’s because a lot of those companies don’t have those tenets of respect that we do here,” says Jeff. “Headphones are on, you don’t bother other people. You Slack them if you need them.”
Saunders PO employees weren’t wearing headphones in the old pictures Jeff found, but they did have about 40 people working all day at bench-style sorting tables. I wish those pictures had chat bubbles–“Say, fella. What’s the big idea, see?” “Oh, come off it, will ya? I ain’t filching this Sears-Roebuck catalog! I’ve been straight since the inspector pinned me last year!”
They also discovered that the boiler in the basement is original, with chutes leading to the parking lot. Coal would be added into those chutes (now covered by manhole covers) to feed directly into the boiler, which has since been converted to natural gas.
Rows and rows of art-deco mailboxes are, as might be expected, the big aesthetic draw. Mobelux intends to turn those into some sort of art installation, but Jeff is really quick to maintain that this isn’t going to get into the realm of kooky. No Moon Bounce Togetherness Rooms or Overwrought Ideation Activity Closet for Mobelux. Just a classy, hip place focused on giving employees enough space to have good ideas and carry them out.
Led by BOB Architecture, renovation should begin in February and end hopefully in September. Because of the building’s past, they’ll get a historic tax credit worth 45% of their financial investment, which is significant.
As Jeff, Garrett, BOB, and co. get into the nitty gritty of uncovering decades of history, they’re likely to find some things. The USPS moved their operation to a few doors down, so they’ll have to just walk anything that turns up over to them, but here’s hoping they snap some pics first.
For fascinating footage of the inside of Saunders PO, check out the video on Mobelux’s site.
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Learn more about all the cool shiz that Mobelux does at Mobelux.com.