The campus near John Glenn International Airport is made up entirely of warehouse space converted for various uses.
Although the headquarters for Designer Brands Inc., the new name of DSW, has been in a converted airplane hangar since 2007, the space still looks fresh. The building is near the airport and is an expansive 170,000 square feet. Nearby is the 66,000-square-foot IT center and a distribution center that is over 600,000 square feet (during World War II, the distribution center building was used to make bombers). Together, they make up the Designer Brands campus, which includes Canadian brands Shoe Co., Shoe Warehouse and Camuto Group, all purchased in 2018. The lobby is bright, and headshots often are taken there because of the natural light pouring in, says Margaret Standing, director of corporate communications. Running down the main corridor of the building is a wide hallway called Broadway—an homage to New York City and fashion. The office of CEO Roger Rawlins is a glass-encased room right in the middle of the hallway. “I think it’s democratic to be so visible to the associates,” says Standing. Nearby, a large bronze tiger sits on its haunches underneath a staircase. The work by artist Mark Coreth was purchased by founder Jay Schottenstein at an auction. The “crouching tiger” has become a rite of passage, as yearly summer interns get their picture taken sitting on it. “I keep thinking we need to hide a dragon behind it,” says Standing. “Although I don’t know that anyone would get the joke.”
The building houses 500 employees in an area of cubicles called the “fishbowl” and several other spaces. There are rows of small meeting rooms to accommodate shoe makers’ reps with their huge suitcases who frequently come to sell. Tucked away is an area with a large corkboard used to hang new seasons of merchandise and meet informally. The New Balance fitness center offers plenty of weights and machines for employees to use. Some employees have taken it upon themselves to offer fitness tips tacked to a board in the room. At the very end of the extremely long building is flexible meeting space dubbed “sole space”—“Because everything is a shoe pun here, or a foot pun,” says Standing.
The Runway Café is managed by Eurest, a company that offers corporate food marketplaces, vending and catering. Standing says DSI’s marketplace is managed by a chef and the food is not frozen or pre-prepared. The café also boasts a Starbucks. Because of the location of the building, it is important to have good options in the café for employees—there aren’t a lot of other choices around. The location, however, has its advantages. Its “proximity to the airport is very convenient and also because the distribution center is here,” says Standing. Sometimes the café is used to host the announcement of company news via a big screen. Recently, it was used to televise the World Cup for employees to watch during their work day. Designer Brands executives’ vision for the space is to foster creativity, innovation and collaboration—and, of course, to find the best possible shoes to put in stores. “There’s shoes in literally every corner,” says Standing.