In the News

Office Environment Company:
Innovative Workspace Solutions

As seen in Louisville Magazine, March 2017

As seen in Louisville Magazine, March 2017

110 years young. Since 1907, Office Environment Company has built a reputation for integrity, creativity and quality. From workspace design and furniture to business products-including office, computer, break room and janitorial products, Office Environment Company is dedicated to providing the outstanding customer service that has been their hallmark since day one. Office Environment Company is the only Preferred Haworth dealer in Kentucky. The company is currently managed by the third generation of the William P. Kelly family - Tricia Burke is President and her brother Kelly Burke is Chairman. Both continue to be active in the business in sales and operations.

As a certified Woman Business Enterprise, any purchases made directly with Office Environment Company will help any business achieve its WBE purchasing goals. An active member with Louisville Independent Business Association, Office Environment Company believes in the power and practice of buying locally.

Due to an imminent domain decision that triggered relocation, Office Equipment Company (previous name) built its new headquarters in 1979 on urban renewal property and moved from 119 S. 4th Street to 1136 W. Market Street. For all 110 years of its existence, Office Environment Company has been committed to the greater Louisville community, with the last 38 years working out of its working showroom at 12th & Market in West Louisville. Many organizations and businesses have enjoyed the complimentary use of the Kelly Room, a 20-person conference room perfect for strategic planning and meeting off-site.

Office Environment Company: 1136 West Market Street, Louisville, KY 40203

Marshall Thornton brings good cheer to every customer, every job

Marshall Thornton

Marshall Thornton

For more than two-thirds of his 65 years on Earth, Marshall Thornton has worked in service and installing at Office Environment Company in Louisville, Kentucky. Three generations of the family-owned business have been at the helm during his career.

"I actually worked here a couple summers in high school."

After a stint in the Army, he tried a different tack. "I got married, I think, when I was 21, and I worked at a box plant and I got laid off a few times, and when I did, I came down here and talked to Mr. B, which is Kelly and Tricia's dad, and I told him, 'I'll come down and work for you until something comes along.' I've been temporary for 41 years." He smiles at the inevitable laugh.

Mr. B was Mr. Burke, father to current company president, Tricia Burke, and company chairman, Wm. Kelly Burke. At the time Thornton was hired on, Mr. B was junior to, as Thornton calls him, "Ol' Mr. Kelly," Mr B’s father-in-law, who Thornton worked under for 25 years.

"It's changed a lot. Before, everything used to be cut and dry, you know: a desk, a chair, a file cabinet. Then they got into the modular furniture, and it grew from there. Of course, they kept corning up with different lines, different styles of furniture, and you have to adapt to all of it… There's always something you've got to modify to make it work."

Thornton might have to pack on a few more pounds to be mistaken for St. Nick in warmer months, but after Thanksgiving, he's known to wear a Santa hat and red shirt when he goes out on calls. With his white beard and glasses, the resemblance is uncanny. After so much time and so many long-term relationships with customers, around the holidays, he can't be sure he's being called for a legitimate repair.

"I had one or two customers that would always break something right around when their Christmas party was, and they'd call and ask me to come down and fix it … They see Santa pull up at their Christmas party, and I go in to fix something and they'll say, 'Oh, well, we've already fixed it.'" Instant office party Santa. "It was all in fun," he says.

Thornton values customer service, though he might not say so in those words. It's clear a big part of this for him is having fun in everyday interactions.

"I like to joke with people, you know. I think I read 'em pretty good," he says. One day, he was out working on an office remodel. "I was putting up some modular furniture, and the lady asked if I could put her door on this end instead of this end," He gestures left to right.

"I said, 'Sure,' I said, 'I can hang it on the ceiling if you like.' I was just joking around. Well, she called my boss and complained that I was being rude, and I thought, 'Well…'"

That's where the story would usually end: an annoyance on each end. Not for Thornton, though. He had to apologize in person.

"He told me about it and I drove back out there and apologized and told her I was just kidding, and it turned out she's one of my biggest fans. You know, after [I sat and talked] to her, explained what I was doing … She was just having a bad day. She took it wrong, I don't know, but we turned out to be good friends after that."

After so much time on a job, it's hard to let it go. Thornton talks about showing up for work every day like it's a habit he's trying to break. In all the years he's worked at Office Environment Company, he's only called in sick to work twice.

"I was gonna retire last March. I actually had a couple customers that called up wanting to know if they could subcontract with me to come out and do the work for 'em. So I've known a lot of nice customers. I've known some of 'em 40 years, and a lot of them died off and retired. I think I'm ready to go out the door. I'm at the jumping off point," he laughs. "No, I don't plan on retiring for a while. I'm just gonna cut back some."

"The only interest I've had longer than Office Environment Company is Jean, my lovely wife of 44 years." Thornton's also proud of his son and daughter who have both embarked on careers of their own. He pulls up a photo on his cell phone: one of him in his Santa getup with his daughter dressed as an elf at her job's Christmas party. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Contact Office Environment Company for a broad range of office products, backed by personalized service

Visit the Office Environment Company showroom in downtown Louisville at 12th & Market for ideas on how to create a workspace to meet your needs. You might not see Marshall Thornton in his Santa hat, but you will encounter friendly customer service. You can also contact the company at 502-585-5161.

Helping make Home of the Innocents an even brighter home

the common areas of the cottages at Home of the Innocents

Home of the Innocents Common Areas

On the last Friday afternoon in October, there's plenty of activity on Home of the Innocents' campus on East Market Street in Louisville. Staff members, ready for a costume contest as The Jolly Green Giant and Colonel Sanders, hail Paul Robinson as he passes on his way to give Insider Louisville a partial tour of the facilities. The new CEO joined the nonprofit in June and this is longtime CEO Gordon Brown's last day overseeing the transition.

Over the last 135 years, Home of the Innocents has adapted and grown, but they've never wavered in their mission to help children in crisis. Since 2003, the organization has operated in 17 buildings on a 20.5-acre campus. This sounds like lots of room, but the nonprofit served more than 7,000 children last year alone.

An environment serving many needs

They offer an incredible number of services. They're known for being a home for kids who are abused, neglected and abandoned. But they also offer therapy, treatment, foster care and adoption placement, and all manner of medical interventions. They house over 70 medically fragile children. It would be impossible to list everything they do to serve children in our community who lack advantages many take for granted.

Their Open Arms Children's Health Center opened five years ago to serve resident children, but soon was opened to the community. Robinson describes it as "a 10-discipline integrated care medical facility." Keeping track with his fingers he says, "We offer medical services, vision, dental, audiology, pharmacy, psychology, psychiatry, occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy." A kid can come in for a regular doctor appointment, be referred to a dentist or an audiologist and get vital help the same day.

A main hallway connects the cottages, where the children live, to the school and offices. It's painted to look like a village thoroughfare, street signs and all. It's clean and bright, with murals along the way. The concrete floor was designed to emulate cobblestone.

Newly revamped children's cottages

Recently, the cottages where children live were revamped. Each entrance is a portico off the corridor. Once inside, a large common area is the central feature of the space. There are blue and orange chairs in a large circle where kids gather for group therapy or to relax with a movie. There's a kitchen and a dining area with round tables next to big windows that flood the area with natural light.

All the furniture meets many important specifications. The chairs in the main area offer comfort and color, are also stain resistant and too heavy to lift. There are no hard edges. In the bedrooms, there are bright orange plastic shelves affixed to an orange accent wall. The bed abuts a large window with Venetian blinds behind the glass, giving residents control without compromising safety. Children can decorate their rooms the way they see fit, and the furnishings make a colorful foundation.

Furniture from a trusted partner

The furniture in the cottage was all sourced and installed through Office Environment Company, a family-owned Louisville business for over 100 years. Robinson says, "They are a partner in the true sense of the word — a business partner — that when we have a need, they come. They understand the programs and the services we offer. They know the kids that we’re serving so they have a deep sensitivity to that, which is kind of unusual for a business partner."

Rick Elliot, sales manager for Office Environment Company's furniture division, has overseen several projects with the nonprofit. "The time and work that Paul puts in is remarkable," he says. The goal in revamping the cottages in April 2016, "…was to find a product that was durable, contemporary and vibrant." Office Environment Company worked with their vendors to provide special pricing for this project.

Being creative with options

"We are in a nonprofit world here, and we don't have unlimited dollars. So they're able to be very creative with the dollars that we have," says Robinson. "We can share with them, directly, the budget we've got to try to work within, and they find ways to stretch that budget as much as they possibly can. They give us options to consider."

On the way out, Gordon Brown passes the new CEO in the corridor and they exchange a few words. With five months under Brown's wing, Paul Robinson is ready for one of the most demanding jobs in the city. It's hard for him to imagine doing otherwise. He says, "I go home and I tell my kids, it is the wind in my sails, honestly, to do the job that I do. Because, you know, while you might have a really tough day, a challenging day, it's these children you're helping. That should give you the energy, the fortitude to come to work on a daily basis. It's humbling." If you would like suggestions for creating a workspace that meets your needs, contact Office Environment Company at 502-585-5161.

How to create a work-friendly office space

image of unique google office space

Google Office

Forward-thinking companies like Pixar and Google know something about getting the most from their people. It means giving them the right challenges and motivations to do great work. It also means giving them the right space to work in.

Steve Jobs is quoted in his self-titled biography as saying the offices at Pixar are specifically meant to promote "encounters and unplanned collaborations."

Google's Chelsea offices make use of large and tiny spaces with thematic metropolitan touches, like the graffiti on the outside of a phone booth. A life-sized, tenement-style brick wall with a fire escape is painted along a corridor. People meet in a cafe or in the studio apartment-themed space that feels as if someone lived there.

What these and other successful companies realize is that spontaneity and stimulation ignite creativity. People work smarter when their well-being is considered in their surroundings.

Small changes can make a big difference

Chances are, your company isn't quite as large as Pixar or Google. The good news is you can make small or incremental changes and still make a significant difference in the way people work. Keeping an eye on the thermostat can have an immediate impact, for instance. A 2004 Cornell study determined that people make fewer errors and are more productive when the workspace temperature is between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Lower temperatures yielded 44 percent more typing errors and output was reduced by over 50 percent.

Start by making people comfortable

Creating a work-friendly office space is really about making people comfortable. A smart first step it to consider how people might react to their environment from a sensory standpoint. What do they see? Nothing but beige walls? Do they hear the noise from ringing phones and competing voices? Are there quiet areas for people to focus? Does the space isolate them? Is there a place where people can naturally come together? Does the furniture support their bodies? Are there ways to move around throughout the day?

Creating a healthier, more comfortable work environment was the goal for Blue Cross Blue Shield in Rhode Island when it decided to do an officewide ergonomic evaluation. Based on the findings, the company implemented a series of changes that yielded many positive results. The company installed ergonomic furniture and adjustable work surfaces and implemented other changes, like replacing handsets with headsets. The Ergonomic Program kept a nurse on staff and educated workers on best workplace practices.

Ergonomic improvements at the company led to reduced work-related musculoskeletal disorders, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. The company kept people at work and reduced paid leaves. Days lost from work-related injuries were reduced from 345 to 89 per year over a period of four years.

Work spaces greatly influence how employees feel and perform on a daily basis. Fortunately, companies can make changes to their environments for the better without a substantial investment in time and resources.

Read more about collaboration styles and design for a healthier work culture in Haworth Collaborative Spaces. Louisville's Preferred Haworth Dealer is Office Environment Company. Explore the ultimate in ergonomics and modes of collaborative design by visiting their showroom at 1136 W. Market Street in downtown Louisville.

For all members of Louisville Independent Business Alliance (LIBA), during the month of October, you can buy Haworth chairs for 50% off list price with free delivery. This is part of the CONNECTOBER promotion. Please call 502-585-5163 to access this special.

What if a screen united you and your collaborators?

Image of collaborative bluescape

The creative process is all about tools and perspective. To bring an idea to life, any creative person knows you have to be open to new ways of working. If a task feels too large, zoom in; focus on the details and you might find a new way. A coworker’s inspiration can bring excitement to a project and turn things around in an instant. Varied methods and perspectives make all the difference.

We have more creative tools than ever, especially in the digital realm, but our screens can box us in. Some of us work better when we can move. Some of us are more tactile. We each bring our own strengths, methods, and skills, so there’s no single operating system or device that is optimal for everyone.

Our messaging is separate from our calendar which is separate from a project’s graphics. No matter how organized a team, when a collaborative project is spread among many computers, devices, applications, operating systems, locations, and time zones, fresh ideas can get lost in the shuffle.

If your projects were all in one workspace that gave you the capacity to organize, display, edit, and collaborate in real time across operating systems, applications, and locations, it would be transformative.

Scratch that. It is transformative.

With collaborative projects, everything gets connected eventually, but Bluescape lets you remain connected throughout the creative process.

Bluescape brings everyone together. The integrated digital platform lets you write and sketch by hand onscreen, post notes, and share third-party files in real time. Keep everyone and everything together: contracts, images, documents, videos, code. Detailed timelines allow you to go back and see changes and review or restore previous versions which have been instantly and securely saved.

Bluescape is more than software. Multi-touch screens large enough to cover a wall or small enough to carry can be installed in conference rooms and offices. The combination of the technology we keep in our pocket with the impact of a movie screen gives us the power to stand and move with our ideas, to trace and extract shapes from a life-sized image, to make a gesture and zoom in on a small detail.

Imagine your team tweaking and refining a presentation happening later that afternoon with the presenter who’s in her hotel room at a conference. Imagine screenwriters and editors storyboarding with the cinematographer who’s on location elsewhere, with an AV connection that lets them talk it through.

Bluescape is cloud-based, so it can be accessed anywhere with an internet connection. It’s secure, TLS encrypted, with 24/7 monitoring, and backed up daily at an off-site location. It’s as private as you need it to be, but you can invite as many users to a project as necessary.

Getting new team members up to speed can be as simple as inviting them to view the project’s workspace. Its development and history are right there. Everyone’s working with the same, most current information. There’s no reason to email a colleague about a detail and wait for an answer when you can just pop in and check anytime from anywhere. This capability streamlines any number of independent tasks, all running in tandem.

Bluescape came about when Haworth partnered with Obscura Digital to find better ways to manage large data sets. They want to help people transform the way they work for the better. It’s a company that gets excited about improving customers’ experiences.

“We believe in our people and products. We make the things we want to use, and use the things we want to make.”

The biggest rule in storytelling is show, don’t tell. Don’t explain the feelings. Show them. Stories are more than words. A visual collaborative workspace gives you the chance to play to your strengths, to be expressive and intuitive. It is easier than ever to get your ideas out there effectively and quickly and streamline the process of making them a reality.

Experience Bluescape and see how it can forever transform the way you work and collaborate. Come see why their motto is “Everything is connected.”

Family owned and operated for more than 100 years, Office Environment Company is Louisville’s Preferred Haworth dealer and will be hosting an interactive event called The Office of the Future on Tuesday, Oct. 4 from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. at their showroom at 1136 W. Market St. in Louisville.

The Ideal Chair is More than a Philosophical Concept

The question of what a chair is, what makes “chairness,” is a philosophical one that was first published in 350 BC in Aristotle’s Metaphysics. Plato used the abstract concept of the perfect chair as the basis of comparison — an ideal to be measured against the reality of all our world’s chairs. In Plato’s philosophy, the perfect chair cannot exist and will forever remain abstract. But nearly 2,500 years later, we’re getting closer to that ideal than ever before.

Perfection is in the eye of the beholder, and as researcher Gilbert S. Daniels discovered in 1950 working on behalf of the U.S. military, there is no average body. That is to say, among 10 measurable factors of the human body, not one individual among thousands matched an average criteria across all ten variables. We are all different.

The Fern, by Haworth, is a chair that is inspired by nature and takes our differences into account. 75% of work in industrialized nations is done while seated, and research shows that how you sit while you work is a critical aspect of remaining healthy and focused.

The Fern is designed from the inside out. It’s an exciting evolution, moving with you, not against you, to help you maintain total support no matter how you work. It’s a chair you can adjust based on your needs
— needs which can shift from day to day, and even moment to moment.

Most exciting is the back of the Fern, which is like that of no other chair, and features adjustable lumbar support. Sitting in a Fern feels a little like being in a hammock. The meticulously designed back support, which is where the chair’s name originates, is a revelation. Adjusting height, recline, forward tilt or the arms are all easily accessed options that may be operated intuitively.

The chair’s design is so revolutionary, it called for a new seating category: dimensional suspension. This means complete support. There are no hard edges, unpleasant pressure points or obstructions to movement. Humans are not machines, and when someone sits in a Fern, there is a three-dimensional wavelike movement in the chair’s back that flexibly supports their shape.

As you lean forward, so will the Fern, helping you effortlessly maintain spinal alignment.

Even the depth and angle of the seat pan can be adjusted to accommodate any thigh length or shape, limiting pressure on the back of the knee, allowing for better blood-flow to the calves and feet. You won’t feel the urge to perch on the edge of your seat to relieve that tingling sensation in your toes.

Sitting in a Haworth Fern chair, any individual, no matter their size, from the fifth percentile of females to the 95th percentile of males, will be able to make the chair their own and feel complete physical support in almost any seated position. This is not an arbitrary statement. It is a conclusion drawn by an expert with over 30 years experience at United States Ergonomics who gave the chair its Ergonomic Product Certification.

An investment in the Fern is an investment in your workforce. The most valuable assets of modern businesses are the individuals that make things happen. Investing in the health and well-being of your employees is one with an excellent return on investment. Consideration for how they sit, how they feel, and how they work is of central concern.

Perhaps Plato’s concept of the ideal chair is forever out of reach, but with Haworth’s Fern, we’re closer than we ever have been before.

Louisville’s Haworth dealer is Office Environment Company. Family owned and operated for more than 100 years, Office Environment Company will be hosting an interactive event called The Office of the Future on Tuesday, Oct. 4 from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. at their office at 1136 W. Market St. in Louisville. Interactive demonstrations will allow visitors to test drive the Fern chair and feel the difference for themselves.

The event’s focus is Bluescape, an integrated digital platform which allows for visual collaboration in real time among multiple locations and devices. Bluescape’s motto is “Everything is connected.” Find out how your physical well-being and cutting edge collaborative technology can meld and forever change the way you work for the better.

Walking Into Office Environment Company is like Walking into a Bright Future-Office


Meticulously designed Haworth chairs in on-trend colors stand out among the smooth whites, grays, and neutrals of multifunctional workstations throughout the massive showroom. There is a sense of warmth and calm under thoughtfully arranged lighting that compliments the ambient sunlight.

Office Environment Company is family-owned and has been serving the Louisville area for more than 100 years — a fact that seems almost outlandish in the ultra-modern showroom. Thoughtfulness and expertise shine from every corner and each carefully considered display. It seems both classic and new.

The company’s chairman, Wm. Kelly Burke (Kelly), remembers racing rolling chairs in the basement of the previous location in downtown Louisville as a kid. He recalls that the original warehouse was made from several buildings joined together. These renovations made for a floor that had hills and dips perfect for the five Burke siblings — now all co-owners — to make their own fun. He recalls tagging along with their father, Jack Burke, when he went in on weekends to keep the building heated by shoveling coal into the furnace.

Office Environment Company’s original location at Fourth and Main had charm. Because space was so tight, they also had valet parking. In 1979, after operating there for more than 70 years, they had to move when the block was condemned by the city to make room for the convention center parking garage. An urban renewal initiative clinched the current location at 1136 W. Market St. Major renovations for the company’s centennial anniversary in 2007 gave the space a new look that took 18 months to complete.

Tricia Burke, the company President, accompanied Insider Louisville on a walkthrough of the expansive showroom, the welcoming breakroom, the Burke Room (a multi-media conference room), and the Kelly Room.

Named for her grandfather, William P. Kelly, who served as company president for 22 years, the Kelly Room is a 20-person conference room offered free of charge for meetings to companies and community organizations.

Along one wall are displays of photographs and newspaper articles in fetching 3D arrangements that offer a glimpse into Office Environment Company’s history. Tricia Burke points out moments and individuals in the visual timeline that begins in 1907. This was before the Burke family became a part of the then-retail store — back before our population would more than triple, and before women won the right to vote.

The timeline is a visual representation of a changing world, and a company that knows how to change with it according to customers’ needs. From paper products to typewriters, mimeograph machines, audio-visual equipment, and educational film distribution, the changes were gradual. They’re still being implemented, offering environmentally sustainable solutions as the world looks toward the future.

The only way you stay in operation so long as a local independent business is through deep community ties. One example is their grandfather, William P. Kelly Sr.’s, strong and lasting friendship with the Trappist monks of Gethsemani.

The famous monk Thomas Merton was connected to the office supply store, known back then as Office Equipment Company. “If you go to his library there at Bellarmine, you’ll see a lot of his journals which were purchased from Office Equipment Company,” says Kelly Burke. The location served as a drop off and pick up point for supplies for the monastery.

Though they’ve always sold office furniture, now the company uses cutting-edge design visualization software to preview clients’ spaces in such detail that even the furniture and textiles are reflected with accuracy. They can coordinate purchases across multiple locations, creating consistency in work environments nationwide.

From moveable walls and raised flooring to lighting, seating, tables and more, Office Environment Company can work with any budget to provide an environment that fits a company’s culture. They also offer technology for today’s teams to collaborate virtually with cloud-based software across multiple locations and devices.

One major feather in their cap is their “Preferred” status as a Haworth dealer. Haworth, based out of Holland, Michigan, leads the market in research on workspace culture, providing solutions to enhance wellness and productivity in today’s workspaces. Their innovations utilize a holistic approach which allows Office Environment Company to draw upon the most forward-thinking resources in the business and combine them with their own.

When asked about her company’s success, Tricia Burke says, “It’s our passion for performance. We work with the client to find out what they need, what they hope to achieve in the future, and how can we make that work in their space today.”

Join Office Environment Company for a Workplace Wellness Experience in their showroom in downtown Louisville at 12th & Market on Tuesday, Oct. 4, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. More details to come soon.