When you’re a brand that prides itself on equal parts innovation and tradition that’s characterized by sophistication and and Italian elegance, it’s important to convey that feeling throughout every element in the company.
For most major brands, this goes beyond company code and work perks — it starts right in the space that employees are working in.
And for Campari America, which just unveiled its new New York headquarters, that concept was taken to the next level.
“The business unit in America is now the biggest business unit for the [Campari] group, around 26 percent of our total global sales. It’s very small in the U.S. still, since we have just a three percent market share in the biggest market,” says Ugo Fiorenzo, Managing Director of Campari.
Yet judging from the office and its sleek, deliberate decor and architecture that makes a statement of importance without intimidation, it wouldn’t seem unlikely to those who did not know that this could in fact be the company’s main headquarters worldwide.
But the Campari Group HQ is actually located in Milan, Italy (the brand is through-and-through Italian after all), which made the former San Francisco-based Campari America office wildly inconvenient.
“We had a very nice office, but it was much smaller and very far away from our headqaurters in Milan, and far away from the region [we were controlling]”, says Fiorenzo, noting that it was also a “nightmare to communicate with [countries in the Campari America region] from San Francisco.”
For these reasons among others, Campari America decided to make the move to the East Coast:
“We made the decision two years ago and basically in eight months we built this wonderful office. We hired almost 80 new people — San Francisco is basically like another country [in comparison to New York], so a lot of people did not move … the new location was also a way to get new people in.”
Campari America was able to expand and restructure its employee pool, as Fiorenzo explained “I think in terms of talent pool, we are in a better position today because New York gives you access to much more talent.”
But for Campari, it was much more than simply settling for the first building the company found in New York — the beverage brand moved into the 18th and 19th floors of the landmark Grace Building:
“We chose Bryant Park and Midtown because we were looking for a space easy for Campari-stas to commute … we found this office that we fell in love with.”
Simply put, Fiorenzo explained,
“This is how we want Campari America to be presented to the U.S. market, and as a brand.”
Take a look inside Campari America’s new Manhattan digs:
Campari’s new office currently has 190 desks across two floors, with about 135 currently employed.
Upon exiting the elevator into a blue lacquered hall, Fiorenzo begins to explain that “When you arrive, there’s not a receptionist …”
As he pulls on the custom, brass Camparisoda-shaped door handles, it becomes apparent what structure is sitting in the spot where one would expect to see a reception desk or greeting area:
“… there’s a bar, ‘ he continues. “When we applied for the office and we presented the projects, they said ‘You’re going to open a club — there are four bars!’”
Bars that are not open to the public, of course, which would make grabbing a seat at any of Campari America’s bartops nearly impossible, adding an element of exclusivity and mystery to outsiders, something highly coveted in the New York social scene.
And that’s the magic of the 65,000 square-foot space — every time you think you’ve seen all there is to see, noticed every detail there is to notice, there’s always one more hidden space, or corner or element to discover — “We have a lot of hidden rooms,” Fiorenzo tells us.
“It’s a very different office set up … you can clearly see what we wanted to communicate and to make our people work … a less formal office and much more collaborative,” Fiorenzo says as we walk across the top floor. “Nobody has assigned seats, I don’t even have an office — that’s strange.’
But in Campari America’s culture, it’s not actually that strange.
The collaborative culture is imminent in the groups of colleagues gathered in the kitchen together eating lunch (sans laptops, as Fiorenzo lets us know that he’s “sent out a message about avoiding meetings between 12:30 and 1:30 because [employees] have to eat and break”) or by the sheer fact that Fiorenzo seems to know each employee by name as they pass him by, offering a warm “Ciao” in passing.
It’s not something you’d expect from the Managing Director of one of the biggest worldwide beverage companies, and perhaps that’s the point.
In addition to the initial Concierge reception desk bar are the Fortunato, Cafe and Boulebardier bars, each distinct in both their design and purpose.
Both the Fortunato and Concierge bar are C-shaped, the Fortunato located directly below the Concierge bar and connect through a double-height atrium that boasts a 1,500 block wood mural that serves as a replica of original Campari-commisned artwork by Fortunato Depero in the 1900s, a task Fiorenzo notes was “probably one of the most difficult things we did.”
The separation yet cohesion between the two floors is also apparent in the color schemes — Upstairs, guests will notice a predominately blue color scheme (Campari’s corporate color) with red accenting while downstairs the colors will inverse, red being the mainstay color for Campari America.
This, of course, is representative of the fact that corporate operations and amenities run on the top floor while more Campari America-specific operations happen predominantly on the bottom floor.
The desks are unassigned with no executive offices:
“We have neighborhoods and each Head of Function has an assigned desk in the neighborhood … nobody has food at their desks, we have clean desk policy. At the end of the day, everyone needs to leave their desks clean.”
Employees are assigned a locker and given a bag where they can place and store their belongings so that every day back in the office feels like a brand-new start.
Inside the office, guests will also find The Campari Academy, an innovation lab where brand ambassadors and master mixologists alike can create, experiment with and teach employees to make craft Campari cocktails, Fiorenzo noting that “It’s one of the best academies that you will find and its in Manhattan, so — probably the most expensive!”
But perhaps the star of the entire office lies back towards the entrance of the space, past old black and white photos of the Campari Headquarters in Milan — an eye-catching red lacquered hallway and staircase that would dare even the most hesitant of guests to walk in and explore.
Meant to mimic the inside of a Campari bottle, guests who follow the red staircase all the way down will find themselves in what could arguably be called the most exclusive hidden bar in all of Manhattan — the Boulevardier lounge.
Adorned with framed photographs of iconic bartenders and a nod to old New York in the days of the Speakeasy, the bar focuses on dark and special-aged spirits for tastings and exclusive demonstrations and meetings on the 100-year-old bar that, according to oral history, Al Capone once had a drink on.
And though history may be painted, built and bottled into the walls of the new Campari America office, the office isn’t just a capsule of Campari days past, but the beginning of what Fiorenzo calls “A new era, like Campari America 2.0.”