Portland Shoemaker Renovates, Recycles New HQ

In keeping with its own brand of retro-chic style, Portland, Ore.-based shoe retailer Keen Footwear has moved into an old warehouse space and made it new again, using many green building retrofit techniques along the way.

After purchasing a 105-year-old, five-story brick building in Portland’s historic Pearl District in February, the athletic and outdoor footwear retailer renovated the top four floors as its new global headquarters and opened a retail space last week on the ground floor, called the Garage. The eight-month renovation of the 50,000-square-foot former warehouse generated less than one Dumpster full of construction and demolition debris, Keen said.

Keen Garage 1

The renovated showroom floor at Keen’s new Portland headquarters. Image via Keen Footwear.

Keen sought to maintain the integrity of the original building and light-industrial neighborhood setting, wherever possible. The entrance to the 4,000-square-foot retail space, appropriately enough, consists of large glass garage-style doors that let in all the sunshine and daylight that can be coaxed out of the Pacific Northwest weather.

The high-ceilinged showroom floor of the Garage includes many objects and materials from the Portland area that have been saved from the landfill and repurposed for clever new uses. For instance, the base of the cash-register counter is wrapped in outsoles from Keen’s Swan Island shoe factory in North Portland and is covered by a suspended mosaic canopy made of old Oregon street signs. Seating areas in the store were also recovered from the old Coquille, Ore., High School bleachers.

Keen Garage 2

Street-sign canopy image via Keen Footwear

“Designing this store with these materials has been like putting together a living, breathing Keen jigsaw puzzle,” said Christa DePoe, the company’s vice president of global online and retail. Keen employees were asked to keep an eye out for various discarded materials that could be used in the new store, she said.

Keen Garage 3

Keen’s sliding wooden door was made from recovered barn wood. Image via Keen Footwear.

Some other notable recycled elements include the sliding wooden doors separating the Keen offices from the Garage, which were made from recovered wood found in an old barn in Corvallis, Ore. A display table for bowling shoes is also made from the polished lanes of a now-demolished bowling alley. Another display for heavy-duty utility boots is constructed out of old metal scaffolding material.

One labor- and energy-saving device that also happens to be eye-catching and fun is a retro-style gravity chute. Employees can use the spiral slide to whisk shoe boxes down from their stockroom on the mezzanine level to the checkout area, where the customers can catch them.

Randy Woods is a Seattle-based writer and editor with 20+ years of experience in the business publishing world. A former managing editor of Seattle Business, iSixSigma, Claims and Waste Age magazines, he has covered topics that include newspaper publishing, entrepreneurism, green businesses, insurance, environmental protection and garbage hauling (yes, really). He also contributes to the Career Center Blog for The Seattle Times and edits a photography magazine called PhotoMedia. When not working, he likes to hide out in Seattle movie theaters and attend film festivals—even on sunny days.


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