Two years ago, when Luke Scott moved MadisonMott — his red-hot marketing/design firm — from South Norwalk to Saugatuck, it was like coming home.
The business was born here, and occupied 2 Post Road locations before heading to a converted mill in trendy SoNo.
Luke grew up here too, on Bridge Street — almost within sight of MadisonMott’s new Ketchum Street location.
Still, moving into the old Mecklermedia building carried risks. Luke knew he’d have plenty of space, lots of light, and blazing fast internet. But the Saugatuck redevelopment was still in mid-construction. The promise of a cool, vibrant community was not yet reality.
What a difference 2 years makes.
Gault — the Saugatuck developer — “gave us space to build around our culture, our people and our vision,” Luke says.
(Full disclosure: I’ve known Luke since the late 1980s, when I coached him in soccer. He’s now a great friend, and a collaborator. MadisonMott created StaplesSoccer.com, which has been called [ahem] “the best high school sports website in the country.”)
Saugatuck Center is a place of people and vision, Luke notes. It’s been designed as an interactive, eating, shopping — and definitely walking — community.
“We loved SoNo,” Luke says. “We were leaving a place rich with dining, shops and transportation options.” They found all that — and more — in Saugatuck. “This has totally exceeded our expectations.”
The large parking lot is a bonus. So is the nearby train station. Luke, co-owner Kristen Briner or a colleague will meet a client or potential hire there. By the time they’ve finished the short walk to Ketchum Street, the visitor is inspired: by the area, and MadisonMott’s presence. (They’re further wowed by the firm’s open, collaborative floor plan — and ping pong table.)
The company bought 2 bikes. Any employee can borrow one. They use them to pick up coffee or lunch, or just ride along to the mini-park on Riverside Avenue for a break.
A couple of folks live in Black Rock. They bike from home to work and back, along the scenic Southport Beach/Burying Hill/Green’s Farms route.
The other day, the entire staff celebrated the launch of the company’s new website by singing karaoke at the Duck.
A patio with grill at the back of the MadisonMott office is another hangout. One client is located in an adjacent building. “They come in through the back door,” Luke says.
But it is the Saugatuck community that has really been key to the move’s success.
From the restaurants — the Whelk, Tarry Lodge, Tutti’s and all the others — to Craft Butchery, Saugatuck Sweets, 99 Bottles and Downunder, there’s a vibe that encourages friendliness, community and creativity.
“We’re locals now, and we’re on a first-name basis with the other locals,” Luke says. “And it’s incredible how much high-level business is being done around here. There are a lot of young, creative people thriving in this area. It’s not urban or suburban. It’s a unique place — and it’s right on the water.”
Luke — whose 1st job was at the old Peter’s Bridge Market — has a special perspective. He’s a former area resident whose business now thrives there.
“As a teenager, you shun the idea of a ‘hometown,'” he says. “With a company like this, you spend a lot of time together, in an office. We are very lucky to call this ‘home.'”