The ping pong table was key.
When Luke Scott and Kristen Briner were designing the new office for Madison/Mott — the very cool, very hip marketing/design firm that moved this month from SoNo to Saugatuck — they knew they needed many things.
Blazing fast and always dependable internet connections.
Plenty of space, lots of light, room for all their funky furniture.
And definitely, a ping pong table.
That table — one of the first things you see when you walk in off Ketchum Street — symbolizes Madison/Mott.
The name combines classic Madison Avenue creativity with East Village punk. The young staff is fluent in mobile and social media, but also experts in branding and print. And the new office combines the hip feel of Silicon Valley with the pulsing excitement of the Saugatuck renaissance.
Moving back to Westport — Madison/Mott was founded here in 1999 as “Dogsname” by Kristen, Luke, and Luke’s late father John Scott — is satisfying, 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 also a collaborator: Madison/Mott created StaplesSoccer.com, which has been called [ahem] “the best high school sports website in the country.”)
But the story is even better than just great-business-returns-home. Luke grew up a quarter mile from his current office. He worked at Peter’s Bridge Market, washed dishes at Mario’s, and skipped school to take boats out on the river.
Saugatuck lost its edge in the intervening years. Peter’s closed, the hot restaurants were in Fairfield (and SoNo), and there was no reason for young people — like the Madison/Mott crew — to come here.
Now there is. Luke, Kristen and the rest of their creative staff form the vanguard of new small businesses that are revitalizing that section of town. They walk to restaurants — and from the train station. They can’t believe there’s a kayak rental shop around the corner.
The new office is conducive to great work. In 13 years the firm has gone from hand-coding HTML (“poorly,” Luke admits) and hand-submitting sites to Yahoo (“they were the Number One search engine”), to being an award-winning hybrid shop with a diverse portfolio.
Yet Madison/Mott has not forgotten its roots. Gault has been a client for over 10 years. WishList has been too. Soon, the firm will roll out Westport Arts Center’s redesigned site.
“It’s such an exciting and challenging time,” Luke says, referring both to his industry’s increasing emphasis on mobile platforms and social media, and his company’s return to its Westport roots.
Working with Gault, Luke and Kristen knew that the Phase II redevelopment of Saugatuck would be a tipping point. “We felt energy, creativity and inspiration,” Luke says. “Saugatuck was getting the life and love it needed.”
He and Kristen toured a dark, boxy building — former home to GE research, then Mecklermedia. The floor was cement, and wires hung from the ceiling. But Kristen envisioned what it could be.
Now her vision is a reality. (Another plus: Parking is so much better than SoNo.)
“There’s a real community feeling here,” Kristen says. “Everyone has welcomed us in.”
On their very first day in Saugatuck, an architect walked in the door. She’d seen the Madison/Mott blog, which invited people to say hello. “She literally stopped in,” Kristen laughs.
They chatted. There may be collaboration ahead. There’s definitely a new friendship.
“We love being part of this excitement,” Luke says. “There’s so much energy and youth around. Bright, motivated, artistic, intelligent people are making changes here for all the right reasons. We dig it!”
And now, when he feels the urge to go out on the river, he doesn’t have to skip school.
He can just skip out of work.