A skylight catches a cloud of dust wafting out of a dumpster, and rubble is piled everywhere in the gutted warehouse of the former North Carolina Paper Co. in downtown Clayton.
Meanwhile, new owners Reid Smith and Brad Carroll are smiling in a doorway at their new investment, likely looking past the chaos of their own creation, to the brick and glass dream of their firms’ future headquarters.
Smith, developer of the ParkView neighborhood and Fred Smith’s son, will move his company, One27Homes, into the building, along with his wife’s firm, Jaclyn Smith Properties. Carroll founded real estate tech company Dakno Marketing in 2000 with his wife, Stephanie, and will move the company from downtown Raleigh to downtown Clayton.
A partnership of the companies called 114 West Main Partnership purchased the 23,000 square foot building earlier this month for $850,000. North Carolina Paper Co., a 97-year-old company that’s been in Clayton for the past 30 years, will relocate to Micro in August.
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The building opened in 1923 as a Ford dealership, bringing the Model T to Clayton, according to Clayton History Room artifacts. It sits prominently at the intersection of the town’s busiest streets, Main and O’Neil, and structurally looks pretty much the same today as it did 93 years ago. Smith, Carroll and architect Tony Johnson intend to show Clayton’s history in a new light, through the prism of “everything old is cool again.”
“You can’t build a building like that today,” Smith said. “Being able to take something historical, that was such a part of economic life in Clayton in the early part of the 1900s, and revitalize it, that was pretty attractive.”
Inspired by the communal office designs of Silicon Valley tech companies and armed with glass, exposed brick and the promise of a rooftop deck, the building might be Clayton’s first intentionally cool building. Charm has long been the town’s currency, built on a scattering of stately historic homes, a walkable Main Street and commitment to small-town life. Now with renewed interest in downtown, a burgeoning nightlife scene and growing population, Smith and Carroll hope to make Clayton’s case to millennials.
“Before we even started looking at this building, as a marketing company, we wanted the cool, office warehouse look,” Carroll said. “A new building with cubicles, we weren’t interested in anything like that. The environment is such a crucial factor, and we never would have gotten something with this much character if we had built from scratch.”
The renovation will include communal spaces throughout the office, a break area, two glass conference rooms and a small second level where Smith and Carroll’s offices will be. Right now, construction should wrap up by January 2017. In peeling back the last 30 years as a paper company, demolition crews discovered 100-year-old windows and original wooden beams, Smith said, the kind of character and personality fetching top dollar in renovations.
“Enjoying where you go to work, for a millennial, is almost as important as a paycheck,” Smith said. “We feel like the best way to attract and keep good talent is to have a place where they come every day and say, ‘I love coming to work here.’ ”
Smith said his and Carroll’s families met at church a few years ago and that the similarities in their businesses eventually led to a partnership. They said the project has been in the works for 18 months and when completed will have a builder, a home seller and a real estate marketer under one roof.
They don’t see it as a stretch for a tech company and a developer to open up shop in a small town and say they’re taking their cues from the big businesses down the road.
“If you look at Novo Nordisk and Caterpillar and the industries coming out of that and local businesses like Revival 1869 and Manning’s, we feel like we’re building on the momentum of that,” Smith said. “We hope many more come behind us.”
“Fast forward a few years and you’d probably say this makes perfect sense,” Carroll said.
Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdrewjackson