I know, I know … the title pretty much gives away the ending of this post, which is another cool CLIF giveaway - but like most things related to the CLIF company, there’s always a bigger and better story to tell. So along with the contest, you’re getting the story of my experience at the new CLIF Bar and Company headquarters open house in Emeryville, CA last week.
(And sure - you could just scroll down to the bottom and try your luck at winning the prize, but remember, karma doesn’t look kindly on that kind of thing.)
Earlier this spring, I compared my company HQ tour to Charlie Bucket visiting Willy Wonka’s fantastic and secretive chocolate factory: fantastic because of all the amazing things I saw there, and secretive due to the amount of information that I had to keep to myself. This time around, the fantastic was the same, but the secretive was different: basically, the whole point of us being here was to help publicize the new digs, which feature state of the art green construction and provide for even more company perks than its employees enjoyed in the previous office – which if you’ll recall, was quite a lot.
Needless to say, I was glad to be included – and with that, we’ll start the tour:
CLIF’s new 115,000-square-foot headquarters occupies a revitalized WWII-era manufacturing warehouse distinctive by its Bauhaus architectural details - or to the lesser trained eye, by all the CLIF vehicles parked in front of it. Best of all, our minivan spent two hours parked outside and didn’t get a parking ticket – which is more than I can say for our previous stop in Berkeley that afternoon, but that’s another story. We pulled up right across the street, and strolled in to join the party.
If for some reason you didn’t feel at home right off the bat, there was an open bar to help make you more comfortable. I felt just fine, but figured I was obligated to taste the wine … you know, mainly so I could report back here to tell you how it tasted. When I put on my journalist hat, I’m 100% committed.
(By the way, it was fantastic. And seemed to get better the more I had.)
We made our way to the reception area, which is notable for two reasons:
1) the wood you see here, like that used throughout the building, is reclaimed from local barns, railroad lines, and other discarded resources. Also …
2) This is where I met CLIF’s communications manager, as well as several members of their outstanding PR team. If you’re a PR company, you can't ask for a better client than CLIF – and everyone in the room seemed to know it. Also, remember what I said about how there weren’t any secrets this time?
Just in case I had trouble remembering anything, they gave me this nifty little zip drive with specs and photos that might come in handy later. In fact, a few of the photos are used in this report - I’ll indicate which ones they are.
Beyond the reception desk, the main office is an enormous 2-story open space, with bicycles (as well as sailboards, kayaks, and surfboards) in the air to remind you of both the company’s origin, and its “white road” philosophy that founder Gary Erickson described in his book and encourages for every member of the company.
The interior of the building showcases “biophilic” design which brings the outside world into the work space. Four integrated atrium gardens spread sunlight throughout the building, and allow rain to water the natural plants.
Having greenery and natural sunlight all over the place gives the impression of being outside even when you’re sitting in a meeting room – which I have to say is a pretty cool architectural effect. I guess if you have to work inside a building, this is probably the best possible situation. Especially if …
… there are free CLIF bar racks around nearly every corner, just in case you get the midday munchies. Or in my case, the mid-open house tour munchies.
This one’s kind of hard to appreciate - clicking to enlarge might help - but see those long flat panels suspended from the ceiling? They’re sound-dampening panels, made from recycled denim jeans. They absorb noise so that the workspace sounds more like a small office than an abandoned warehouse. Tell me that’s not a clever innovation.
The blue jeans thing is cool, but here’s where green construction impacts the bottom line: on top of the warehouse and parking structure, CLIF uses “smart solar” technology. This location is the largest array in North America, and is expected to provide 100% of the electricity and heat 70% of the water that is used in the company's daily operations. Sadly, we didn’t actually go to the roof to see this, but we were having plenty of fun down below ...
… as the tour took us to the exercise facilities of the new building. This is the aerobics, dance and floor workout area …
… which is just down the hall from a cardio and weight room that looks like it’s straight out of The Biggest Loser, except without all the fat people. By the way, anyone who goes ahead and keeps his workout with his personal trainer even though a bunch of wine-drinking looky-loos are wandering around all over the place deserves kudos.
The bouldering wall isn’t as tall as the one in the previous building, but it’s a lot wider, with tricky corners and pitches that would make me slip off in an instant, even if I hadn’t been drinking wine beforehand.
This is the yoga room, which is completely separate from the aerobics room. Also, that’s me having some fun with a mirror and a camera. And a glass of wine in my hand.
Feeling sore after your workout? Just schedule an appointment for one of the company massage therapists to come work on you. This is one of the perks that carried over from the old building, along with the free laundry facilities, hair salon, and company bikes for doing errands. As for the new perks, they include a 6,700-square-foot childcare center, an enclosed outdoor playground, and a dedicated breastfeeding room for new mothers. Lots of companies claim to be family friendly, but it’s hard to imagine anyone topping this.
CLIF is also still a very dog-friendly company, as several pooches were enjoying the open house (and presumably, the free food) as much as the rest of us.
Another thing that caught my eye was some of the personal detail built into the place – for instance, many of the door handles are made from reused bicycle frames. However, about that bicycle theme …
… they do look awfully cool hanging from the ceiling, but the thought crossed my mind that it might be a little unnerving if my desk was directly below a suspended frame. Maybe it’s a good thing that natural wind doesn’t blow through the building along with the natural light.
This isn’t my photo – it’s a promo shot from CLIF featuring someone in the R&D kitchen, which is apparently on site here somewhere. It wasn’t part of the tour, and I was gawking at so much other stuff that I didn’t really notice its omission. Maybe that was the point – and maybe there were a few secrets from this night after all.
Fortunately, we got to see this kitchen: Kali is the name of CLIF founder Gary Erickson’s grandmother, who taught him all about baking as he grew up. Knowing that, the company cafeteria really couldn’t have any other name.
The chefs had a full spread available for us, and this is where the tour ended. So we hung around to graze on some great healthy appetizers …
… and would have sat in the outdoor eating area, if it hadn’t started raining. Most people ended up congregating here:
The amphitheater setting that was carried over from the old HQ. There were musicians playing, toddlers running around, and lots of people just standing around mingling. It was the kind of atmosphere where …
… even though all the boxes aren’t unpacked and some of the pictures are still waiting to be hung, it seems to feel like home to the employees I spoke with during the open house. I honestly hope it does for them – because it’s clear that a lot of love and consideration went into this place. And those are the type of things that every home needs.
However, since it wasn’t MY home, we eventually had to say our goodbyes and return to Monterey. Before I left, however, the CLIF folks gave me a nice little gift box stuffed with various CLIF products; combined with all the items we already had crammed in our pants and jacket pockets, we made off pretty well, I’d say.
All of which (finally!) brings us to the contest. Another goody box I received from CLIF contained what might be the most sought-after products they’ve ever made: seasonal CLIF bar flavors. These are released in late October each year, and the limited quantities usually fly off shelves by the end of November. If you’ve ever tasted them, you understand why.
There are three flavors in the seasonal lineup – cranberry orange nut bread, pumpkin pie, and iced gingerbread - and it’s something of a three-way coin flip as to which tastes the best. Our family recently held a tasting event where we rated the bars, and the results from our small sampling were: pumpkin pie 3, cranberry orange nut bread 2, and iced gingerbread 1. (If you’re counting at home and wondering why our family of five registers 6 total votes, that’s easy: I counted my vote twice. Executive privilege.)
Honestly, though, there are no losers when it comes to this group of bars – only winners. And later this week, three readers will become even bigger winners, as CLIF will send a sampler pack of the seasonal bars to you directly. Standard contest rules apply: leave a comment below by Friday, October 29 at 5PM PDT, and I’ll announce randomly selected winners over the weekend. Good luck!
(And obviously, a HUGE thanks to CLIF for setting this whole thing up.)
*See other photo tours under tab at top of page.
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