Clockwork remakes Rayvic garage

The new facade facing Hennepin Avenue pays tribute to the old Rayvic storefront.

Photo by Jeremy Stratton

Just a year after the 76-year-old service garage closed its doors, Clockwork has transformed the site into its new headquarters

After more than 75 years of business, Rayvic Co. was just days from closing, and Jan Grothjan was having trouble finishing sentences. Tears welled up in her eyes as she sat in the small office and talked, along with her husband, Rayvic owner Steve Grothjan, about the family-run service station.

Fast forward one year: The Grothjans were back at 1501 E. Hennepin Ave. for an open house hosted by new tenant Clockwork Active Media Systems to show off their transformation of the garage into a “new kind of service station.”

Though impressed, Jan was still having trouble with her sentences.

“It’s wonderful, wonderful,” said Jan, the tears coming back, even at this happier of occasions. “We were here so long,” she said. “It’s different.”

But not that different, said Steve, who worked at the service station since he was a kid. “They left a lot of things,” he said as he looked around. He said that Clockwork has “breathed new life into the building.”

In addition to creating a dynamic, cool workspace for its approximately 35 employees, Clockwork has paid tribute to the former tenant. Their remaking of the signature “Rayvic Co.” façade is an obvious nod to the former design (by Phil Phil VanderVaart, whose work graces Hymie’s Vintage Records, Kramarczuk Deli, among many more places), and the Hennepin Avenue streetfront now features grass and lighting instead of gas pumps and asphalt. Inside, Rayvic’s mark is everywhere. Signs like “Star Tires,” “Kendall Motor Oils” dot the walls, alongside newly added art.

Watch a slideshow of photos, then and now, of the Rayvic garage and new Clockwork headquarters on our Flickr site.

After Rayvic’s closing, local property owner and entrepeneur Andrew Volna purchased the building. Volna took on the preliminary work to prepare the site for the new tenant, and he’s happy with the new look.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome,” said Volna, who said a lot of attention was paid to protecting the former Como landmark. “Steve [Grothjan is] happy, that’s important,” he said. Looking ahead, Volna is also pleased with the progress of Clockwork, to whom he rented space at their previous site, just a few blocks away at 1325 NE Winter St. “We were able to grow with them, find a new home for them,” he said.

The May 14 open house was packed, as current and former workers — from Clockwork and Rayvic, respectively — joined friends and other admirers in checking out the new digs. Chowgirls catering was busy in the open kitchen area as the party spilled seamlessly out the huge, open garage door onto the sun-soaked parking lot.

Inside, President Nancy Lyons, CFO Michael Koppelman and the rest of the Clockwork crew were proudly showing off their new creation.

Software tester Justin “Dez” Dessonville gave a quick tour of the building — a sprawling layout of former offices and services bays, built slowly with progressive add-ons over the last 75 years.

The majority of workspaces are in the north-end garage area, where a large “AC Delco – RAYVIC COMPANY” signs watches over the bay of former service garages in the back of the building, now filled with rows of workstations and offices lining the walls. Wall-mounted toolboxes remain, now holding internet-age paraphernalia.

“Nancy [Lyons] insisted that we each have enough space to work with eachother,” said Justin “Dez” Dessonville, quality assurance (software tester). “Far enough away to be productive, yet close enough to be able to communicate.”

Meanwhile the “gears” (Clockwork’s term for executives) are officed in the middle of the building. Further south, the former garage area in the front, facing Hennepin Avenue is now a conference room. Adjacent areas have yet to be built out — leaving room to “grow into the space,” said Dessinger. “That’s why we moved here in the first place.”

The large garage doors around the building are all operational and open to the outside. While the foundation of the unique building lies in Rayvic’s legacy, the new look is the work of designer Shea Inc.

In addition to Shea’s design, the interior features work by three different local artists, in three distinct areas. Seward resident Allen Christian’s trademark metal-and-machine-style objects dominates the conference room off the kitchen. An angel and devil hang side-by-side above the woodtop table with wings that open like a ladybug. Nearby is a grill-like front of a Kenworth truck— which one little girl climbed inside during the open house — and a standing, sheet-metal light bears a pair of skull-and-crossbones. Outside in the kitchen, a gas pump-turned robot built by Christian alarmingly jerks to life every few minutes.

The similar conference room at the south of the building boasts a full-wall installation by “Feisty Girl” Tanya Garvis, and paintings by Chank grace the walls of the interior common area.

Lyons said the renovation costs somewhere around $300,000–$400,000, but she noted that a lot of the work was done on trade. Clockwork redesigned Shea’s website, for example.

“When times got tough, we got creative and worked together to make our vision a reality,” said Lyons in a press release shortly before the May open house. “For 75, Rayvic upheld a strong reputation for service and quality. We plan to continue the same reputation for our clients and the community.”

last revised: September 24, 2009