For our third installment of Inner Sanctum, we meet two Lansing business leaders and the spaces they work in every day. Jack Davis is a lawyer who has been involved in the capital’s most important projects for over 50 years. He has received many accolades and at the age of 79 is still going strong.
The other is a developer who has built some of the most imaginative and important developments in the Lansing area: The Stadium District, new buildings on Michigan Avenue and many more area and Michigan projects. His company, The Gillespie Group, now has about 85 employees.
Both men were born and raised in the Lansing area.
CEO and president, Gillespie Group
One would think that if you were redeveloping an old (1924) military armory for use as a fresh and vibrant office space, you would give yourself the biggest, flashiest office in the place.
Not so for Pat Gillespie, CEO and president of the Gillespie Group. Gillespie, who grew up in the neighborhood that surrounds the armory on the city’s east side, had his pick of locations and chose a small office that is often mistaken for a broom closet.
The space was lovingly rehabbed back in 2011 and is now inhabited by mostly nonprofits. Walking into the building and the Gillespie corporate office is a fun experience where Bright colors, open spaces and creative furnishings greet you.
Pat Gillespie: The corporate office, downstairs, is more the corporate ‘think space.’ We bounce ideas off walls there. There’s bright colors, tons of caffeine and everyone’s sharing ideas.
My office is more utilitarian, something more of what an army would be – so I guess it’s more functional. I come up here, so my mind will be less stimulated. I’m in my own personal office. I bear down and follow up on the work I must do.
Downstairs is where I want everyone’s mind to open and think out of the box – how can we do things better, differently and mimic something that people in another sector are doing? Downstairs is everyone’s office.
I suppose that I split my time 50/50 between upstairs and downstairs.
What do you like best about your office?
Quiet, uninterrupted. I’m not in a hallway or passageway where thoughts are often interrupted.
It’s kind of like a living room. You don’t hear a lot of what’s going on. You can read, focus on something. It’s a good thinking place. Downstairs is where we implement. We work as a group.
I like personal meetings up here. We’re not sitting across a desk, which can seem confrontational. This is a lot more laid back.
Why did you decide to build your office here, away from everything?
I like this corner because of the 22-foot high ceiling – one window. Kind of hidden away. You don’t know where Pat’s office is – there’s no nameplate on the door. Some people still think it’s a broom closet. I’m across from the old cafeteria. Now, it’s rented to a caterer and there’s usually lots of great smells that go all over the place. My mouth starts watering every day. I like the secluded nature of it.
Being the developer of the building, I would suppose that you designed your office.
I did design it. I love the exposed brick. We really didn’t fix it up much. We still have mortar falling out. These walls that have been here for 90 years.
All the wood in here has been reclaimed from barns that have been torn down in Shiawassee County. My desk was made from that same barn wood. This is where the beehive was nestled in here – mice carved out the corner.
I like the iron crucifix on the wall. Everything is pretty industrial. Not a lot of bright colors or creative think space – more utilitarian and hardcore.
Did you always want your office to be separate?
Not at all, when we bid on the building and we were the only bidder. It used to cost $9,000 a month to heat with the old furnaces. We replaced everything in here. But I knew it could be a dynamic office building.
I grew up in the neighborhood. We used to come and play in the gym here and on the cannons outside. I went to high school around the corner at Eastern. This was my stomping ground. So, I decided that we were coming here, and we were going to find a way to do it.
At first my office was going to be downstairs with the rest. But then I got thinking that, as long as I was doing it, how can I be more effective as a leader? It allows me uninterrupted think time. The pop-in meetings that always happen can kill your time.
If those pop-ins happened ten times a day, you’re done, you’re toast. So now it’s more of a programmed thing. If people come up here, there’s a real reason. Effectiveness and efficiency is off the charts up here. It’s great! I’m in the building, but I’m removed. Everyone knows I’m here. My phone calls come through the office downstairs.
Partner, Attorney at Law, Loomis Law Firm
Jack Davis has been with the Loomis Law Firm since he received his law degree from Harvard about 50 years ago.
From the very beginning, he was always deeply involved in community activities – the Rotary Club, Lansing schools and countless non-profit boards and special committees created by Lansing mayors. For these activities, Davis has received plaques, citations, commemorative shovels and awards. He’s also an avid art and book collector, world traveler and family man.
The memorabilia representing all these areas of interest and achievement is so robust that it has leached out of his personal office into the work rooms and public areas of the law firm. Throughout the office you will find small portions of Davis’ personal art collection, framed newspaper articles and travel souvenirs.
All these items are a visible testament to the full and rich life that Davis has enjoyed in Lansing.
Why do you like your office?
I look out at the State Capitol building. I look at the flags – if it’s windy or not and whether I can go biking after work. I like the length of the room, so I can put a lot of pictures and mementoes on the walls.
I’ve been in this place for about 10 years. The lobby is filled with all my paintings. We had a professional design person choose the paint and pictures. She selected most of my art work. And in the Loomis conference room are my paintings also.
This office is totally me. I bought all the art work. On my trips I buy art work. Those works are from India, Cuba, Venice and Santa Fe. These are from Paris, Israel, Czech Republic and the Greek Isles.
I’m a book collector also. I collect first editions. I have a first edition of Ulysses by James Joyce. All of Samuel Beckett works.
Your mementoes also show your legacy to the city.
Yes. These shovels are interesting. This one is for the building of the new Pattengill school that came from a bond issue; this one was for the Steve Smith Academic building at MSU; and this one’s from a Mason factory building when I was president of the Chamber of Commerce.
Steve Smith is a client of mine.
That Spartan basketball was given to me by Mateen Cleaves who later became my client. It’s of the NCAA National basketball championship. That small statue over there is of Don Quixote – I’m a great a fan of that literature, so I bought that when I was in Spain.
The height of my community activities was the deal we made between GM and Lansing in the Hollister administration that kept GM in town. It was long and complicated, but we did it.
I’m really into collecting first edition books, hopefully with autographs. Most of them are in bank vaults. I own first editions of “Native Son,” “Catch-22,” all of Ian Fleming. I just sold the Ian Fleming. Those books on the shelf are duplicates of some of the first editions I own. I don’t bring the real ones into the office.
The art work brings back good memories for me: Gandhi, Degas “The Ballet” – the impressionists are dear to me. Here’s a letter from Christies that evaluated my collection and wanted me to put up for auction. The estimate wasn’t good enough, so I decided not to sell.
I have Marylin Monroe’s library and Jackie Kennedy’s library. I’ve taken certain books out to sell at auction. Many are inscribed by her: JKO, Jackie Kennedy Onassis.
I started collecting in 1982. I got frustrated collecting art. A book store in Ann Arbor – the State Street Book Store – got me going. Steinbeck, Upton Sinclair, Fitzgerald.
I now own about 7500 books. I just donated 650 volumes to MSU – they represent all female playwrights and authors.
Those pieces represent my two times that I rode in the Tour de France bicycle race.
Each member of my family has been published, so those frames show my daughter’s article in Forbes, a paper I wrote for OSU law review, my son’s article when he studied in Wisconsin. Also, my wife received a master’s in genetics and that’s an article she had published.
How does this office enable you to be a better lawyer and professional?
This is where I work. I’m here all the time. I work till 8 or 9 p.m. Clients don’t usually come up here. If they come up, we meet in the conference room.
I have a computer on my desk, but I don’t use it very much. I use an iPad. I don’t print my own documents. I have three legal assistants and paralegals and a personal assistant who do that for me. I dictate on a Dictaphone. I’ve been practicing law for 50 years. The younger lawyers do all the documents themselves.
I see you have a large globe sitting on the floor. Not many people have a globe anymore.
Yes, I use it for my travels. I bought it somewhere. I love to look at where I’m flying to and where the flight connections are.
You have lots of family and travel pictures on display.
I love that one, when the family was all in Venice. The entire family is there. Although I’m 79, I am not planning to retire. I’m busy every day, but I vacation more. Now I’m traveling to Asia a lot – China, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan.
As you can see, I have also displayed my Eastern High School diploma along with a picture of me running long distance track there. I love Eastern. And there is my Harvard diploma.
Over there are pictures of me with Gov. Granholm, Engler and Mayor Hollister.
Out here in the conference room is a painting of George Loomis who brought me into the firm in 1966. George hired me. This is something I really care about. Sensational man. He let me do my thing and it’s been a fabulous career.