By Jo Mathis
Even as technology allows more and more employees to work from home—or on a tablet at a coffee shop—it’s a safe bet you won’t find the attorneys at 500 S. Main Street jumping at the chance.
What? And miss out on all the love?
Not only did the owners completely restore a dingy old auto repair shop—and most recently, the Michigan Glass Company— into an artsy, light-filled building custom-made for their law firms, but they have created a collegial, dog-friendly working environment that is truly a home away from home.
“It was a great project to do with dear friends,” said Mary Steffek Blaske, noting that she and her husband, Tom, are close friends with their partners, Charlie and Kris Groh.
Located on the corner of South Main and Jefferson just south of downtown Ann Arbor, the building will be featured on Sunday’s annual Ann Arbor City Club home tour.
It was built in 1926 as an automobile repair shop and later housed the Michigan Glass Company until its sale in 2006.
The law firms of Blaske & Blaske, P.C. and Charles M. Groh, P.C., which had been located up the street, bought the building in July of 2005 and completely renovated it, replacing the outdated ventilation and plumbing systems. With the help of a lot of local talent such as architect Marc Rueter and builder John Alexander, they were able to move in four months later.
Edmund Blaske founded the firm in 1949 in Battle Creek. His son Tom has practiced law in Ann Arbor since 1976 and brought the firm to the city in 1989. He specializes in legal/medical malpractice and is known throughout the state as a litigator of complex personal injury cases.
Charlie Groh has practiced law in Ann Arbor for 20 years, and handles business and estate planning and real estate law.
And he couldn’t be happier with his office space, which is within walking distance of home.
“We love this place,” said Groh. “It’s like coming to work in my living room.”
The fact that the dogs are welcome is a plus. One day last week, Groh had to be at 14-A. So he dropped his dog, Rosey, off at the office and returned after court.
Groh said that before the renovation began, it was hard to envision how the building would look.
“There was a lot more construction than destruction,” he said, noting that his lower level space had been mostly warehouse storage of windows and doors.
The two couples did the decorating themselves.
“I’d never built anything, so I didn’t know there were different door jambs and handle colors and all that stuff you don’t really think about,” he said, noting that the list of people who worked on the project is lengthy.
Groh, who once lived in Japan and speaks Japanese, has a more zen-like approach to decorating than does Blaske, a diehard Michigan fan, whose office is filled with colorful memorabilia.
Their law firms are separate, and so far, there have been no disagreements over the purchase, renovation and maintenance of their building.
John Turck began working for Blaske & Blaske in 1995 as a clerk, and then joined the firm as an associate after graduating from law school in 2004.
“The work we do often is stressful, both for us and our clients,” he said. “Working in a comfortable space not only helps us work more efficiently, but it also helps put our clients more at ease in dealing with whatever bad thing has happened to them. Besides, having dogs around is just plain fun.”
The Ann Arbor City Club’s 62nd annual home tour will be held on Sunday, June 1 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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