Generation after generation, One Two Pru has proven itself a powerful platform for America’s most innovative companies, including none other than Wilson Sporting Goods. With a 108-year history in Chicago, the acclaimed sporting company has finally made its way to the city’s landmark address where an expansive headquarter space allows the team to co-create and interact with athletes like never before. We sat down with Rachel Perry, Manager of Team Member Experience & HRBP, and Annie Intrabartola, Public Relations Manager, to get an inside look at Wilson’s inspiring HQ and learn just why One Two Pru is the perfect location to achieve the impossible.
Can you tell us a little bit about Wilson’s history in Chicago?
The history of Wilson Sporting Goods dates back to 1914 on Ashland Avenue when it was known as the Ashland Manufacturing Company. Created as an offspring subsidiary of the meat packing firm Schwartzchild and Sulzberger, it engaged in the sales of items such as violin strings, surgical sutures and tennis racket strings with the primary function of the company being an outlet for Schwartzchild and Sulzberger’s by-products.
The parent company then became Sulzberger and Sons when Schwartzchild sold his interest. Later that year, Sulzberger and Sons was forced into receivership and was taken over by a New York banking firm. The bankers selected Thomas E. Wilson to take over and manage the company, in part hoping to capitalize on the popularity of President Woodrow Wilson during that time. In 1916, the company moved into a new home — a little red schoolhouse on Chicago’s south side. A steady growth in sales was recorded that year and we began manufacturing additional products including baseball masks and tennis rackets. We purchased the Sells Manufacturing Company and moved their production from Canton, Ohio to Chicago to manufacture leather balls, baseball mitts and ballgloves.
By 1923, Thomas E. Wilson and Co. had grown into a fast-rising enterprise with a central warehouse and national offices located in Chicago in addition to three major warehouses.
In 1931, we officially became Wilson Sporting Goods Co. and in January 1957 our headquarters moved to a location in River Grove, Illinois, along with golf and leather manufacturing, a distribution center, and research and engineering facilities.
In 1992, we expanded once again, this time to the high-rise President’s Plaza near O’Hare. In 2007, we made the move to nearby Triangle Plaza. And finally, in 2017, we made the move to our current office space here at One Two Pru.
What is the company’s overarching vision in the sporting world?
Our vision is to create a better world through sport and to empower every human to live like an athlete.
Why did you choose One Two Pru for your headquarters and how did you decide on your particular office space?
We loved that the building was located in the heart of downtown Chicago, which brought us closer to our consumers and exposed us to numerous opportunities for professional development. This particular space has tons of natural light and amazing views of the city and lake. In previous office spaces, we were working on up to five different floors. Now we have two floors, and there’s more space to display and co-create our work.
Can you paint a picture of the layout and decor?
Our office has an open-concept floor plan which lends itself well to the collaborative nature of the work we do. There are plenty of meeting rooms and smaller huddle/phone rooms for private conversations and brainstorming sessions. Throughout the space, we’ve incorporated quotes and images from our Wilson Advisory Staff members that highlight our vision and values. On the fifth floor, we have a game area with shuffleboard and ping pong tables and a unique “map” of the downtown Chicago area made out of Wilson products.
Can you walk us through a typical day in the office?
There is no typical day for Team Wilson! Some days might be quieter, where we are all hard at work on different projects. Other days there’s more cross-collaboration happening. Then there are days where a professional athlete stops by, such as Roger Federer, who took the time to introduce himself to all 300 Chicago-based team members. In the past, players such as Christian Yelich and Jose Abreu have come in to give us their input on the latest ball gloves or Slugger bats they use on the field. While our office may be quieter since COVID has forced us into a more flexible work environment, our team members still enjoy coming to the office to collaborate and enjoy the space.
How does the space allow your team to host and interact with Wilson-sponsored players on a daily basis?
Our space allows us to host important meetings and events with athletes, influencers and overall friends of the brand; it is a location people enjoy coming to that’s not only impressive but also displays our range of sporting goods.
During our Chicago Store Grand Opening, we hosted media partners, national influencers and local tastemakers on the rooftop for happy hour.
What would your employees say is their favorite part of working from One Two Pru?
We love the eleventh floor! From happy hours on the rooftop deck in the summer to getting a quick sweat sesh at the gym in between meetings, it’s awesome to have amenities like that right in our building.
Describe your company culture in three words.
Innovative, team-oriented, competitive.
Can you tell us about the vision behind Wilson’s first-ever retail store on Rush Street?
Being this is our first retail concept, we needed to start in our hometown of Chicago. This physical expression of our brand will lean into Wilson’s heritage, serving as a test lab of sorts to gather feedback and input from our athletes and consumers.
Any other upcoming activations or events you can share with us?
Check out Wilson.com or our heritage store at 932 N. Rush Street to shop the gift of game. There’s something for everyone, including personalized and custom gifts and limited-edition drops like Chicago-themed balls and gloves.
Ready to discover your dream headquarter space? Inquire here.