This week I had the distinct pleasure of being whisked away to Madison, Wisconsin, during Spring Break here in Georgia. While it sounds odd for apparent reasons, the fun and experience were like no other spring break of mine! The trip’s purpose was vastly for training and tours. Not your idea of fun, right? Well, as I said, this trip was like no other – this time, it was a treat, a 3-day visit to the Westye F. Bakke Center. While the name is likely to be unfamiliar to most, trust me in that this is a unique story.
While the 1930s was clouded with the depression, a man named Westye had a great vision. He worked diligently as a refrigeration consultant with Frank Lloyd Wright. And this self-taught engineer with an 8th-grade education incorporated Sub-Zero in 1945 with the first freezer to hold a consistent temperature below zero. Westye taught his work ethic firsthand to his son Bud, who was instrumental in creating Sub-Zero Refrigeration and later led the company. Third-generation Jim Bakke now leads the company.
|Year||Stamp||Gas||# Sub-Zero Made Per Day||# Employees|
The impressive training and meeting facility of the Westye F. Bakke Center, which happens to nestle between the Wolf cooking appliance and the Sub-Zero refrigeration manufacturing plants, was fantastic to tour. I find such solace that the headquarters are closely tied to the manufacturing process; a testimony to the hands-on principles in this (still) family-owned and operated company is held dear and near.
The main building was designed by the Madison architectural firm Zingg Design.
Delicately suspended above the main lobby are the massive yet delicate works of art commissioned for design by the Westye Group – Chilhuy Chandeliers. You cannot help but stop and nearly gawk at these wonders. Trust me, and the thousands of others that tour this facility, that they will leave a lasting impression!
Westye F. Bakke Center (WFBC) wants you to experience their quality every minute you visit. This is the staircase leading up to the Living Kitchen and Dining Area; the rails are manufactured of the same stainless steel material as the handles on all the refrigeration equipment.
Westye Bakke believed that you will always have customers if you build a quality product. This is clear when you study the history and the processes and standards they hold today. In the upcoming days, I will review the pages of notes and share more details of my experience in Madison. I hope to give you an authentic glimpse of what I experienced on the inside. Mostly, this experience confirmed what I had already known about Sub-Zero and Wolf Appliances. The surprise was making a stronger, more thorough connection to their rich history, philosophies, and maybe even the most impressive part – the practices of manufacturing that are second to none.
Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. ~William Arthur Ward
On that note, I’d like to extend my deepest gratitude to Diane Coker, my local representative of the Westye Group Southeast, for this fantastic opportunity. Additionally, I cannot go without recognizing and attributing the success of this trip to the following people: John Cooper, SE Regional Sales Manager; John Bacon, NE Regional Sales Manager; Justin Thorpe, Corporate Chef; Connie Poster, the smiling Receptionist @ the WFBC; Heather Beal, the friendly facility and training coordinator at the WFBC, and last but not least, the countless other design professionals from across the country who experienced this trip aside me. The networking with all of these professionals was priceless. I promise you; I have no regrets that my “spring break” was spent in a town where the ice just broke on the lake the week before 🙂 I would do it again – same time/same place next year!