The Labor Party will be an ongoing feature highlighting some of Louisville’s cool, modern, badass office spaces. Some businesses believe that by providing their employees with a fun work environment, it directly affects their loyalty, output and overall positive attitude. This is a spotlight of the first of many businesses that strive to keep Louisville weird, competitive and productive.
Company Name: El Toro LLC
History: El Toro began more than two years ago as a small startup, and it has grown to 22 employees, with plans for a major expansion next year.
Location: Distillery Commons, 300 Distillery Commons, Suite 470
What we found:
A simple invitation spawned the entire concept of this series. But actually, it began with a taunt. I had just written a piece on how the Pappy supply will be more scarce than ever this year, and one of my Facebook “friends,” a man whom I had never met in person, posted a picture of what looked like his own private bar stocked with about a dozen of the highly coveted Pappy Van Winkles in several varieties. I grimaced with jealousy and wondered if he’d ever invite me over for a drink or two. And then …
… my Facebook notification buzzed. It was a message. From Marty Meyer, the man who posted the Pappy picture:
“Sara, we have not met but we do a lot of digital ad work for IL, and several of your colleagues have been by our office. I would like to invite you over as well to sample our 300+ bourbon collection. And yes, that pic is my actual office at Distillery Commons.”
Well, he had me at “300+,” and I quickly responded with “What time?” And then I wondered how I was going to explain to my boss that I was leaving for the day to go drink bourbon with some tech-y dudes. So I recounted the story to her and awaited her permission to partake in my passion. I watched her facial expressions go from suspicion to curiosity to doubt to, finally, approval — with the idea I make this an ongoing feature. In just two minutes, we brainstormed at least a half-dozen intriguing office spaces we knew of. Hence, The Labor Party (coined by a former coworker, Ben Schneider, who also is responsible for coming up with “Bar Belle”).
I met Meyer at the side door of Distillery Commons, and as he led me up the stairs, he explained the history of the building. It was once a large distillery — one of the largest in the city — and took up several blocks. Now it’s home to several offices and a parking lot you get towed from if you’re going to a show at Headliners.
Once we entered the El Toro offices, I was immediately struck by the laid-back, come-and-go vibe. Of course our first stop was the shelves of more than 300 bourbons, which nearly made me fall to my knees. He was talking about the company and introducing me to coworkers, but I could not take my eyes off the prize. From Weller to Four Roses to Maker’s to Woodford to Pappy to obscure brands I’d never heard of and even bourbons only found in Japan — this was the largest collection I had ever seen. He asked me what I’d like to try, and all I could muster was, “Yes.”
After he poured me a rocks glass of a rare Japanese whiskey, the 17-year-old Hibiki by Suntory, he managed to talk me out of the room to show me the rest of the office. Everyone seemed happy and trendy and chill — it was as if I was touring the Google offices. And two employees’ dogs roamed the rooms freely, which added to El Toro’s cool factor.
There were foosball tables, video games (even an old-school Nintendo system), two taps of Falls City beer, a wine refrigerator (for employee Claire Butler), darts, a poker table, graffiti-tagged conference rooms, and a playful array of colors and modern art. I didn’t bring my notepad this time, so I bet there were a few things I’m forgetting — like maybe a Slip-N-Slide to the bathroom or something.
Meyer, who is the VP of political campaigns and corporate outreach for El Toro, introduced me to president and CEO Stacy Griggs, who helped create the company’s patent for IP targeting. We sat, sipped and spoke about what they do, who they work with and where they’re going. It sounds like they’re on the cusp of expanding their services worldwide, and they’ve already made some inroads on a few political campaigns, which is just one of many types of clients they work with.
I tried a nip of the Jefferson’s Reserve Groth Reserve Cask Finish, one of the guys’ favorites, but decided I liked the one I was drinking before better. With 300 choices, I had to branch out, though.
That’s when I asked about the company’s enormous bourbon selection — why and how mainly. Meyer explained that they keep the bourbon stocked for their employees as well as their clients, who often stop by or have meetings there. It’s actually cheaper to treat them to a high-end bourbon at the office than to pay for it by the glass at a restaurant, he said.
The six executives on the Leadership Team are encouraged to bring in three bottles of bourbon per month, while employees bring in one a month to keep the selection stocked and varied. There are no rules about imbibing on the job, as long as work gets done and no one overdoes it. So far, they’ve never had an issue. Local beers are rotated on the two draft taps, and a table of other spirits like vodka is part of the deal, too.
On my way out, I sampled just one more (couldn’t help it) — a special edition of Elmer T. Lee — and was invited back “anytime,” Meyer said.
I don’t think he knows who he’s dealing with.
I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from El Toro as they expand their services — and their bourbon supply.