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These articles by Jamie Saxon were prepared for the August 25, 2004 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Every Wednesday, our delivery team brings the paper to more than 2,500 businesses, so we feel safe saying we see a lot of office furniture. Most of it, well, is completely nondescript, but every once in a while, we come across some very cool stuff. Some of it, we found out, comes from Topdeq, a German-based company with U.S. headquarters and a showroom in Cranbury.
When Photosound Communications, an exhibit design and management agency, relocated to bigger digs at 700 Alexander Park, they turned to Topdeq for office furniture with a kick. "We have a ‘brainstorm area’ that is completely fitted out with Topdeq," says Patrick Defeo, VP of finance and general management. "We thought the furniture was kind of fun. We felt like it spurred creativity."
Jeremy Dalnes, director of marketing for Homeclick.com, a luxury retailer of high-end products for the home with a showroom in Edison, says he outfits the office with Topdeq as a bennie to the company’s 60 employees, a number that is rapidly increasing. "The furniture you put in your office affects your employees. High quality furniture that looks nice sends a message that you believe in them."
Other companies drawn to Topdeq’s uber-modern European style include Impact Unlimited in Dayton, which manufactures large trade show exhibits. Purchasing manager Carol Apito, who says she spends literally thousands of dollars a day in high season for their top clients, including several pharmaceutical companies who exhibit at international trade shows, can’t get enough of Topdeq.
"Topdeq is geared toward modern architecture," says Apito. "Some of our exhibits are double-decker with a reception area, different areas to explain about products, conference rooms, or even eating areas, which they allow you to have at the overseas shows. We buy Topdeq chairs, bar stools, tables, and conference tables. We have a whole design department who loves their quality, but I love their turnaround." (Topdeq delivers the next business day to Zone 1 clients, which include New Jersey).
Other offices where we’ve spotted Topdeq include Ford, Farewell, Mills & Gatsch Architects at 103 Carnegie Center and a fellow German, Miele, the high-end appliance company at 9 Independence Way, which snapped up a slew of Topdeq tables and chairs from Italy, even coat hangers and signage for special events. "They are really different and a great fit for us," says Paul McCormack, marketing manager at Miele. "They help amplify the sleek design lines of our appliances. They’re fast and they usually have that unique very Euro-styled piece that fits perfectly in Miele’s decor."
There’s a certain cachet to being European," says Susan Theriot, president of the U.S. headquarters. The company gets much of its Continental panache from such prestigious shows as the Milan furniture fair and Europe’s top designers – including the Parisian Philippe Starck, F.A. Porsche (son of the venerable car magnate), and Sir Norman Foster, the British architect best known for creating the new glass dome on the Reichstag in Berlin. Its products – with names like the Giada chair, Bubble Club collection, Bombo bar stool, and the Isis stapler (after the Egyptian nature goddess) – exude cool and look like they belong in the Museum of Modern Art.
There’s a reason some of the most sought-after modern design comes from Europe. "Remember, Europe was decimated after World War II, and many of the big cities had to be rebuilt," says Theriot. "So modern design was what was available in the 1950s and ’60s. Here in the U.S. we didn’t have that."
Theriot, a graduate of the charter class of Kirkland College, Class of 1972, with a B.A. in comparative literature and a background in catalog marketing, says the Cranbury showroom doubles as office space. Customers can come in and walk around and see real office set ups. The staff conference table is called Carve, and, with its accompanying chairs, is among the company’s bestsellers. "My husband thinks that it’s the most comfortable chair he ever sat in," says Theriot.
When Sara MacQueen Oderwald, 51, above, was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago, she was a systems analyst in training and education at AT&T at Bridgewater, commuting from her home in Titusville. She underwent a mastectomy, reconstruction, and chemotherapy. "I went back to work with a bald head, and everyone was so wonderful. They didn’t stare, they didn’t care; they started giving me baseball caps to match my clothes."
Although Oderwald, who earned her BA at Cedar Crest College and masters of Library Science at University of Maryland in 1976, received lots of support at work, she left of her own accord last March, after 24 1/2 years with the company. "The time was right. Our department was downsizing, I was commuting a long distance, and for mental health reasons, I needed to go."
While she grapples with the decision to return to the corporate world or take a new direction in the nonprofit arena, Oderwald is an active volunteer at the Breast Cancer Resource Center (BCRC) at the YWCA Princeton. "When I was diagnosed, my mother’s cousin, Hazel Staats-Westover, who is on the board of directors at BCRC, literally took me by the hand and said, I have to take you down to meet these people," says Oderwald.
While she was still undergoing chemo, Oderwald worked at the registration table for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. On Monday, September 13, she and her father, Don McQueen, who volunteers with her at BCRC, will play in the fifth annual Komen New Jersey Race for the Cure Golf Classic.
All proceeds from the event, to be held at Cherry Valley Country Club in Princeton, benefit the Race for the Cure. On Sunday, October 17, BCRC hosts the 11th annual Race for the Cure, at Bristol-Myers Squibb on Route 206 in Princeton.
Oderwald says living through cancer was a major factor in her decision to leave AT&T. "The whole bout with cancer was life-changing. You have to figure out what is most important in your life. Commuting to a job that gave me no personal satisfaction wasn’t what I wanted. I want to help other people. So many people came out of the woodwork to help me when I was sick, so I’m trying to give back."
Eyebrow waxing is so ten minutes ago. A little technique called eyebrow threading – favored by Asians and Indians – is all the rage in New York and has just come to Plainsboro, at Hair Plus Faces.
"I knew there was no one here doing eyebrow threading," says Mina Ismail, owner of Hair Plus Faces. "It was introduced into New York mostly by the Asian community. My sister in Hoboken who works in a salon taught me. We both are very famous now."
Ever seen someone twist the stem of a maraschino cherry into a knot just using their tongue? (Some people find this sexy…) Well, eyebrow threading is similar – but a lot more hygenic. The technician holds one end of a little piece of common 100% cotton sewing thread in her teeth. Then, at warp speed, she ties a tiny knot with her fingers at the other end, tightens it around the root of the eyebrow hair, gives a quick tug – and voila, it’s gone.
Ismail says it is more hygenic than waxing, since each thread is only used once then thrown out. It’s also safer. "Wax is hot, sometimes very hot, and if you don’t do it the right way, you can get burned. The skin is very thin near the eyelid. Waxing there is not only dangerous but can cause you to wrinkle fast. Eyebrow threading eliminates all that." She says the technique also allows for more accurate shaping, since one hair is pulled at one time, as opposed to waxing, which takes off a swath of hairs.
Think you’ll have to waste your whole lunch hour getting your brows done – one teeny tiny hair at a time? One U.S.1 staffer who insists on anonymity since she describes her own brows as reminiscent of Australian bushmen says it only took three or four minutes start to finish. "It hurts a little bit but it’s not killer," she says.
The current promotional rate of $7 is about half that of waxing – and lasts about two weeks. Ismail, who owns five salons, measures the popularity of the technique this way: "I have five stylists in my Edison salon who just do eyebrow threading on 50 to 60 walk-in clients a day."
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