Advertising vet buys building to offer small agencies space

By Kate Miller

Published by the Memphis Business Journal, December 6, 2002

Trace Hallowell, founder and principal of boutique ad firm Tactical Magic and former creative director for Thompson & Co., has purchased a 6,000-square-foot building at 1460 Madison where he plans to move his business and invite other small creative shops to move as well.

Hallowell says he wants to establish a stimulating environment for creative professionals currently working out of their homes or small offi ces. He says his tenants will be one- or two-man shops from a number of creative specialties including Web development, fi lm production, graphic design and writing.

“Even though they don’t belong to a larger company they can share in the benefi ts of collaboration or at least have somebody to say ‘What do you think?’ ” Hallowell says.

Hallowell says having experienced professionals under one roof will also benefi t clients looking for better service with lower overhead.

“It’s like what next-generation advertising agencies are going to be like, much more fluid with less of the traditional boundaries that an agency has,” Hallowell says. “If you look at the larger agencies, they tout full service and they will go out of doors for some freelance help but they don’t ever admit that they aren’t experts at anything, so they’ll never go after experts. They’ll bring in a low-level freelancer or temp.”

Hallowell has been working out of his home for a year. He says one of the charms of the Madison building was that it didn’t have the “offi cial agency look” of a converted warehouse. Built in 1900 as an apartment house, the building has a bed and breakfast feel to it with many large rooms and a solid oak staircase.

With the help of an SBA loan, Hallowell paid $150,000 for the building and expects to put at least another $100,000 into it. Vacant for more than year, the building is structurally sound but bears the scars of a previous owner’s 1960s redecoration. Work has already begun to remove lowered ceilings, and he plans to remove carpet, wallpaper and window coverings.

Hallowell says there will be between 18 and 20 offices, half of which will be reserved for Tactical Magic. He estimates Advertising vet buys building to offer small agencies space work will take eight weeks, and plans to move in during the first quarter of 2003.

Michael Graber and Roc Johnson, principals in small agency and agency resource Johnson Graber, plan to move into Hallowell’s building and have signed a letter of intent. The two are currently working out of their homes.

Graber says he shares Hallowell’s aversion to the traditional hierarchical structure of ad agencies but looks forward to collaborating with a group again.

“There’s something in terms of collaboration on a project, especially in terms of a creative project that just doesn’t happen when you’re alone, particularly when it’s visual and word oriented,” Graber says. “You need all different sides of the brain and types of personalities to come together on a project. You can set up meetings but it’s different if you have to call somebody or e-mail as opposed to walking down the hallway.”

Jonathan Shepherd, owner and broadcast designer for No- Fat Edit and Design, has also signed a letter of intent. His five-year-old motion graphics and video company has operated out of his house for the last six months.

“We’re going to have all these different people that are very much accomplished at what they’re doing,” Shepherd says. “It’s not like a bunch of people just starting.”

Sloan Cooper of Sloan Cooper Art Direction Design plans to sign a letter of intent soon. Cooper worked under Hallowell as an art director at Thompson for more than three years. He left to start his own agency three months ago.

“What I miss the most is just being around other people,” Cooper says. “It helps to have other creative people around you to knock the rough edges off your work. My best work doesn’t come out of a vacuum so working out of my house, which is wonderful in some respects, lacks something at the end of the day that being around other people will provide.”

Tucker Beck of Crye-Leike Commercial represented the building owner, the estate of Dr. McCarthy Demere. Nancy Ligon with Ligon Hughes Reality represented Hallowell.

CONTACT staff writer Kate Miller at 259-1764 or

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"Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind." - Walter Landor