Breaking the Mold: The Innovative Approach of Wing Partners in the Office Market
An interview with Peter Vits from Wing Partners.
Step into the world of Wing Partners, a New York-based company with a 20-year legacy of shaping the modern office. Founded by Peter Vits, Wing Partners has been at the forefront of the office furniture industry, providing innovative solutions to meet the ever-evolving needs of businesses. Recognizing the growing importance of circularity and sustainability in the office furniture industry, Wing Partners partnered with JUUNOO. Today, we journey through the last 20 years of Wing Partners’ success and get a sneak peek into Peter’s vision for the future of the office furniture industry.
Can you walk us through your journey in the office furniture industry?
I started in the office furniture industry in 2000 when I founded Wing Partners, a company that imported and distributed furniture from Italy, France, and Belgium. My main focus was selling our products to architects and dealerships. But it wasn’t until I took some clients to visit the Fantoni factory in Venice that I discovered the sleek and modern aluminum glass office fronts that are popular today. One of the architects who came with us saw an opportunity in the market for this product in the US, and I knew we had to bring it back.
That’s when my architect partner, Zoe Vidali, a close friend who later became my wife, helped me get the company off the ground. She handled the technical side while I focused on sales and finances. As the company grew, we hired more architects and engineers to help with the after-sales work because selling the product was only the beginning.
Nowadays, I’ve stepped back from the CEO role and am fulfilling my founder’s role. My wife and I are still involved, but we’ve handed the reins to two young and ambitious guys, Michael Vandenheede (our CFO) and Gary Bracken (our CEO). With the launch of our new product, JUUNOO, and changes in the market, I will hit the road again and help bring the product to the masses.
The headquarters of Wing Partners serves as both their showroom and workspace, featuring a modern open office layout with glass walls.
How did you first become familiar with JUUNOO's products?
I was introduced to JUUNOO and its products by a mutual friend. They left a sample with this friend, and I was impressed by the idea when I saw it. I met with Chris, the founder of JUUNOO, and I was convinced that the products were worth investing in, so we bought a container. This led to Chris and me getting to know each other better. Chris is a go-getter with a big vision for the future, and we felt like we needed to be a part of it and support him in bringing JUUNOO to the American market.
I’ve been in the office market for 20 years and have connected with some big shots in the industry, making it easier for me to introduce JUUNOO’s products. We’re starting with the new JUUNOO glass solutions because of our experience in the glass walls industry. Once that’s established, we’ll move on to the blind walls.
How important was circularity in your decision to work with JUUNOO?
Circularity is a crucial aspect of my personal life, and I aim to make my home energy-neutral. It’s fantastic that companies are now starting to regulate and emphasize it. Many prominent companies now have guidelines that focus on circularity, and it was an easy choice for me to work with JUUNOO, who shares the same values. They also make it easier for us to work on more significant projects as the industry’s demands for circularity and other environmental factors become increasingly critical.
Can you reflect on the office trends you've seen over the years?
In my many years of experience in the office market, I’ve seen various changes in office design and layouts. When I first came to the US in 2000, private offices with gypsum walls and cubicles were the standard. The cubicles were small, private spaces with walls about a meter and a half high where you could hide away a little bit. (laughs)
In 2006 and 2007, the benching system was introduced and became popular. This was a long desk, about ten meters long, where people sat next to each other and had their own desks and file cabinet. Glass walls still needed to be a trend, and when they did exist, they were made of rough steel with heavy uprights. We were some of the first to introduce elegant European lines in glass office fronts.
Today, open office designs with glass walls are the norm, and enclosed offices are no longer being built. The idea of putting meeting rooms in the open office area came about 4-5 years ago, and these rooms were in high demand. If you have a hundred people working in an open desk area and want to organize meetings, you must have spots for that. About 3 or 4 years ago, the trend of “hoteling” and the use of phone booths became popular, where fewer people sit at a designated desk.
What do you think will be the biggest change in the office environment over the next 5 years?
Well, I have to go with what other people tell me, and the best source is always the architect. I was actually chatting with an architect this morning who works on some of the most significant projects in New York City. He expects a shift towards creating more collaborative spaces for meetings instead of traditional desks in the future. Since everything is digital, you no longer need to do actual paperwork. He also thinks there will be more phone booths in the workplace for those who need to make calls.
Despite some criticism, he thinks that working from home will keep being a part of work life. However, it still needs to be clarified whether it’s productive. To me, that’s still a tricky area. The best way for a company to move forward is through face-to-face communication, where people can share ideas and brainstorm. And that can’t be fully achieved through virtual meetings. Finding the right balance between the two will still be a challenge.
What do you see as the biggest opportunities for growth in the company's future?
As you know, the future is constantly changing, but I’m optimistic about where we’re at as a company. Our current glass wall line is doing well and has given us the resources to bring on JUUNOO. I think our decision two years ago to meet with Chris will be why we’re playing at a different, much higher level in the future.
JUUNOO can benefit from our many years of experience and knowledge in the United States. However, I expect that the relationship between our two companies will shift in the coming years, with JUUNOO driving our growth. Even though it took a short-term investment, I’m confident this partnership will pay off in the long run and lead us to a bright future.
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How did the office market change over the past 20 years? And what role does sustainability play? We asked Peter Vits from NY’s Wing Partners.