In Nike’s former digs

(First published in the March 12, 2020 issue of City Pages)

Rocket Industrial relocates its corporate headquarters to downtown Wausau in what used to be an international show room for Nike that few people knew about


Joshua Schwartz in Rocket Industrial’s new corporate headquarters office in downtown Wausau, adjacent to Jefferson Street Inn.

Joshua Schwartz of Rocket Industrial greets me at the entrance of a large office on the second floor of the Third Street Lifestyle Center in downtown Wausau. Located adjacent to Jefferson Street Inn, it’s a space most people don’t see. Since January, Rocket’s office staff — accounting, sales, marketing, etc. — has occupied these 12,000 square feet with large windows overlooking downtown and Rib Mountain in the distance.

Rocket Industrial sent out a press release to announce the new location of their corporate headquarters. And that’s a stark contrast to the previous tenants, who occupied 10,000 square feet of the space for nearly six years without a word to the public. It was a famous tenant few knew about and officials weren’t able to talk about, until now.

That previous tenant was Nike, which since 2014 operated an international showroom in the space, with rooms dedicated to things like women’s fitness, Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley. The latest sportswear and shoe prototypes were shown there to people making multi-million dollar decisions. It was one of, if not the first such showroom, says Mark Craig, manager of Compass Properties, which owns the building complex. Similar showrooms were later added in places such as Atlanta.

Nike held focus groups in the area, such as of local female athletes, Craig says, but the company kept a low profile of its presence in Wausau. Which was easy to do since the space is only accessible by elevator. “Nike was very quiet about it, they didn’t want their name attached to the space, no swish on the building anywhere,” Craig says. “They were great people to work with but very non-descript and discreet.”

Nike left in October, Craig says, and remodeling started soon after to bring in Rocket Industrial. The packaging company’s 50 or so administrative employees now occupy a stunning space with polished concrete floors, glass everywhere and huge windows overlooking the west side of downtown.

Rocket Industrial was originally founded as Packaging Tape Company in 1957 and prides itself in finding packaging solutions that use less material, energy and waste.

Moving the corporate offices out of the company’s production facility on 72nd Avenue, in Wausau’s west side industrial park, has been great for Rocket Industrial’s office employees, who now have options to eat lunch outside the office and can be part of the downtown vibe, says Marketing Specialist Joshua Schwartz. The open spaces help provide a collaborative atmosphere. “It serves as a launching pad to continue thinking of ways to help our customers, to find more ways to provide them with great service.

Rocket Industrial brings about 50 employees downtown every day, compared to Nike’s handful of people who worked there only occasionally, Craig says. “It’s a win-win for the community.”