For sale soon: One 7-story building shaped like a giant picnic basket.
The Longaberger Co. headquarters in Newark, Ohio was instantly famous when it opened 19 years ago - 9,000 tons of kitsch.
Built like a Longaberger Medium Market Basket, the $32 million building had handles and looked like it was woven from maple strips, just like the company’s products.
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The 180,000 square-foot “Big Basket” has starred in countless vacation shots on Instagram and Twitter.
It was considered one of the strangest, craziest office buildings in the world. Six years ago Mental Floss put it at the top of its “10 Buildings Shaped Like What They Sell” list.
It’s not just any old basket, the website gushed. “It’s a Longaberger Medium Market Basket that’s been blown up to 160 times its normal size. The basket includes a seven-story atrium, heated handles that prevent ice formation, and two 725-pound gold leaf Longaberger tags,” it noted.
The story is told how the company’s colorful founder Dave Longaberger wrangled with architects for months over designs for his new building. Then, in a fit of frustration, he stormed out of a meeting, grabbed one of the company’s medium-sized baskets, put it on the conference table and told them: “Make it look exactly like this.”
“The Big Basket is like the St. Louis Arch,” Jim Klein, a former Longaberger president told The Columbus Dispatch earlier this year. “It’s a really important part of southeastern Ohio history.”
But the company, and the building, have fallen on hard times. This week the last of the workers that use the building are moving out because the company owes $577,660 in property taxes on the building, reports the Newark Advocate in Ohio.
Officials told the newspaper that Longaberger hasn’t paid taxes on the building since November 2014.
Longaberger hit its peak sales in 2000 at $1 billion and 8,000 employees, according to the Advocate, which notes that sales have fallen to $100 million and the staff is down to 230 people.
Apparently the 10 remaining workers inside the Big Basket building can’t wait to leave and join co-workers at the company’s manufacturing plant about 18 miles away near Frazeysburg.
When the building’s fate became public in February, social media unleashed the jokes.
WLWT in Cincinnati solicited ideas for new uses for the building.
An idea to donate the building to the city has been considered, but might not happen, WHIO reports. Klein would like to see it designated a national historic place.
But the building’s future is up in the air like those tall handles on its sides.
“The building served us well and was a great testament to the vision of our founder,” Brenton Baker, Longaberger’s director of marketing and communications, told the Advocate.
“We have the flexibility to move into a space that will serve us better. I don't think of it as an end of an era, but the start of a new chapter.”