Gries Architectural Group Inc. is delighted to announce its 40th anniversary as a leading architectural firm in the Fox River Valley and surrounding area. Founded by Steve Gries (President) in 1983, as Stephen Gries Associate Architects, Inc., this full-service architectural firm has expanded its reach to include Western Wisconsin & parts of Minnesota, with the recent opening of its Hudson, WI office. In 1994, the company’s name changed to Gries Architectural Group Inc., but the firm’s mission, started by Steve Gries remained the same.
From the beginning, Gries set out to “create an architectural firm based on the foundation of ethics above all and a desire to create solid and trusted partner and client relationships.” By following these guiding principles, the firm’s reputation grew quickly and established many long-lasting client relationships, giving Gries a well-respected name in Neenah and throughout the Fox Valley.
President Steve Gries credits client relationships for his firm’s success, “Over the years we have worked on improving relationships with the clients that got us started. That ability to work and serve those clients allowed us to grow organically through word of mouth which opened up many more opportunities for new projects.”
Today, Steve’s son Brannin Gries (Principal Architect) builds upon the foundation his father built as he forges ahead as the firm’s managing partner.
Looking Back & Moving Forward
As Gries’ reputation has grown in the Fox River Valley, both the company and its designs have evolved while staying true to the founding principles carried out in each project:
- Balancing function, design, and budget
- Delivering on-target, creative solutions designed to meet the client’s needs
- Designing sustainable buildings using construction materials and methods that increase the lifespan of the building and reduce the carbon footprint on the environment
- Beginning every project by listening closely to the client’s needs, and continuing to listen throughout the process
These principles have allowed Gries to evolve for maximum efficiency and sustainability as can be seen in the various moves and iterations of the Gries offices. From its first office at the lumber yard on Deerwood Drive in 1983 to their second location on Commercial Street, Gries has adapted its practices and spaces with function, design, budget, and sustainability in mind.
Steve Gries posing in front of the Old Post Office after its renovation.
Throughout the company’s growth, Steve Gries had great foresight and vision, which helped preserve many of the area’s historical buildings. One example was the Old Post Office, which Gries purchased, moved into in 1991, and remodeled for their offices. In the process, the building was officially declared a Historical Landmark (1990) by the Neenah Historical Sites Commission. Today, the building is mixed-used space and leased to eleven tenants, and Steve and his wife Debbie live on the building’s third floor. The Old Post Office serves as an example of Gries’ foresight and innovation, and his ability to create mixed-use spaces and design sustainable buildings with construction materials and methods that increase the lifespan of a building and reduce the carbon footprint on the environment.
The Old Post Office, at 307 S. Commercial Street, Neenah, WI as it stands today.
Gries purchased another historical building, Neenah’s Train Depot, in 1992 and carefully renovated it in 1994 to respect its integrity and historical value and occupied in 2006. Today, Gries uses that space for its offices and proudly displays pictures and mementos from the original station in its lobby. In addition, true to Gries’ values, pictures of team members and their families also hang on the walls of the building’s entry.
The Train Depot at 500 N. Commercial Street, Neenah, WI before and after its renovation.
Ethics, Family Values, and a Passion for Excellence
As Gries looks to the future, a second generation is carrying out Steve’s founding principles. Son Brannin Gries now leads the firm into the future. With his father as his role model, it’s no surprise that Brannin went on to follow in Steve’s footsteps. “It was great growing up having an architect as a father. I really admired his reputation in the community and his skill set as a designer and architect. What amazed me as well was his ability to problem-solve projects in design and in the field. This inspired me to follow a similar path.” Also, part of the firm is daughter Stephanie Gries-Christensen, Gries’ office manager. Stephanie speaks to the advantage of family members working together, “There is a lot of pride, a lot of passion, and a lot of work put into a family business. I think that is what differentiates Gries Architectural from the competition.”
Supporting the efforts of Steve, Brannin, and Stephanie is a talented team of architects and design coordinators who share in the Gries family philosophies and vision, working together with the promise to deliver on-target, creative solutions designed to meet the client’s needs.
Pictured is the Gries team at the firm’s holiday party, with Brannin Gries far left, Stephanie Gries-Christensen seated in the center, and Steve Gries far right.
Communication is Key
Client communication is the guiding force behind all projects Gries takes on. As Steve Gries states, “On each of our projects, our priority is to keep our clients informed throughout the project. Our team’s diverse skill sets and deep-rooted love of design position us to take on any architectural challenge or building design.”
This philosophy has translated into a solid reputation and has attracted a wide variety of projects and clients over the years and resulted in Gries being experts in many areas including automotive, financial, medical, community, religious, office & retail, renovation & historical, housing/mixed-use, and LEED/sustainable design.
It’s not often that an architectural firm excels in as many areas as Gries. Steve credits this success to the collaboration and intensive communication that’s second nature for all members of the Gries team. “As the firm founder, I find that early project integration with all stakeholders is a critical piece of our formula for success. Collaboration and involvement of key parties from the very beginning of our projects result in truly unique designs, and satisfied, loyal clients. It’s rewarding to be part of such a focused and intentional process and work with dedicated team members and success-oriented clients.”
Notable Clients and Projects
Just as the Gries name is well known throughout the Fox Valley area, its buildings are iconic and its projects still thriving even after 40 years. Gries excels by using state-of-the-art practices and technology, such as Revit for its projects, and for creating “Greener buildings without spending more green.”
Brannin Gries speaks of some of the more noteworthy projects and of the teamwork behind each job. “We’re very proud of the iconic projects we’ve had the pleasure of designing, such as The Plaza in Neenah, Round Lake Farms Event Barn in Brillion, the Boys & Girls Club of Menasha, Park Central at 318 W College Avenue in Appleton, and River Valley State Bank in Wausau. I truly enjoy the collaboration that goes into our projects. We have multiple people and agencies involved in any one project, and it’s energizing to be in the middle, working with all involved and coordinating the entire design process. It’s rewarding to see the evolution of our designs and know that the details we put into each project translate into the actual construction of the building.”
Gries Architectural Group has changed the face of the region with thousands of diverse, aesthetic, quality design projects
Community Support in Many Forms
Gries believes that community involvement is an essential part of serving their clients and the surrounding area to the best of their abilities. Gries has supported community groups such as the YMCA and area Boys & Girls Clubs. In addition, Gries employees are active members of the community – holding positions on the boards of the Neenah-Menasha YMCA, the Housing Partnership of the Fox Cities, and the Sustainable Neenah Committee, as well as the Fox Cities Morning Club Rotary.
Eye on the Future
What’s next for a firm that’s changed the face of the Fox Valley and surrounding area for the past 40 years? Brannin is excited to build on the reputation and successes that Steve Gries started. “My vision for the future is to continue putting the right people in place. Our firm’s success is directly related to the people we have working here. I want to solidify Gries as a boutique design firm with creative, highly communicative, knowledgeable architects doing work they’re passionate about. Continued growth is important to any business, so we will continue to pursue projects that fit our skill sets.”
Steve Gries’ legacy shows much promise in continuing to change the face of the Greater Fox River Valley as well as Hudson, Western Wisconsin, and parts of Minnesota. Gries has demonstrated how to successfully design sustainable buildings using construction materials and methods that will increase the lifespan of the building and reduce the carbon footprint on the environment. In addition, Gries Architectural Group Inc. has proven that there’s no limit to what a company can accomplish when the foundation of success is built upon trust, communication, and hard work.