Turn5 retooled to attract engineers, motorheads to Malvern

Turn5, a Malvern digital car and truck customization company founded by Steve and Andrew Voulouris, in early 2018 occupied its new headquarters, studio and video center at the former Taylor Gifts warehouse in Malvern. Designer Mike Cunningham, pictured in his custom bowling ball at the on-site lanes, says he visited locally-based RevZilla and CubeSmart and Google in New York while forming plans.

To stoke staff and attract smart people, Turn5’s executives scoured Google’s space in New York and Philly’s own tech temples for design ideas. Here’s what Turn5 found important when it customized the new headquarters north of Malvern, where the digitized custom vehicle parts distributor moved its headquarters three weeks ago:

  • Tech-paradise work spaces, with staffed kitchen, bowling alley, and a WiFi pergola overlooking the Great Valley, to keep the website developers comfortable.
  • A soap-scented motor-head haven, with truck-sized drive-in bays and gleaming tools for staff experts to upgrade Mustangs, Wranglers, and pickups.
  • A bright-lit, high-ceilinged, post-TV showbiz complex, with veterans of the nearby QVC Studio Center immortalizing all that do-it-yourself car-upgrade drama for the YouTube masses.

The 90,000-square-foot center is a suburban industrial reuse showcase, leaving no trace of the Taylor Gifts warehouse it used to be.

Turn5 — its name suggests a driver heading off-road from a racetrack — was founded by brothers Steve Voudouris and Andrew Voudouris at their childhood home (their father refinished offices, their mother taught preschool) in nearby Newtown Square, back in 2003, amid the dot.com bust.

They built the business instead of attending college. Their company now employs about 425, with 150 here, the rest at nearby call centers and a warehouse in Las Vegas. “We’ll be 1,000 soon,” says Steve, with the grin of a founder who uses his own cash flow to grow, and hasn’t had to scale back.

Turn5 has its own digital marketing team; its developers built the company websites, where you can see what your Wrangler would look like with 37-inch tires, and what “lift kick” you would need to fit them, and how it would look in different paints.

“We view ourselves as a technology company helping people with their hobby,” Voudouris says. “This is how people want to shop now. They want people like our people, who know the products inside and out, showing you what you need. That’s very different from walking into a Pep Boys, where you are catering to a very wide audience.”

To plan the headquarters, “we visited RevZilla,” the South Philly online-motorcycle-gear studio-software-customer service center, “and we got to tour CubeSmart,” the highly-profitable, publicly traded self-storage company based a mile down the old railroad right-of-way that runs past the Infiana film-extruder plant next to Turn5.

“And we went to the Google facility in Manhattan, which was most impactful,” says Mike Cunningham, the Turn5 creative director (and former QVC staffer) who heads Turn5’s design team. “That really shaped my opinion — not only the spatials [architectural dimensions]  — but that the whole leadership is what’s important: how to use spaces to inspire people to work in different ways.”

Why the focus on place? “We wanted to attract great talent” to a highly suburban location, said Voudouris. “Not to have people feel they need to sit in a cube. Here you can get up, pull your laptop, put on your headphones and work” in a choice of common areas. “We create a free-flowing space that encourages people to collaborate. And we have crazy stuff.”

On the wall of the bowling alley, the racked balls are decorated with full-size portraits of the Turn5 employees who use them. Parked in the middle of the building is a garishly painted Struggle Bus to take groups to parties, extreme sports, and other events.

“On the East Coast, this is what you do: complete overhaul” of old buildings, to look at once “contemporary and industrial, and to establish the brand,” said Cunningham. “It’s not like Vegas, where everything is new, you move right in. This building, everything was brown.”

Turn5 promotes parts on video channels focused on brands led by Extreme Terrain for Jeep Wrangler fans, American Muscle for Ford Mustangs, and American Trucks for pickups.

Recalling how the new-car dealer complex Fred Beans, in Doylestown, has been moving its national-market-leading collections of Ford, Chevrolet, and other car parts online, I ask whether the brothers are thinking about scaling up their model to meet the mass market.

They do original-equipment replacement. We ‘re in the business of making your car look amazing,” Voudouris told me. “It’s like, ‘I bought this 300 HP Mustang. How do I get it to 500?’ ”

Of course the competition isn’t just parts suppliers, or chain stores like Philly-based Pep Boys, now part of billionaire Carl Icahn’s automotive empire. “We can compete with Amazon — they do a fantastic job, you shop fast, you get a great assortment — but they are not there to help you,” Voudouris says. “The guys and girls on our phones are fans who know vehicles inside and out. We look for enthusiasts. We won’t be selling parts for Toyota Camrys anytime soon.”

So what’s next? He says there’s plenty of room to grow without taking on outside investors who will clamor for a share of profits. “We have learned, for example, there are some very passionate Tesla owners who have modified their cars.”