Secrets of ETC’s Town Square


Walk into ETC’s Middleton headquarters and the first feature that will catch your eye is our marquee. Designed to emulate a theatrical city street, ETC’s Town Square provides a spectacular space to convene for meetings, mingle over lunch, and welcome visitors.

Lit by our own fixtures, Town Square uses multiple stage design techniques. The metal paneling functions as scrims and faux materials imitate marble, concrete, and more. While Town Square is impressive at face value, behind-the-scenes details demonstrate just how much thought went into its design.

Upon first glance, some may not realize that the majority of Town Square is inspired by painter Edward Hopper. Perhaps the most iconic nod to Hopper is the reception desk, which is a full-scale replica of the 1942 painting Nighthawks.

secrets of town square

Take a look around the Square, and you’ll find more Hopper Easter eggs. Characters depicted in the scrims’ windows are all pulled from other Hopper paintings. For example, Four Lane Road inspired the man and woman featured in the photos below.

secrets of town squaresecrets of town square

secrets of town square

Housed in the area that replicates Hopper’s Early Sunday Morning, the Manhattan Hardware storefront provides a home for ETC’s purchasing department. The window on the storefront states, “We guarantee your roof will leak and we guarantee we will fix it.” This quote originated from a conversation CEO Fred Foster had with Jerry Sholtz of Erdman Development Group, the General Contractor of ETC’s building.

Fred thought this was a strong model for customer service that ETC should take to heart. Instead of promising our products will function perfectly forever, we promise that on the occasions that issues arise, we will be there to help.

Fred’s creative input is present in each element of Town Square. The clock tower/elevator models London’s Battersea Power Station, which famously appears on the album cover of Animals by Pink Floyd, one of Fred’s favorite bands.

secrets of town square

On top of the clock tower, you might notice a large crystal. This is a piece of art created by glass artist and sculptor Christopher Ries. Bob Gilson, a long-time friend and part-owner of ETC gifted the piece to Fred. Bob’s late father, Dr. Warren Gilson provided mentorship and support to ETC in its early days.

Also among ETC’s early supporters is Richard Kelly, who sold ETC its first corporate insurance policy for employee benefits. Other insurance companies did not show respect for ETC as a ‘real company’ due to its small staff of 20. Fred named the HR Help Desk in Kelly’s honor for being a great corporate friend.

secrets of town square

The ETC team has learned many lessons while growing from a small company rebuffed by multiple insurance vendors to a booming business with over 1,000 employees. The Chinese front for the copy center and mailroom highlights two of those lessons.

The banner on the left translates to “Seeing it once is better than being told 100 times” (Zhou Chongguo, Han Dynasty) and the banner on the right translates to “Running a large country is like cooking a small fish” (Lao tzu, from the DaoDeJing Chap. 60).

Running ETC effectively requires transparency, patience, and dedication. Operating the company takes diligence, but we do it all while executing our vision to have fun and make money. Town Square is a critical part of that mission, giving employees a space to collaborate, have fun and dream of the next big thing to come out of ETC.

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Quinn Wirth
Quinn joined ETC in 2018 with a background in marketing for K-12 and higher education. Studying English in college and tutoring writing across the curriculum fostered her passion for words and weakness for puns. When she’s not writing, she’s likely watching horror movies with her husband or plugging away at her goal of reading 50 books each year. A Wisconsin local, she loves seeing ETC products at work in Madison-area venues she has frequented throughout her life.