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Longtime friends purchase company

Restaurant company owner and former city commissioner acquire Interphase Interiors.

February 23, 2018
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Interphase Interiors
Johnny Brann Jr., left, and Dave Shaffer purchased Interphase Interiors in January and have served together in multiple capacities on various development projects. Courtesy Interphase Interiors

The exclusive West Michigan dealer for Haworth office furnishings is under new ownership.

Johnny Brann Jr., owner of Brann’s Restaurants and Kitchen 67, and former First Ward City Commissioner Dave Shaffer purchased Interphase Interiors on Jan. 18 from David Faasse, who bought the company in 2015 from Randy DeBoer.

Interphase, headquartered at 3036 Eastern Ave. SE in Grand Rapids, sells Haworth products and offers planning, design and project management services.

It has a showroom at 35 Oakes St. SW and another location in Traverse City with a total workforce of 28 employees.

Brann’s title will be president and owner and Shaffer’s role will be CEO and owner.

In addition to his career in public service, Shaffer has a background in commercial banking, most recently at Macatawa Bank.

Brann and Shaffer’s friendship dates back 12 years. Brann supported Shaffer’s first bid for city commission. Shaffer was elected and served two terms, the second of which he completed in January.

The pair have served together in multiple capacities, leading the redevelopment of Grand Rapids’ West Side, and currently are executive board members for the West Side Corridor Improvement District.

They said the opportunity to take the reins of Interphase came at the right time.

“Given the work we’d done together with development on the West Side, what we learned from that is when you’re looking to attract and retain employers, they are looking to attract and retain talent,” Shaffer said. “Doing that through an office space that is good for the next generation — that’s what we wanted to capture.”

Brann said talent is the “currency of the 21st century,” and one of the things that will draw young people to West Michigan is attractive spaces in which to work.

“We know through our previous experiences in the business community and Dave’s political service that (talent) is the No. 1 issue employers are struggling with,” he said. “We know the tools are there and the resources are there, and we already have the strong partnership with Haworth.”

Brann will continue as owner of Brann’s Restaurants and Kitchen 67, relying on Shaffer’s leadership and a pool of “experienced furniture industry veterans” they plan to hire who expressed interest in joining the company after hearing of the ownership transition.

He said his experience working in a family-owned business with a long history in the community will stand him in good stead in this new venture.

“In addition to serving the community food and drink, now I’ll offer chairs and office furnishings,” Brann said.

“We’ve already provided environments for entertainment for 85 years in the community with my family business, and now we get to combine that with environments for productivity.”

Brann said he has had a long and positive working relationship with Haworth, having served on boards alongside its current President and CEO Franco Bianchi and Chairman Matthew Haworth, so it was a natural next step for him to enter the furniture industry as a dealer.

Shaffer said his work in real estate development at the government level convinced him of the importance of employers creating the right atmosphere for business.

“Looking overall at the real estate market in the West Michigan area and understanding how office space planning and furniture can maximize use and create a more efficient outcome in staff is really appealing to me,” he said.

Shaffer said the company will continue serving its existing “large and small” clients in the health care, education and government sectors.

Brann said he wouldn’t rule out growing a client base in the restaurant industry, as well.

As a private company, Brann said Interphase does not disclose revenue, but the company is “strong and stable” financially. With that in mind, they plan to funnel their energy into developing creative processes and enhancing the efficiency of delivery systems and “value-added services.”

“Our main focus is, ‘What is your experience as a client?’” Shaffer said. “That starts from up front, saying, ‘What do you want this space to look like?’ Based on your needs, how do we create multiple options for you?”

In light of the fact turnover has been a part of the company’s recent history, Brann emphasized he and Shaffer are in it for the long haul.

“After 85 years in the community with restaurants, we’ll look to go that same number of years and beyond at Interphase. We’re here to stay.”

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