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Rob Barber is stylish. He wears blue Prada eyeglasses, designer jeans, and jewelry. He effortlessly pulls together a creative, yet utilitarian, look that’s cultured and playful. His energy is expressive and inviting—so it makes sense that he would live in a warehouse, The Box Company Flats, where art-inspired living comes complete with neighbors who believe in and support Lancaster through creative and collaborative community involvement.
After a short ride to the fourth floor via a clean and colorfully painted freight elevator, we’re greeted by a vintage mannequin fittingly named Mona. He prepares an espresso and sits down at the table to chat. Rob and his wife Deborah’s condo is striking: exposed brick walls, glossy cement floors, high ceilings. Their space is stunning—large pieces of local artwork hang on the walls, a bicycle is temporarily parked in the corner, an art installation made out of a typewriter and a mannequin’s bust turned toward the sun, and a spectacular vantage point of the city—only outdone by the one from atop the rooftop deck—is the final perfect touch. One step inside reveals thoughtful decorations by the hand of a skilled designer. The air smells of the espresso and the oils he wears. This place is visually interesting and agreeably relaxing; the balance is just right.
Rob’s the Vice President of Rental Solutions at ATOMIC Design. The Lititz-based company, born in 1994, creates environments for brand communication, live entertainment, television, and events. Rob has built a world-class team that’s expanded to Miami, Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Singapore with clients including The Tonight Show, NFL, The Talk, Grammys, Miranda Lambert, and Jennifer Lopez to name a few.
“It’s interesting how I got to this point professionally, because my background and formal education is in fine woodworking and cabinetmaking,” he says. While he did that work for some time, he decided to go back to school and study computer science and business management. After graduation he worked for more than twenty-five years at Wenger Feeds as the company’s IT director. His most notable claim to fame was the Eggland’s Best eggs with the “EB” stamp printed on them. “I co-designed that technology with HP to be able to print on an egg,” he says nonchalantly. Rob and team understood the importance of differentiating the eggs (notoriously difficult to brand) to demand a higher premium. “I had a really good career at Wenger Feeds, but I decided it was time to do something different and move on. I landed the gig with ATOMIC and that’s been one of the most incredible experiences.”
Seven years ago, the Barbers left their Mount Joy home and moved into the city to be close to the community of which they were already very much a part. “We wanted to make a presence downtown,” he says. When they found The Box Company Flats, which Rob says were built in the 1920s and was a hatbox manufacturer until WWII when the factory started making bayonet boxes, they made a concerted effort to focus on using the building to help the community—through volunteer efforts, leadership opportunities, or community engagement.
One amazing event the entire building hosts every May is called The Wandering Warehouse. The evening’s proceeds are donated to Music for Everyone and about four hundred people show up. “There’s an artist, band, food and a bar on every floor,” he says. Guests wander throughout the building, enjoying the local art—be it sculpture, mixed media, mural, or graffiti. ”I think the word ‘community’ is interesting—whether that word is the physical boundaries of a community or whether that is a virtual community of extended family, friends, and industry” he surmises. Whatever it means, he’s interested in making more of it.
Rob’s a balanced guy. His personal goals and aspirations are two-fold: simply put, to continue growing his career and his community. “I’d like to establish ATOMIC as a recognized international brand and I’d like to make an artful impact on our community. We’re trying to contribute, in a positive way, to the city’s growth. I have a lot of ideas—things I’d like to do with buildings and community spaces…perhaps some things I might glean from a job we did in LA or NY or a Miami fashion show,” he says.
If Barber’s home and career are any indication of how to transform not just the aesthetic, but the creativity and energy of a space or a community—Lancaster is, indeed, pretty lucky.
Most memorable experience?
Professional Baseball tryout… wait, skydiving…wait, working with Madonna…wait, LIFE!
[blank] will save the world:
Laughter and dark chocolate.
Always bet black.
Half full or half empty?
Morning or night person?
Favorite book or character from a book?
Speed Racer, yeah, I know.
Thing you love most about your wife?
She’s always there.
Thing you love most about your life?
The ability to create and impact change.