National firm keeps it local, settles in above Platform Brewery

Last month, Payscape Cleveland finally moved into a proper space.
 
"We were homeless for about a year and two months," laments local Payscape district manager Jerry Hammer. That mournful status, however, was not the result of bad financial decisions and rampant spending habits.
 
Hammer, who founded Payscape's Cleveland office five years ago, and his staff occupied a 1,300-square-foot office space at 27629 Chagrin Boulevard for about three and a half years. As the operation expanded, Hammer sought out a bigger space and thought he'd found it in Ohio City. But alas, after working on a deal for seven months, moving into the space adjacent to Phoenix Coffee on Bridge Avenue just wasn't meant to be.
 
"Some issues happened that were out of our control," says Hammer. Hence for 14 months, Payscape, which offers payment technology solutions to small- and mid-sized businesses, relied on the benevolence of fellow area businesses.
 
"Phoenix Coffee was our friend," says Hammer, also tagging Skylight Financial Group, which offered up their space for Payscape's Monday morning meetings.
 
When the space above Platform Beer Co. became available, Hammer snapped it up. The firm moved into the 2,000-square-foot space last month and just in time. Hammer expects to double his sales staff of seven by year's end and is also in the process of hiring between eight and 11 additional staff members to populate the technology/development side of the business under newly hired chief technology officer Douglas Hardman, formerly of SparkBase, the Cleveland based gift and loyalty card software platform company. All of this means even more expansion within the second floor offices at 4125 Lorain Avenue.
 
"Within six months," says Hammer, "we're looking to take over the entire floor, which is about 4,100 square feet."
 
Payscape is headquartered in Atlanta with 13 other offices nationwide. That larger presence, however, does not diminish Hammer's passion for keeping his operation keenly focused on being local.
 
"Everyone that I've hired is based here or grew up here," says Hammer of his staff. Furthermore, while under the Payscape banner, his operation is independently owned, designated in the industry as an ISO (independent sales organization).
 
Hammer's northeast Ohio ties also go back for generations. Before launching the Payscape venture in Cleveland, he worked for his family's wine distribution company, Hammer Wine Company, where he interacted closely with the local hospitality industry. Hence, it's no surprise that Platform Beer Co. is not only a neighbor, but a client as well. That partnership has its benefits.
 
"We can take clients downstairs and do a networking event," says Hammer. "It's a good vibe and a cool place to be." He also touts the location's proximity to Downtown and the West Side. And while he's all about local, Hammer has cast his eyes south with plans to open offices in Columbus and Cincinnati that would be formal Payscape operations, but would be under the wing of the Cleveland office, which he describes as the Payscape "headquarters for Ohio."
 
"We are here to help small- to medium-sized businesses save money and help them get their money faster," says Hammer, adding that despite Payscape's national profile, his operation maintains a smaller local feel.  
 
"For how big our company is, locally, we are small," says Hammer. "We are competing against the big guys outside of Ohio." Making face-to-face relationships with his clients a priority is one of the ways he edges out the larger operations.
 
"How we treat our clients here locally is important to us."

Read more articles by Erin O'Brien.

Erin O'Brien's eclectic features and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and others. The sixth generation northeast Ohioan is also author of The Irish Hungarian Guide to the Domestic Arts. Visit erinobrien.us for complete profile information.
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