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Offices tailored to fit

Three business leaders turn their workspaces into reflections of themselves.

There certainly are those people who settle for anonymous work spaces without personality or character. Workplaces, after all, are for working.

But there are others who regard these places as extensions of themselves. Reflections of their passions. Playgrounds for the spirit.

Meet three local business leaders whose offices foster their own unique aesthetic.

Just like jazz

Step inside AgileCat at the corner of 19th and Market, and you're in a Technicolor, semi-neon world, with brilliant orange fur pillows, musical instruments, posters of iconic personalities, and ultra-cool, ultra-tasteful furnishings.

A successful marketing and branding company, AgileCat (derived from Agile Catalyst) and its home were conceived by Peter Madden, 38, who wanted a space that reflected a company that was both creative and down to earth.

Let's face it - not too many offices have palettes of purple, turquoise, orange and yellow, and somehow manage to make it all harmonize.

But Madden had a plan: "When we moved from Manayunk into Center City in 2007, I knew I wanted the office to be close to the energy of the street, not on some high floor. I also wanted the office to reflect quality and quirkiness - which can be a tough blend."

Assisted by John Partridge of Partridge Architects, Madden determined that sleek dividers, not doors, would roughly define, yet still unify, his staff of eight. He was determined to use lots of glass in the furnishings but never stray from obvious quality in every last touch.

"Because this is a business that thrives on creativity but also needs structure, I needed to create that mix. I'm a longtime jazz musician, and that's my model for creating order out of chaos, which jazz does."

The office also is a reflection of Madden's wide-ranging interests and hobbies, hence the drums, antique golf clubs, and one spectacular surfboard. But it also includes subtle cat imagery throughout, giving a nod to the company's name: A life-sized metallic cheetah stands at the entrance, and a cat-head door knocker sits on the conference table.

"My father and brothers are all lawyers, and I suppose this is my statement, my anti-law office environment. Then I surprise people by dressing in an unexpectedly formal way - always suits and a pocket square," Madden says. "I'm a hybrid - and so is my office. And that's just how I like it."

It's a koi thing

Not much distinguishes the modern office building on North Broad Street that houses the Parkway Corp. But take the elevator to the sprawling office suite of Joe Zuritsky, and all similarity to a conventional office ends.

It's not the desk - an elegant teak - or the fine art on the walls that sets it apart so uniquely.

It's not even the Oriental touches or the collection of miniature sports cars that are the wow factor.

What causes jaws to drop is the chairman and chief executive officer's enormous indoor koi pond that undulates through a hallway just beyond his private office doors. It's a hushed world of waterfalls, rock formations, and magnificent fish leading their underwater life high above Broad Street.

"Koi are my passion, some might say my obsession," admits Zuritsky, a lawyer-turned-parking-lot executive who oversees 100 facilities throughout the United States.

It began innocently enough when Zuritsky was a kid who liked goldfish and guppies. As the years passed, he became intrigued with koi, the exotic fish valued for their exquisite coloration.

Despite the demands of his parking-lot business, he now breeds 40 types of koi through his Quality Koi Co., headquartered in Penns Grove, N.J. At his Broad Street office, it's often Zuritsky who tenderly sees to their care and feeding, a respected and tough businessman turned mother hen.

Evidence of his koi love also appears in his private office, with posters, fish accessories, ceramic koi, and a koi-carved Japanese ornamental pot.

But it's the onsite koi pond that is Zuritsky's pride and joy. "My fish bring me peace. And we all can use some of that."

Here come the brides

When Mary Helen Canuso Ranieri was a bride-to-be, she purchased her gown at the fabled Main Line bridal salon Suky Rosan. Today, at 46, Ranieri owns that salon, relocated recently from Ardmore to Bryn Mawr.

And when brides enter the elegant space, now called Suky, Ranieri is literally right there to introduce them to a world of lace and soft chiffons. Her "office" is a sleek white desk just beyond the front door of the salon area of the shop. Her office trappings: pale walls, scattered seating, and a dramatic runway for modeling gowns.

Why such a public work space?

"The whole business of serving brides requires a very personal, very hands-on-right-there approach," said Ranieri, who owned Bridal Garden in South Jersey before she sold it and purchased the landmark Suky Rosan in 2005, after the owner's death.

In the new store, she is surrounded by soft lighting from an alabaster ceiling dome. A contemporary lamp with a Lucite base and a small computer are usually the only objects on her neat-as-a-pin, minimalist desk - bills and payroll matters are handled in Ranieri's other "office," in the basement wedged between the ironing boards and sewing machines.

This South Jersey native, a resident of Haddonfield, never expected to be in the bridal fashion/formal wear business. At Villanova, she was a chemistry major thinking of a career related to medicine.

But it turned out that science was not her thing, and Ranieri started working with her father, builder John Canuso, and his various charitable foundations.

By 1990, this wife and mother of three had gravitated to fashion, and then realized that bridal, specifically, was her passion.

"Now I don't feel like I'm behind the scenes, away from the customers and the employees. I'm the unofficial greeter, and I can see the brides through the whole process," Ranieri said. She especially loves the "presentation" moment, when the customer steps out of the dressing room.

There, an anxious mother waits to see her daughter dressed as a bride for the first time.

"No matter how many times I witness that," Ranieri said, "I still choke up. It's always new, it's always emotional, and it's always wonderful."