Denny Gerdeman, co-founder and chairman of Chute Gerdeman and widely respected leader in the retail design industry, will be retiring from the firm he founded with his wife Elle Chute in 1989.
With a reputation for unparalleled creativity and real-world implementation, Gerdeman has built an industry powerhouse with award-winning projects across the globe. His tenure at Chute Gerdeman’s helm steered the agency through a revolutionary era of change in retail and restaurants, and his steady hand has seen the firm evolve over three decades.
“This firm has been our life’s work, and we will always be proud of what we have built here. For 31 years, I’ve looked forward to coming to work every single day. Working with the teams we’ve assembled has always been the most fun I could imagine. This industry has been good to me, and I’ve traveled the world doing what I love. I very much look forward to seeing where Chute Gerdeman can go in its next chapter. In the meantime, I also look forward to a schedule full of tee times, and the ability to enjoy the next 20 years with my family,” reflects Gerdeman.
Gerdeman leaves the business in the hands of the executive leadership team, consisting of Jay Highland, chief creative officer and managing director; Wendy Johnson, COO and EVP program management; and Christopher Barcelona, chief innovation and growth officer. Throughout his 31 years at the firm, Gerdeman has been a vocal champion for young creative talent, and takes great pride in the hundreds of staff members who have been proud “Chuties.”
“Denny has taught all of us many lessons over the years, but perhaps the most important is the value of our team. This agency is made up of passionate individuals, all with varied and unique perspectives, but all with a common goal: to do great work for our clients’ businesses. That is a true testament to Denny Gerdeman’s determination, and to the culture he and Elle created from the beginning,” says Highland.
After studying architecture at The Ohio State University, Denny began his career working at architecture firm Acock & White in 1971. He has held many roles with companies including Richardson/Smith, The Limited, Nexus, and international retail consulting company The Doody Company, founded by the acclaimed marketing strategist Alton Doody and design visionary Carol Farmer.
In 1989, Gerdeman, with wife and partner Elle Chute, joined forces to create Chute Gerdeman, now one of the top retail design agencies in the world. Chute Gerdeman has won more than 200 awards for innovative store design, restaurant design, branding, and packaging design, including multiple Store of the Year and Designer of the Year honors. Among his long list of client engagements are Hanesbrands, Mars/M&M’s World, FAO Schwarz, Footlocker, Wendy’s, HEB, Woolworth’s South Africa, Macy’s, Barbie Shanghai, Hamley’s, and Eddie Bauer. The resurrection and renovation of the firm’s iconic Brewery District “Ice House” headquarters in Columbus, Ohio is among his proudest accomplishments.
In addition to Gerdeman’s leadership role in many of Chute Gerdeman’s award-winning projects, he has been singled out for several prestigious honors including design:retail (formerly DDI) Design Luminary (2014), Design Influencer Awards, and the Markopoulos Award (2011), the Retail Design Institute’s Legion of Honor (2011), and the Shop! (formerly A.R.E.) Hall of Fame (2017). He has served on numerous boards and committees, including the design:retail Editorial Advisory Board, A.R.E. Board of Directors, and former president of PAVE (the Planning and Visual Education Partnership).
In 2017, Gerdeman oversaw the acquisition of Chute Gerdeman by FCB North America, part of Interpublic Group (IPG). This strategic integration into a larger agency network has allowed for new opportunities and growth across new categories.
“Denny’s lasting legacy will be building Chute Gerdeman into a top-ranked design firm, but also forging an entirely new industry. His vision as one of the vanguard of leaders who saw the potential of retail design as a viable and necessary capability has forever changed creative services for brands and retailers. His tenacity, grit, and leadership will be missed, but we will carry on his efforts,” remarks Tina Manikas, president, FCB/RED.