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SCOTTS VALLEY — A couple hundred old-timers, many of whom remembered the early days of Seagate Technology when it was just a startup in a one-stoplight town, gathered Friday at Malone’s Grille, the company’s unofficial watering hole where work was often conducted in a less formal atmosphere than in the offices just down the street.
On the eve of Seagate’s last week in town — the hard drive maker is moving its administrative headquarters to Cupertino — Patti Malone had extended an open invitation to former and current Seagate employees because, she said, they were family.
“We grew up with them and they’re leaving us,” said Malone who brought in a live band and hosted the buffet. “It was my one hope and wish that we could go back in history and see everyone again. The response has been overwhelming.”
In the early 80s when Malone’s opened, the Seagate suits’ joined the bar seats along with the loggers and truckers, Malone said. “We were just a little place and they were just a startup. There was no level of seniority here. Everyone was the same.” The reunion was a personal thank you as well as “a reunion of the heart, sweat and tears” that built the company. In addition to company banquets and gatherings at the bar and restaurant, Malone opened and ran three Seagate cafeterias for five years as well. “These are the people whose efforts made Seagate the No. 1 disk drive company in the world and this was their home.”
The bar, which later added a restaurant, was known as “Building 13.” [Seagate had 12 on-site buildings at the time.] There was the “Tom and Tim Steak Sandwich,” named after Seagate sales execs Tom Finnegan and Tim Caldwell and, at one point, former top executive Tom Mitchell had his own salad named after him. A red phone at the bar, a direct Seagate extension, helped employees stay on top of business while having a drink.
Company cofounders Al Shugart and Doug Mann could always be found with their bourbon and scotch, leaning on a cigarette machine in the bar.
“That was their machine,” Malone said. “Al and Doug were there every day. I’d be in the back and Al would come back to find me and say, It’s time to buy everybody a drink.'”
Sanjoy Ghose, who was vice president of engineering and worked at Seagate from 1982-1997, said he’d usually wait a couple hours before approaching Shugart at his post at the cigarette machine. “I’d come in at 7 p.m. with requisitions and he would sign them when he was in a better mood.”
Bob Martell, who worked as director of worldwide sales in the early 80s until 1991, and flew out to the company reunion from Naples, Fla., said he was there at Malone’s whenever he wasn’t on the road.
“If I ever came in here with my team and didn’t buy a round he [Shugart] would kick my [expletive deleted],” Martell said. “He was the sweetest man I’ve ever met in my life. He would say to me, ‘Answer me in 25 words or less,’ and, ‘Bob, you are short.’ ”
The fast-growing company was also known as “Slavegate” in the 80s for pushing long workdays, said Woody Craig, who worked 14 years at the company. Despite its reputation, however, Seagate, he said, “was very good to me.”
Inevitably there was some discussion about the move. Bob Sandie, who headed up the worldwide materials division until 1997, said it didn’t make much sense. “There’s no allegiance to the past.”
For some, however, like Jean Whalen Brewster, 85, who worked as the receptionist for the main corporate building from 1985 to 1991, the gathering was a chance to say hello to old friends. “I loved Building 1. All these people are still my friends.”
This article first appeared here.