Sign of the times: For Onyx, it’s a little comedy — and a lot of belief in office

You can’t miss the signs when you drive down Campus Drive or Sylvan Way in the big Class A office park off routes 10 and 202 in Parsippany.

“You’re better at the office,” the signs say.

Then comes the kicker — below, in smaller type: “Yes, you’ll have to wear pants.”

It’s more than a branding opportunity for Onyx Equities, which has its logo and URL on the sign, too. And it’s more than a bit of comedy during an era when everyone can use a lighter moment. It’s a way for Onyx to introduce itself to its new tenants in its new neighborhood.

That’s how Jonathan Schultz, one of the co-founders and managing principals of Onyx, described it.

“We are doing this because we believe in the vitality of New Jersey,” he said. “We’ve been in New Jersey a long time. And we’ve never stopped believing.

“We want people to think of us as the new concierge in town. We want everyone to know that they’re welcome to return. That we’re here to help. And that we’re doing all the things necessary — from filtration, to touchless features, to meal service — in a safe, pragmatic, responsive way.

“We just made a large commitment to show that our belief is as strong as ever.”

That was in September, when the company bought a 10-buildlng portfolio in Morris County from Mack-Cali Realty Corp. for $160 million. It was long before any thought of a COVID-19 vaccine had entered the collective minds of employers and employees throughout the state. That didn’t slow Onyx.

“We feel like we were writing a check into the next phase of why we feel New Jersey is here to stay and is going to do well,” he said. “We just believe it — and we put our money where our mouth is.”

The company, however, clearly has put safety first.

“We’ve been first movers on a lot of things,” Schultz said. “We did the prevention response protocol study that was way out ahead of others, just to figure out and understand what we were dealing with. And then we did the Hackensack Meridian seal — when we added their protocols to our prevention and response protocol study. We think communication, transparency, caring is what matters — so we designed an app with Better Buildings.

“At the end of the day, we wanted to invite everyone back and let them know that we’re open and we’re here to help them and make the process feel safe and be transparent — so they can feel comfortable bringing their people back into their offices.

John Saraceno, left, and Jonathan Schultz of Onyx Equities. (File photo)

“We’re committed to being that owner that you know as a brand. When you say Onyx, you say, ‘Safe, committed, responsive, caring’ — all the things that you want a brand to be.”

And, if the firm can be known for a little humor, that works, too.

“We recognize that this is going to be a long road to get people back,” Schultz said. “But, at the same time, we saw the opportunity to send that message in a unique way.”

Don’t be fooled. Onyx is about more than just comedy. Plans to upgrade the buildings and the area already are underway. The company, Schultz said, knows the formula for success — even if it may be on a slower timeline right now.

“We buy what we know, and we focus on what we know,” he said. “We’re not recreating wheels, yet we are very forward-thinking in innovation and technology. We’re not afraid to change, but we have enough experience to know what works.

“This is not our first rodeo. So, when we close on a deal, we’re up and running, we’re doing plans and we’re looking at how we’re going to add value.”

They are looking at how they can build a new neighborhood.

“We go in and create a relationship that we want to have with all the tenants and provide that real concierge service relationship that I think is so important,” Schultz said. “As much as all this technology is flying around, there’s nothing more important than having that human connection with people that you do business with.

“And honestly, these are the people who we are serving. They’re why we are in business.”

The signs, which were conceived by Onyx co-founder and Managing Principal John Saraceno, went up shortly after the acquisition. They have been well received, Schultz said. Tenants certainly have noticed them.

“I’ve gotten all sorts of feedback,” he said. “So have a lot of people within our company, especially on social media.”

Schultz feels the greater message is resonating, too.

“In a time that we all feel is out of place, and everyone has different levels of fear, not only are we delivering a message that we’re ready and inviting you back, but if we can give someone a chuckle on your way home, that’s a good thing, too,” he said “Because, at the end of the day, we’re all still human, and we’re all just trying to figure all this out together.”