Connect with us

A Nice Spot To Anchor

Prime location on Naples’ gilded coast was too good to pass up when it came calling.

Published

on

Mark Loren Designs; Naples, FL

URL: marklorendesigns.com; OWNER: Mark Loren and Cameron Pelle; FOUNDED: 1985; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2012; BUILDOUT COST: $60,000; LOCATIONS: 2; EMPLOYEES: 13; TOP BRAINDS: Mark Loren Designs, Designs by Shoshana, Pink Diamond Corp., Dilamani, William Henry Collection, KC Designs; YELP RATING: 5 stars; ALEXA RANK: 5,445,738


WITH AN ALREADY ESTABLISHED retail gallery in Fort Myers, FL, — one that was named a Cool Store in 2003 — jewelry designer Mark Loren had no intention of opening a second location.

Until he saw the light.

It was the Florida sun — streaming through the sheer glass walls of a retail space in nearby Naples, FL.

In August 2012, one of the leasing agents for the Mercato lifestyle center, looking for a jewelry tenant, paid Loren a visit. The center had already gotten unsolicited applications from jewelry stores — two were national chains — but the agent wanted to find something unique. And Loren, who primarily sells his own designs, fit the bill perfectly. The Mercato, a group of restaurants, stores, condos and a movie theater — opened in Naples right before the recession hit and has since become extremely popular.

“He said, ‘You have got to come down and see what it’s like,’” Loren recalled. “ I came down on a Wednesday, in the evening, 7 o’clock-ish and it was packed with people. And that was in August.” August is off-season in Naples, which reaches its peak for commerce in January, February and March.

Not only that, but the light was amazing in the corner location with two unobstructed full glass walls. Natural light, by day, of course. And at night, the store positively glows from within, looking like a beacon to passersby.

Loren was impressed by what he saw that night, but he didn’t want to spread himself too thin. So he invited Fort Myers store manager Cameron Pelle — a designer, gemologist and appraiser — to become his partner in the Naples venture.

Advertisement

Not only did Pelle agree, but he designed much of the layout of the new store on a CAD program.

Loren runs the store in Naples one day a week to give Pelle a break, but Pelle is on site the rest of the time. He’s set up a gem lab and does all of the appraisal work for both locations in Naples.

The partners leaped at the chance to buy handmade cases from a store that closed in Fort Myers and customized them, adding warmth with tile accents.

After a six-month construction project, the store opened in December 2012, in time for Christmas.

Its most distinctive architectural element is its two walls of glass provided by its prime corner location. Glass display cases seemingly float in the air right next to the windows. The partners had the glass boxes glued directly onto the front window with a special epoxy. So far, so good, they say. The glue has proved reliable, something of which they weren’t entirely confident at first.

“We knew the windows were going to be a huge factor because of the walk-in traffic, which is phenomenal,” Loren says. “And we can see all the crazy cars going by — Ferraris and Maseratis. We’re in a bit of a fishbowl. It’s interesting to watch the rhythms of the day and the types of people coming in.”

The store layout is simple but effectively designed. The 880-square-foot space has room for everything they need, including a jeweler’s bench, a gem lab and a full-size safe.

They built a partial wall to conceal the safe behind a video screen.

The bathroom takes up a sixth of the floor space and doubles as storage.

Because they were on a tight budget, most of the store planning and execution was a DIY effort, but an interior designer finessed distinctive touches, such as cork fabric that adds texture to a couple of the walls, and the elegant draperies, which help with acoustics. That mitigates the noise involved when they invite 30 or 40 people in for cocktail-hour drinks.

Sculptural, architectural pendant lights are sleek and minimal but still add interest and warmth. They were suspended on cables after the showcase placement was planned.

Advertisement

While sales in Fort Myers are largely about custom design and repairs, the Naples store is more of a retail outlet, and quite popular with impulse shoppers. The sweet-spot price point for people walking in off the street is an enviable $1,000 to $3,000, and primarily earrings. “We could just call it the earring store,” Loren says. “I do a lot of buying in Tucson and put together earring lines that they can’t get anywhere else. I have a philosophy of having an inventory that can’t be price-shopped.” Also extremely popular are his proprietary locking toe rings. About 50 percent of inventory is designed in-house.

“We buy loose and create it ourselves,” Loren says. “That gives us an advantage in the margin.”
Another advantage is that they can and do fine-tune their selection based on what is selling in each location. “Cameron is in the Fort Myers store every morning, he eyeballs what’s new and decides if we should transfer it to Naples,” Loren says. “ If it doesn’t work in Naples, we can bring it back to Fort Myers.”

The constantly changing inventory ensures that when part-time residents and visitors return to Naples, they will be sure to visit the store on a treasure hunt.

PHOTO GALLERY (10 IMAGES)

Five Cool Things About Mark Loren Designs

1. ANIMAL ATTRACTION Loren is amazed by the amount of walk-by traffic he sees at the Naples store, but many of those potential clients venture in at first just to meet his dog Haifa, a 90-pound golden-doodle, and Teafa, Pelle’s Siberian husky. The partners say the dogs, often sprawled on the floor, are responsible for at least $200,000 in sales from customers who just dropped in to pet them. There’s also a big-screen TV, visible through the glass-walled exterior that displays Loren’s custom-made jewelry. Window displays are eye-catching too. “One-of-a-kind stuff stops people in their tracks,” Loren says.

2. INVENTORY IS A BALANCING ACT In Fort Myers, 70 percent of revenue comes from custom and repairs and 30 percent from case sales. In Naples, it’s reversed: 85 or 90 percent of revenues comes straight out of the case. “Having the Naples store allows us to have fresh eyes on inventory that Fort Myers clients have already seen,” Loren says. They also promote their repair and appraisal services, and some well-heeled customers bring in four or five watches at a time.

Advertisement

3. HIGH-END CLIENTELE “It’s like Monaco on the Gulf,” Loren says. “It has a higher-end client than most places, and you can’t prejudge people by what they wear. Adds Cameron: “CEOs and executives from big corporations are typically in shorts and casual wear, and they’re relaxed because they’re on vacation.” Although the partners have less than 900 square feet in Naples, in the first year they transacted more business than in Loren’s first five years in his original Fort Myers gallery. Seventy percent of first year sales were made to visitors to Naples, not residents.

4. Strategic PHILANTHROPY Rather than donate whatever is readily available or hasn’t sold, Mark Loren Designs creates and donates pieces of custom jewelry specifically designed to complement an event or charity, such as the mission of the organization and the community work they do. They make the commitment to incorporate a theme from the event or add a unique design element in order to raise the maximum amount of money for each event.

5. CUSTOM COMPUTERS The translucent computer with colorful inner workings was custom built by Pelle and master jeweler Peter Roeder. It’s a visual marvel, but it’s not just there for looks. It powers the screens, the music and the Internet. “It’s pretty much a race car,” Pelle says. “We love color so much we put it in our computer!”

Try This

“We held an engagement contest called “Ring Within Reach,” which was an endurance contest to see which of the five final contestants could hold their hand on a pedestal in front of them, longer than any other, to win a custom $10,000 engagement ring. The contest went over 20 hours without breaks and it was visible by everyone who walked by our gallery. Friends and family of the contestants were camped out in front of the windows all night showing their support. The actual ring was placed in the center of the pedestal enticing the contestants the entire time.” — Mark Loren

Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

SPONSORED VIDEO

Wilkerson Testimonials

Downsizing? Wilkerson Is Here to Help

Orin Mazzoni, Jr., the owner of Orin Jewelers in Garden City and Northville, Michigan, decided it was time to downsize. With two locations and an eye on the future, Mazzoni asked Wilkerson to take the lead on closing the Garden City store. Mazzoni met Wilkerson’s Rick Hayes some years back, he says, and once he made up his mind to consolidate, he and Hayes “set up a timeline” for the sale. Despite the pandemic, Mazzoni says the everything went smoothly. “Many days, we had lines of people waiting to get in,” he says, adding that Wilkerson’s professionalism made it all worthwhile. “Whenever you do an event like this, you think, ‘I’ve been doing this my whole life. Do I really need to pay someone to do it for me?’ But then I realized, these guys are the pros and we need to move forward with them.”

Promoted Headlines

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Subscribe


BULLETINS

INSTORE helps you become a better jeweler
with the biggest daily news headlines and useful tips.
(Mailed 5x per week.)

Latest Comments

Most Popular