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Finalist-ACS 2003 - Mark Loren Designs

Sophisticated chic in an upscale community.



Mark Loren Designs, Ft. Myers, FL

OWNER: Mark Loren; DESIGNERS: Karen Benson; PROJECT COST: $65,000 (for expansion); ADDRESS: 13251 McGregor Blvd, Ft. Myers, FL 33919; PHONE: (239) 482-4662; DESIGN ADVICE: “We kept our clients informed of the week by week progress. And we didnʼt complain about the dust, noise and inconvenience! We were thrilled, and we let them know that. Also, we [did a deal] with the construction firm. Would they consider a lower amount if we handed out their business cards and agreed to send them at least three new clients or trade the difference? They agreed, and we sent them at least five new customers!”

MARK LOREN DESIGNS has been in the same location since 1987, when its interior design won Karen Benson an American Society of Interior Designers award. Since then, the store has evolved in many ways, but some of the original light fittings remain.

After all, as Mark proudly points out, “We were one of the first retail jewelry stores to utilize the new ʻlow-voltageʼ halogen lights!” Mark worked closely with Karen to ensure they stuck to his tight budget of $30,000, and to keep in mind the gallery effect he wanted to achieve.

The gallery was expanded three years ago as the store branched out into selling collectible fossil and mineral specimens. Mark and his wife Sheri were heavily involved with the project, with Sheri taking control of many of the color and interior choices, but designer Karen was very definitely at the helm, both in the original design of the store and the renovation. Mark says of her, “Karen has an incredible sense of architectural use of space and an eye for innovation.” The couple were very conscious of their budget, and saved where they could; their original showcases were faux-finished to blend in with the new design, for example.


The 18-ft high ceilings contribute to the airy, gallery feel of the store, and clients love what Mark describes as the “relaxed-cool” atmosphere. The central location of the store means that it draws its clientele from all over the county, though Mark says, “Many vendors comment on how they travel the country and would expect to see a studio like ours in a major metropolitan area (not in little olʼ southwest Florida).” The staff pride themselves on the warmth of their welcome, and clients are often invited into the shop to watch while their jewelry is being made — over a glass of wine, of course. Mark Loren Designs is a well-established member of the local community, relying on word-of-mouth rather than advertising, and they are frequent contributors to charity balls in the area.

The reactions of the panel to Mark Loren Designs range through a sliding scale of points. Debbie loves the store, hailing the way its design enhances its wares, and adding, “I also like the use of various light sources and the displays really seem to highlight the jewelry.” Fred likes the exposure given to the artists themselves. “This beautiful store gets extra points for having the bench jewelers set up in an area where customers can watch the work being done,” he says. Penny approves of the way Loren blends the different elements of the store, describing it as “almost museum or gallery-like, but very inviting.” RoxAnna and Brett mark the store a little lower than their fellow panel members, though RoxAnna compliments Loren on the storeʼs “trendy sense of style and hip edge.”




Celebrate Your Retirement with Wilkerson

For nearly three decades, Suzanne and Tom Arnold ran a successful business at Facets Fine Jewelry in Arlington, Va. But the time came when the Arnolds wanted to do some of the things you put off while you’ve got a business to run. “We decided it was time to retire,” says Suzanne, who claims the couple knew how to open a store, how to run a store but “didn’t know how to close a store.” So, they hired Wilkerson to do it for them. When she called, Suzanne says Wilkerson offered every option for the sale she could have hoped for. Better still, “the sale exceeded our financial goals like crazy,” she says. And customers came, not only to take advantage of the going-out-of-business buys and mark-downs, but to wish a bon voyage to the beloved proprietors of a neighborhood institution. “People were celebrating our retirement, and that was so special,” says says.

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