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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.”


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The store was a landmark in Topeka, Kansas, but after 80 years in business, it was time for Briman’s Leading Jewelers to close up shop. Third generation jeweler and owner Rob Briman says the decision wasn’t easy, but the sale that followed was — all thanks to Wilkerson. Briman had decided a year prior to the summer 2020 sale that he wanted to retire. With a pandemic in full force, he had plenty of questions and concerns. “We had no real way to know if we were going to be successful or have a failure on our hands,” says Briman. “We didn’t know what to expect.” But with Wilkerson in charge, the experience was “fantastic” and now there’s plenty of time for relaxing and enjoying a more secure retirement. “I would recommend Wilkerson to any retailer considering a going-out-of-business sale,” says Briman. “They’ll help you reach your financial goal. Our experience was a tremendous success.”

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