Market Watch: MerMade Designs. One of Orange County's best sources for beach inspired home decor has move into new digs. MerMade features the latest designs and new and improved trove on what might be Newport Beach's collection of sea design. Yes, there is no shortage of shells and anchors, fishing nets and sea coral motifs, but the unexpected way they play out is what makes this find stand out. How about an American flag fashioned from rope and starfish, nautically themed dog chews and an amizing selection of bechy chic linens? It's all here. July Coast Magazine page 116.
A few miles south along Mariner's Mile, the historic midcentury building known as the Cove (410 W. Coast Highway) was destined for demolition until last year, when it reopened as a retail complex with a handful of boutiques owned by female entrepreneurs, featuring a variety of goods. Blend features fashionable yet easy-to-wear clothing such as Mother Jeans, Clover Canyon blouses and Ulla Johnson dresses. And MerMade Designs has coastal-inspired home decor and gifts.
MerMade Best of the West - Orange Coast Magazine Orange Coast Magazine: Thursday, March 01, 2012 Publication Link
STEP INTO MERIDETH FLEENER'S MerMade Designs and you can practically feel the sand between your toes. This petite boutique, which opened in The Cove shopping center in August 2010, is packed with natural coral pieces, shell encrusted picture frames, sea- inspired paintings, and driftwood wreaths. While many are this mother of three's own creations, she also carries lines by local artists, such as Sea Jems' embellished flip-flops, and handmade seashell creations by Nate Ricketts Design. "I absolutely love the ocean" says the Newport Heights resident, above, who grew up in Laguna Beach, Hawaii, and Florida "If I can get my feet in the sand for 10 minutes or a whole day, I'm there. It's my way to meditate.'' Fleener's beachy casual personal style is obvious in the airy, relaxed aesthetic of the store, and in the accessible prices of her goods, which range from $5 to $1,500. She got her start at 14, folding T-shirts at a surf shop in Hawaii, and later became a buyer and manager for surf brands Hobie Sports and Toes on the Nose, before selling her sea creations at local showrooms and events. She has been a fan of crafts and sewing since child hood, and clothing tags her grandmother gave her as a kid inspired me score's name. They read "Made by Mer," and later simply "MerMade.'' Fleener's decorating advice? "Even if you live in a really modern home, you can have that one piece that reminds you of a great vacation." - ERIN STAFFORD ORANGE COAST MAGAZINE March 2012
OCBJ - New Tide on Mariners Mile Orange County Business Journal: Sunday, January 09, 2011 Publication Link
A collection of boutiques that recently opened in a refurbished 1960s office building-is part of a resurgence taking place along Newport Beach's Mariners Mile. The building had been empty for the past five years as a larger makeover effort played out, and ultimately fizzled. The Cove's building was set to be torn down to make way for Bel Mare, an $80 million upscale retail development with a Mediterranean theme. But Bel Mare, which was supposed to open in 2008, ran up against the economy, legal issues with a prospective tenant and other problems. Buildings at the site were vandalized and littered, which prompted the city to sue to have them cleaned up and secured. Bel Mare never got off the ground. Last year, developer Mariners Mile Gateway LLC gave up on the project. The 17-lot property was sold to two area investors. Developer Russ Fluter bought 11 lots next to a McDonald's and across the street from the Balboa Bay Club & Resort. Eva Watson bought the remaining lots at the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Dover Drive. The city is reviewing a proposed 20,000-square-foot retail, cosmetic spa and restaurant project on those lots by Ridgeway Development Co. of Newport Beach. Ridgeway Development is led up by Tod Ridgeway, a former Newport Beach mayor who owns property on Mariners Mile. The project, targeted to open in 2012, would include Winston's Jewelers, which now is in Costa Mesa. Jewelry store owner Glenn Verdult is the brother of site owner Watson. Fluter's lots included the building now home to The Cove. Instead of tearing it down, Fluter spent $200,000 to refurbish it. "That's the safer play in a down market," he said. "The building had a lot of character. All I really did was enhance the mid-century architecture." Within two months, the building was leased to nine boutiques and a few office tenants. "I was surprised it rented so fast," Fluter said. "I'm getting calls now from people who want space, but I don't have any space left."
Boutique tenants include Posey Couture, which sells jewelry made of Swarovski crystal. MerMade Designs sells "sea gems" flip-flops, handmade coral crosses, coral mirror and seashell decor. The Hat Loft sells all kinds of hats. Blend sells women's clothing. Paige Van Rensselaer-Kunkle, owner of Posey Couture, and Merideth Fleener, owner of MerMade Designs, were first to move into the building. They started the word-of-mouth leasing by calling friends who called friends who called friends. They imagined something like an artist cooperative, where a group of unique businesses share some expenses and help each other do well. "We really wanted a group of businesses that are cohesive but different and unique," Fleener said. "For us to succeed, we needed to be around other people we think would succeed." Fleener and Van Rensselaer-Kunkle said they discovered the building while driving by. "We saw the sign out front, we called on it, toured that day and met with Russ that afternoon," Fleener said. "We just pushed, pushed, pushed right on through." The two liked that the spaces were smaller than a typical boutique. "It's hard to find smaller square footage," Fleener said. Most of the spaces are about 300 square feet. Posey Couture and MerMade Designs have larger spaces. Monthly rents are about $2 to $3 a square foot. During a brainstorming session, the boutique owners came up with The Cove name to match the retro vibe of the building. Most of the women make some of what they sell. Van Rensselaer-Kunkle designs some of her jewelry. Fleener makes coral crosses. The small shops allow them to vent their creative side as they raise their children. "I'm not going to expand," said Van Rensselaer-Kunkle, who has a fifth-grader and seventh-grader at Carden Hall in Newport Beach. "I want to stay small and fun."
The hours are conducive to dropping off the kids at school in the morning. Most of the shops open at 11 a.m. and stay open until 5 p.m. They open for a few hours on Saturday. "It's almost all women here," Fleener said. "There's a huge support group." Designer Laura Matthews of Laura Matthews Designs brings her daughter to work when she needs to. Matthews, who began designing six years ago, makes belts made with buttons, "hipsters"-a modern fanny pack-and jewelry. Her jewelry sells for $35. She sells her items out front and has a small design room in the back where all of her supplies are piled. Melinda Hovee-Harlan started her kids clothing consignment business out of her home about a year ago. People would leave clothes on her doorstep. At her Little Stylings store, Hovee-Harlan sells slightly used kids clothing made by local surf-inspired companies and French-style clothes by Santa Ana designer Neige Inc., among others. A mother and daughter team own Little Relics, which sells jewelry made by 19-year-old Caitlin Whelan, who's in college. Whelan uses rosary beads, Catholic medals and other antiques to make her jewelry, which sells for $95 to $600. "She has a romantic eye," said mother Donna Whelan, who runs the store. "We've done this on a dime." Little Relics sells oil paintings by artist Liv Saether, owner of Costa Mesa's Liv Saether Art School and Gallery. Amy Rosten of the Hat Loft got a call from Pam Terry, owner of Studio Fringe at The Cove. Rosten was selling her hats out of her garage. The Hat Loft, which sells beach hats, fashion hats, berets and others for $12 to $40, is Rosten's first store. Studio Fringe's Terry has been an interior designer for 25 years. She sells burlap coffee sack ottomans and throw pillows that she designed, some with seashell fringe.
In addition to The Cove, other stores and businesses have sprung up along Mariners Mile. More are coming. Next to The Cove are a few new stores: La Tavola Linen store, True Food for Dogs, which makes, sells and delivers homemade dog food, and vintage auto dealer European Collectibles. European Collectibles, across from the Balboa Bay Club, sells cars made by Porsche, Austin-Healey, Jaguar and Volkswagen. Last year, Palo Alto-based Tesla Motors Inc., which makes electric sportscars, opened a dealership along Mariners Mile next to Ferrari and Maserati of Newport Beach. British luxury sportscar maker McLaren Automotive Inc. also is planning a dealership.
In the former Dulce restaurant spot near McDonald's, celebrity chefs Mario Batalia and Nancy Silverton plan to open one of their Mozza restaurants this year. Family owned A'Maree's women's clothing and accessory shop recently moved from Westcliff Plaza near the Irvine city line into perhaps the most distinctive building along Mariners Mile. The white concrete building, which through the years was home to a series of restaurants including Cano's, was built in the 1950s and designed by Pasadena architect Thornton Ladd. The building had been empty, even before the recession. The owner was holding out for a tenant that wasn't a restaurant. The city of Newport Beach also rezoned an area near Mariners Village for condominiums and apartments. One project under review would add housing atop Billy's At The Beach.