A comfortable composite of art and business
By Benjamin Martin 96, 97
blocks from the sight and sound of Atlantic waves crashing on the
beach, the summer sun reflects off shards of old mirrors, chips
of old teacups and broken pieces of ceramic tile. This isnt
a pile of junk in some back alleyits an artistic creation
by Mark Milan 89 and Dave Gorham 89 on
the facade of their Ocean City storefront, Designsteins Studio.
The seaside resort, rich in the history of Victorian architecture,
Methodist evangelism and pristine beaches might seem an odd location
for a 90s, avant garde business. So leave it to a couple of
creative guys to make the conservative Asbury Avenue location work.
In the course of a few short days, to make their unusual gift emporium
stand out, they transformed the outside of their shop into modern
Using fragments of mirrors, glassware, china, ceramic tile and some
South Street, Philadelphia inspiration, Milan and Gorham turned
a drab storefront into modern marquetry. After we completed
the mosaic, said Milan, we saw an increase in customers
the next day. From art appreciation to simple wonder, the
tourists and local residents have reacted positively to the change
of scenery. The mosaic is a work of art, says Gorham,
obnoxious, but stylish.
Both art majors, Milan and Gorhams business success started
with a dream to run their own company. While still in college, the
fraternity brothers silk screened t-shirts for campus groups. After
college, armed with desire and creative financing, they devised
a comprehensive business plan which resulted in the formation of
Oddfellows Design, Inc. and later, Oddfellows Group, Inc. and Designsteins
Oddfellows Design, the flagship of their business ventures, produces
wholesale and retail screen printing items including their own trademarked
clothing line, Custom Human Wear. Oddfellows Group is a full-service
advertising and integrated marketing agency. Milan and Gorhams
newest venture, Designsteins Studio, is a retail shop featuring
their fashions as well as the works of local artisans and an eclectic
mix of gift items.
As their business began to expand, the partners have looked back
to their alma mater for qualified help. Over the last seven years,
they have employed six graduates including Dan Crines 88,
who runs day-to-day operations of Oddfellows Design.
The transformation of their storefront into art is a metaphor of
sorts for Milan and Gorhams professional development. An eye
for unconventional solutions to creative problems and a sixth sense
about opportunity have been the mosaic and mortar in their partnership.
We were artists, now were businessmen, said Gorham.
Its a dream come true.