History of Design Mart
As published in MB News
(Monument Builders of North America)
It was 1969.
The country anxiously watched the flight of Apollo 11. Woodstock became a legend. The New York Mets won their first World Series. And in an old gasoline station in Elberton, Georgia, Joe Fernandez opened the doors of his memorial design studio -- Design Mart.
Many things have changed since 1969, including the gas station location of Design Mart. But while change occurs, commitment to quality is still the heart of what keeps Design Mart at the leading edge of the memorial marketing and sales industry.
With more than 3,000 memorial retailers calling Design Mart each year for sales materials and other advertising services, Fernandez knows the importance of creating high quality material. "Each of our sales creations is the result of attention to detail and a critical eye," Fernandez says. "I learned memorial drafting and illustration from some of the true masters. They looked at your work carefully. If it wasn't right, they crumpled it and tossed it in the trash."
Years later, Fernandez developed a greater appreciation for the persistence of his teachers, and his clients certainly reap the benefits. "In Design Mart's 30 years, our clients have made more than 7 million sales calls with the popular D-Mart brochures and books," he noted.
Fernandez has worked in virtually every aspect of the memorial industry. He grew up as the son of an immigrant sculptor from Spain, developing a passion for his father's work. When he was 14 his father died of silicosis, a common lung disease in stone workers before the age of respirators and proper ventilation and filtration. Even in those early years, his father, John, instilled in his children and appreciation for perfection and beauty. Joe's two brothers, Manuel, of Landmark Granite Co., and John, of Stone Mart, Inc., (both located in Elberton, Georgia) also followed in their father's footsteps.
Apprenticeship programs, work experience and a stint in the U.S. Army all added to Fernandez' experience as a draftsman and designer, but it was his decision to go to college (after being out of high school 12 years) that seemed to be the turning point in the evolution of Design Mart. His memorial design experience, combined with his marketing and business courses at the University of Georgia enabled him to tap into a market that was hungry for sales materials.
"Many memorial retailers simply don't have the time or resources to professionally create their own artwork or photograph their displays," Fernandez says. "First they must hire an agency or freelancer to design an attractive format. Then they often encounter prohibitive printing prices unless they deal in quantities that reach into the tens of thousands. Clearly there is a need in the industry...first class sales people simply will not show their clients a crude sketch or other poor representation of a memorial."
Design Mart's clients have a simple strategy. They mail or personally deliver their Design Mart brochures (often custom imprinted with their own company name) to prospective clients. Instantly, the prospects are exposed to the type of quality and variety the company can provide. Once the prospect sees the retailer's capabilities, the sales person has already developed a relationship with a customer. During the next stage of the sale, the prospect will very likely be shown a Design Mart book or a memorial likeness via computer using Design Mart's memorial design software. Seeing the designs in the books and on the screen helps clients feel more comfortable with the investment they are making and allows discussion on personalization.
Design Mart brochures, books and software include a wide variety of memorial choices for the sales person. From traditional designs that most clients can easily afford, to the more unusual works such as bronze, etching, cremation, pets, contemporary memorial designs and granite signs.