Whether they be magnets, ornaments or paperweights, Mark Palmer is producing a smash hit in the form of Siesta Key-inspired trinkets
By Jane Bartnett
Siesta Key’s brightly colored lifeguard shacks have long been a symbol of the island’s iconic beach and island life. Artists, filmmakers, photographers and writers have captured their images and memorialized the yellow, red, blue and green stands in various forms for many years. Known the world over, they are a treasured Siesta Key landmark.
Thanks to a tech-savvy Sarasota teenager and her creative, entrepreneurial dad, miniature versions of the structures can now adorn your home or office. Sold both on Siesta Key and online in the form of magnets, ornaments and paperweights, they’ve become a popular keepsake for visitors and residents alike.
They are the brainchild of Hailie and Mark Palmer, whose company is called Takeaway Trinkets, and are produced in the family’s garage via Hallie’s 3-D printer. The tale of how they came to be is reminiscent of Apple computer founder’s Steve Jobs’ early days when the late tech giant launched his career from his father’s garage.
Said Mark, “Hailie had received a 3-D printer for Christmas. My wife’s sister’s boyfriend, who is the manager of the Beach Bazaar store in Siesta Key Village, suggested we use the printer to create something interesting to sell there.”
With the challenge of what to create with the new technology before them, the father-daughter collaboration began. They decided to create miniature replicas of the lifeguard stands and paint them in the same colors. The small treasures, Mark thought, would be a nice gift or treasured souvenir.
Utilizing his own business background and Hailie’s technological know-how, Mark mapped out a plan. An award-winning photographer, cinematographer, director and producer, he is the owner of Mars Vision Productions in Sarasota. The company specializes in video production and still photography. And Hailie, a sophomore at Sarasota’s Riverview High School, is the president of its STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Club.
“She wants to be an engineer and work for NASA someday,” said her father.
With their Beach Bazaar challenge accepted, the duo got to work. As any good STEM scientist would, Hailie began her research. At Siesta Beach, she meticulously measured a lifeguard station and, after returning home with her measurements, used CAD (computer-aided design) software to create a full-scale model. A first attempt was then printed.
“It was two to three months of trial and error,” Mark said. “About 140 prototypes later, we couldn’t get the dimensions to scale right.”
Determined, they continued to work through design and production issues.
“I found myself trying to reverse the design to make sure it wouldn’t break,” Mark said.
Finally, they got the magnet design – their first creation — right.
Ornaments were to follow.
“We made our first batch of 60 lifeguard chair magnets and they sold very well at Beach Bazaar,” Mark said. “Our next batch was a gross of 144, so we decided to try lifeguard-chair ornaments.”
The paperweights were the next project. And in each case, the process is lengthy.
“It takes four-and-a-half hours to produce eight magnets. The ornaments take eight-and-a-half hours to make four. We can produce the chair that makes up part of the paperweight in five-and-a-half hours.”
Meanwhile, sales and demand continued to increase as word got out. And, for last year’s pre-Christmas season, “Scooter of the Beach” of green lifeguard station fame signed a limited edition of several hundred ornaments. They quickly sold out.
Even Siesta Key Rum put in an order for the magnets and sells them along with other merchandise in its factory store.
On the Key, the stores that sell them are Beach Bazaar, Davidson Drugs, and Sunshine & Sand Hidden Treasures.
Off the Key, Coastal Flow on South Tamiami Trail stocks them.
They can also be purchased at TakeawayTrinkets.com.
To keep up with demand, Mark is considering moving the operation out of his garage and into work space at his production company. He’s also envisioning new markets that are just waiting to be conquered.
“We’re creating a business strategy to re-create other local landmarks,” he said. “It’s the only hobby I’ve ever had that I’m making some money on.”