Mark Fore & Strike, The Tropical Abercrombie & Fitch

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There was a time when the name Mark Fore & Strike was known from Cape Cod to South Florida, notes Thomas Cary of The Cary Collection. Back then, a gentleman wearing a madras jacket might be a sport, but the logo on the inside of the jacket hinted at the sporting history of the outfitter. The logo was a triangle made up of a gun, golf club and rod, hence Mark Fore & Strike. 

The original shop was opened in the Florida hamlet of Delray Beach in 1951. It was an eclectic shop of sporting goods, clothes and resort goods. The Delray Beach News described it as “Probably one of the most original stores in the country.” The East Atlantic Ave. store had five quirky classifications of goods: Bar and Barbeque equipment, Sportswear, Sporting Goods, and general accessories. As well as fishing equipment. Among the goods sold were spear guns, diving masks, English kites, boomerangs, yacht instruments, torch lamps and cribbage sets. On the clothes front, the paper mentions Hawaiian shirts and “true walking shorts.” The shop was like a miniature, tropical Abercrombie & Fitch that reflected the sensibilities of its founders, Persifor “Perky” Frazer and James E. Jones. The Delray Beach News stated “The idea hit Frazer and Jones at the same time. The two liked the community which had drawn them in the winter and the business idea just fell naturally.”

Not a lot is known about James Jones other than he had been coming to Delray Beach for several years. The biographical details on Frazer are more extensive. Persior Frazer was born in Philadelphia in 1921 and was in the Avon Old Farms class of 1941. He enlisted in the first troop Philadelphia City Cavalry in 1941, and transferred to the US Army Air Corp. He flew with the 15th Air force in Italy, achieving the rank of Captain.   He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and an Air Medal with three oak clusters. In 1949 Frazer moved to Florida to work for the Collier Corp. Sam Collier’s Ferrari 166 would leave the road while leading the 1950 Watkins Glenn Grand Prix, taking his life. After the accident, Frazer moved on to open Mark Fore & Strike. An interesting footnote: Frazer was also the son of Ellen Ordway, whose scrapbooks appear in the New York Social Diary. There are photos of family members wearing early Mark Fore & Strike clothing. Frazer would stay with the company he founded until 1966, when he sold out and moved into real estate management and sales. 

The family name now most associated with Mark Fore & Strike is Tiernan. Bill Tiernan joined Frazer as a co-owner in 1953, with an announcement made in 1954 via the Princeton Class of 1944 notes. Tiernan had prepped at Lawrenceville before coming to Princeton, where he was involved in student government, played hockey, and was a member of the Cottage Club. He served in the Pacific with the 20th Air Wing, B-29 bomber Command. First Lieutenant Tiernan was awarded the Bronze Star, Air Medal with three oak clusters, and the Distinguished Flying Cross. He was a handsome US Army Air Corps flight engineer and semi pro hockey player turned haberdasher. Tiernan continued to fly, and one episode solidified Mark Fore & Strike’s reputation for customer service. A customer had fallen in love with a dress in the Naples store, but it was not in her size. She wanted to wear the dress for an event that evening. The manager of the Naples store called Tiernan, and like a winged Prince Charming he personally flew the dress from Delray Beach to Naples.  Bill Tiernan would continue to build the chain of resortwear stores until his death on May 26, 1973 at the St. Louis Country Club. The Tiernan obituary from the Class of 44 notes says “All of us remember Bill as a unique and regal man… one who’s elegant laugh rose in humor and whose enthusiasm and courage was so very evident in everything he touched.” His son Michael said at the graveside service, “Your spirit is too rich to fade, too full to be forgotten.”

It would be Michael Tiernan that would lead Mark Fore & Strike in the next phase of its history. According to the Boca Raton News in in 1975, the company began an aggressive national advertising campaign in magazines like the New Yorker, Vogue and Town & Country.  Before long the company was deluged with unsolicited requests for catalogs. Michael Tiernan, who came aboard in 1976, tackled the catalog project.  The catalog which started in 1978 would book 40% of sales by 1986. “No one knows your lifestyle better” reads the Spring 1986 catalog. The catalog offered the resort-style clothes that men and women wanted at the time. It was reported that the average income of the female customer was over $70,000 a year, and that the catalog devotees were two-house families with the means to follow the sun. In 1986, the company had $11 million in sales and was growing at a rate of 20% a year.

The 1980s were a good time for the company. There were the old-guard customers, “The Official Preppy Handbook” was influencing customer taste, and yuppies had money to spend. Thomas Carry remembers those years well. He was a buyer for Mark Fore & Strike and worked in the Florida headquarters. “It was a unique, fun company that had a core prep market,” he says. “Delray Beach at the time was very WASPish, very clubby, with little shops and no shopping centers.” Mark Fore & Strike had seven brick and mortar stores in Florida, as well as northern stores in East Hampton, Bay Head, Greenwich, Osterville, and Chatham. The stores were known for their comforting weathered wood and nautical décor. The immense success of Mark Fore & Strike allowed the company to pursue other areas, including rescuing the Boston Proper brand. The attention would shift to this brand in the new century, and Mark Fore & Strike would become increasingly less signficant starting in the 1990s. 

Mark Fore & Strike had its day in the sun. It is remembered with the nostalgia of a Slim Aarons photo. There are still devotees of the brand today, some of whom bought the items in their inaugural appearance, others who stalk them on eBay. They make up an almost secret society of the triangle, and their devotion to hardcore resortwear is unwavering. — CHRISTOPHER SHARP

26 Comments on "Mark Fore & Strike, The Tropical Abercrombie & Fitch"

  1. Charlottesville | July 19, 2018 at 11:51 am |

    Mr. Sharp – I recall seeing the brand, but never knew its history. Thanks for your well researched and interesting article. Great pictures as well.

  2. Theodore Bouloukos | July 19, 2018 at 3:27 pm |

    I still have scads of their stuff. I miss them. And Carroll Reed. Talbots too, back when they still carried menswear.

  3. Oh no, I need that shirt.

  4. Superb piece, Mr. Sharp. Well researched and written. As usual your work inspires wistful reminiscence about a great deal more than (mere) clothing. Your seersucker piece inspired both smilies … and deep sighs.

    Wonder if they traded with Magee. Great looking Donegal jackets.

    Talking with a local (men’s clothing) retailer about the golden age of Ivy (including resort wear), he offered this: “They (the people who bought the clothes) were genuinely nice, cordial, low drama people. Lovely people. You were glad they were in charge.”

    The type, as some have lamented, is pretty much gone now. Not so much a vanishing as a slow, steady extinction. The last among the lot threw up their hands in quiet (ever polite) disgust and just drifted away. David Souter and Lincoln Chafee come to mind. I still think Souter’s decision to “quit the Court” was one of the most powerfully symbolic acts of WASP disgust.

    It used to be you couldn’t get ahead unless you were nice, cordial, low drama. No more. Nowadays crassness, crude behavior and drama are rewarded. The last presidential election was a (pathetic) contest between two people who were well known for boorish, surly behavior. Each specialized in the gruff, the brusque, the vulgar. In the midst of it all, we can pause to celebrate decency (Mr. Rogers, for instance).

    Here we are.

  5. Richard Meyer | July 20, 2018 at 11:00 am |

    @S.E. You have said it all far better than I could. I miss such as Claiborne Pell as well. Cordial and discreet are a thing of the past.

  6. Yes, of course! It may be Pell was the most public paragon of the type.

  7. Addendum: the so-called “Ivy League Dilemma” (namely, that Ivy League schools and similar do a shabby job of admitting and training the type in question) is longer merely a dilemma. It’s a quandary bordering on a tragedy. No wonder a recruiter for a large financial planning/investment management firm shared recently “We prefer graduates of colleges and universities in the South.”

  8. Vern Trotter | July 20, 2018 at 2:49 pm |

    Letting customers smoke in a retail store? Indeed very waspish, very clubby. Souter, Chafee and Pell? We can agree to disagree about the politics of those three, but no question about their bearing. Two of the three were former Republicans, at least. I knew John Chafee (not the recent edition) from the race track back in the day. A gentleman. No question about Pell either. For certain cordial and discreet.

    Nice article. Sent to a friend in Delray Beach.

  9. Charlottesville | July 20, 2018 at 2:55 pm |

    S.E. – “We prefer graduates of colleges and universities in the South.” Music to my Virginia ears. There is probably even a kernel of truth in it, although how long that will continue, I cannot say. However, I spent part of the morning with a lovely young lady from Washington & Lee who is interning with us this summer, and she shows that at least some southern students, women as well as men, are still “nice, cordial and low-drama.”

  10. Richard Meyer | July 20, 2018 at 3:02 pm |

    The comments from S.E, Vern Trotter and Charlottesville are superb. Thank you, gentlemen.

  11. Just Sayin' | July 21, 2018 at 6:43 am |

    Because no one was boorish in the past, right? Yes, things have changed, as they always will, but it’s no use to over-romanticize the past. Plenty of people “got head” with vulgar and bad behavior then – including several presidents and many Ivy-educated people. Blaming “the kids these days” or “millennials” or whatever is nice and easy, but ignores the reality.

  12. Just Sayin' | July 21, 2018 at 7:11 am |

    *got ahead. Although the other is true too, haha…

  13. “Just Sayin’,” let’s not pretend that people aren’t a lot more boorish today. No one is saying that Millennials (the second worst generation) were the first boors but they certainly are far more boorish than, say, the greatest generation. It’s because our culture and society have gone to hell, unless you’re living in a fantasy.

  14. kate liegey | July 31, 2018 at 12:23 pm |

    My fondest memories in my 20 year career in the apparel industry was my job at Mark, Fore and Strike! Michael was a charming, fun and
    great boss. Thea was the Vp of Merchandising and a great teacher and also so much fun. Although I am still in the industry and have worked for the likes Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren and many more brands- I would drop everything to work for Mark, Fore and Strike again!
    So who ever is starting that ecom business -email me!

  15. Christopher Sharp | August 8, 2018 at 11:50 am |

    A general thanks for the comments. Special thanks to Charlottesville and S.E. @S.E. I appreciate you remembering the seersucker article. @kate I think Thomas mentioned Thea when I spoke with him. I can not remember if it was her or someone else there who had a polo playing relative of some renown. Sounded like a fun place to work. The subject of this story was recommended to us by a reader but I can not remember who.

  16. Great article on MFS Christopher!
    I loved learning the biz from Michael Tiernan who would later acquire Boston Proper out of bankruptcy in the 1990s move it to Boca Raton only to later sell it to Chico’s based in Ft Myers for $210M in cash!
    Thanks for quoting me & enjoyed our phone conversation too!
    Btw, it’s Cary not Carry

  17. Christopher Sharp | August 10, 2018 at 11:13 am |

    Thanks Tom. Glad you liked it very, much appreciate your help with it.

  18. Are you kidding me?! My wife and I recently traveled through the Ohio-Pennsylvania are hitting all the thrift shops we could find. At one of them, I stumbled on a gorgeous red sport coat. It was only when I got home (to Canada) did I realize the cool label inside: “Mark, Fore and Strike”. I am “debuting” it today so I look it up to get some skinny to add to my Instagram post and I find your great article – written only last month! Very cool. Thanks for the info.

  19. George Estelle | February 3, 2019 at 8:38 pm |

    Growing up in Bay Head, I loved the store and miss the preppy look

  20. Pete Hunter | April 30, 2019 at 1:03 pm |

    I have a Mark,Fore&Strike gift card with a remaining balance of $29.60. Years ago I tried to use it st the Newport RI store and they told me that it was not good any more, that the stores were closing. Who are their successors who will honor my card?

  21. i worked here with Michael and it was the best job I ever had. I went on to become a VP of Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger in merchandising -but I would go back to Boca and Michael in a heart beat- I wish he got the old team together to revive it.

  22. leslie c moorhouse | December 9, 2019 at 11:13 am |

    My oh my!!! Today I am webbing it to find a replacement for a MFS belt that my father gave to me in the 70’s….. and this article is what I find…!!!! What a great piece to read and the following comments were fun to read also! Boca and the Delray stores were fabulous!! I am trying to replace a 1″ saddle leather belt with a brass sailboat attached to the keeper or loop. Any help would be most appreciated!! and rewarded with substantial smiles!!

  23. Rick Blanchard | April 6, 2020 at 6:31 pm |

    In Bay Head I bought my Madras shorts, Madras jacket and ties there. I bought a Kelly Green dinner jacket there. Most all my gifts came from that store. I lived in Mantoloking. Been to Osterville and Greenwich stores as well.

  24. Wendy Easton | April 20, 2021 at 11:04 pm |

    Most wonderful experience working for Mark, Fore and Strike. Loved working with Michael, Kerry , Anne and Jim…and everyone else. Started as manager of Bayside store in Miami. Closed that and moved to Delray. Traveled to all stores implementing our new computer system. God bless Jonathan…our rock star geek…❤️The company / Michael were family to all of us. They helped me through a very rough time and I will always respect and love the Tiernan family for that. I hope they are well and God Bless them. It was a blast!!! On a final note.. I’m retiring as a buyer at a private club in Naples on the 30th. Been a great ride! New adventure..boyfriend opening a craft cocktail bar here in Naples…come see us!!❤️

  25. Michael Tiernan | December 2, 2021 at 12:33 pm |

    Very well written and accurate. As stated both Perky Frazer and my Dad we WW !! aviators.Perk was in the European theater and Dad in the Pacific. They moved to Florida in the early 50s and did things there own way. They got sand in their shoes and wanted to have.
    Over the years I was blessed to work with so many talented as we made the transition from brick and mortar, to direct mail (catalog) and eccomerce. It was quite a ride.

  26. Hi Michael Tiernan,
    This may seem odd but I’m trying to track down an old college friend from Brown. Back in the early 90’s I lost contact with her. She was/is married to Scott Tiernan and her name is Kim. I went to their house when I was down there at my ex-father-in-law’s house in Boynton. But then that was no longer an option of course. Are you related to Scott? We went surfing together a time or too.
    Anyway I’d love to talk to her because my son who Kim would remember as an infant/toddler now lives and works in Del Ray. It really is a small world.
    If you are related and can help me contact her, or she can contact me if she’s uncomfortable given this crazy time we live in and with an internet that is not to be trusted. My name is on this post and we can figure out some safe way to contact each other if she doesn’t see my email address. I’m not much of a computer person at all.
    Thank you for your time.

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