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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