Jay Hartington--His Success Keeps on Ticking
Already at the helm of two growing fashion companies, Jay Hartington is just getting started.
When you’re born into a family that pretty much reigns over the local luxury fashion market, some of that entrepreneurial prowess is bound to be ingrained. And for Jay Hartington, it certainly is. Thanks to stints in New York City’s fast-paced finance world, as well as overseeing plentiful buying and marketing functions for his family-owned boutique, Marissa Collections, the 33-year-old Naples native seems to have mastered he balance between business savvy, originality and just the right amount of imagination.
Gulfshore Life: As a co-owner of Marissa Collections, along with your parents, Marissa and Burt, what is your role with the store?
Jay Hartington: I probably have some sort of title like vice president of something, but I couldn’t tell you what it is. I handle a lot of our primarily business development, so, essentially, the next wave of our store. In the last year, I’ve been involved in opening our new jewelry gallery, and we now have a dedicated men’s area. We also re-launched our website in January with some new tools that I think will allow us to come closer to offering the same level of in-store customer service, online.
One of them is called My Closet, which puts anything you purchase in the store online into a digital closet with an image. If you ever walk through the store, you’ll notice our stylists constantly laying outfits on the ground, photographing them and showing clients multiple ways to wear pieces, knowing what their social or work agenda is for the next couple months. We’ve essentially digitalized that.
GL: What’s it like working with family?
Hartington: Nepotism has its pros and cons. It’s good because you get to push a certain direction that maybe someone else who doesn’t have that family relationship can’t push through.
But it’s hard to separate business and family, and that’s probably the biggest complication of it. My parents have a lot of trust in me, and I’ve been, in one way or another, involved with them in this business since I was born. It allows them a little peace of mind, like anything when blood is managing over something that you’ve built.
GL: How has the economic situation in recent years affected your business?
Hartington: We just kept our head down and focused on working hard. We were fortunate that business has been good and we’re growing. We didn’t have to lay off anybody, and we didn’t have to cut anybody’s benefits. It was a nice position to be in. We’ve made a bigger push nationally as well—you’ll notice that we’ll be featured more in national fashion magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Naples keeps growing as a city, and the notoriety of this business does, too.
GL: Your watch company, Rumba- Time, has also been a big success. How did it get started, and what’s in the works for it now?
Hartington: I started Rumba- Time two years ago with some college friends. At the time, it was primarily based on creating well-priced—$ 20-$50—digital and analog silicone-based watches, primarily in very pop, fashion-driven colors. We had seen a watch that we wanted to bring to market in the States, so we created RumbaTime, and it did remarkably well right out of the gate. We relied heavily on social media at an earlier stage; we got up to 50,000 Facebook fans pretty quickly. RumbaTime has grown into more of an umbrella company. We have RumbaTime, which we continue to grow and have new collections each season. But now we have three other watch brands.
One of them is Ballast, which has Swiss movements and retails for about $350-$595. It’s a lot of watch for about a quarter of the price of an unbranded one like it.
The other two are two brands similar that we developed with this gentleman. One’s called Thomas Earnshaw, and the other is called Forge. They’re more direct-to-consumer like ShopNBC, HSN, that sort of world. I wouldn’t say they’re my personal favorite, but they have a certain niche in the market that I think will do well. Three years ago, did I ever think I’d be involved in a watch company? No. But it was a one-off project that keeps going.
GL: What kinds of charitable involvement do you have in the Naples community?
Hartington: I’ve been on the C’mon Guild through its capital campaign, which started four years ago, and I do quite a bit with the Naples Botanical Garden, as well. With Marissa Collections, a business/ philanthropic angle has always been part of our business culture, which I think is a new thing to a lot of businesses over the last 10 years. That’s something that was part of what we always did. I mean, we’re based in Naples. It’s an “invest in where you nest” kind of concept.
GL: What do you do for fun that isn’t business-related?
Hartington: I like to play tennis. I read everything—history, fiction, nonfiction, cookbooks. I travel nonstop, though I unfortunately don’t get to travel as much for pleasure as I used to. When I was younger, I would work for two years and then take two or three years to switch professions and then travel for six months; go pick somewhere and do something different.
GL: Do you think Naples is a good town socially for young professionals?
Hartington: It’s like any community— you need to know the ins and outs of it. Obviously it’s more of a mature community. But just over the past 10 years, it’s substantially changed. I think every year there’s more and more young, dynamic people coming here.
I personally love Naples, but I spend a lot of time in New York [where RumbaTime is based], so I don’t need that [social] fix from Naples. When I’m here, I’m relaxing— playing tennis, going to the beach to read, going fishing. I think Naples, at its best, is about going to a great early dinner and maybe having a drink on Fifth Avenue or up at Mercato. When I’m in New York, I’ll stay out until 3 a.m., but I don’t try to make a certain environment something that it maybe isn’t best suited for.
GL: What would you like to accomplish this year?
Hartington: I’d like to read more— that’s my biggest luxury. And I’d like to plan some sort of really interesting trip. Jewelry designer Yossi Harari (whose pieces are sold at Marissa Collections) has been inviting me to come to Israel for five years. I definitely want to go check that out.