A Day in the Life of The Collective

We look behind the scenes at the new design center in Naples, where more than two dozen of the top names in Southwest Florida architecture, interiors and art now reside.

BY March 12, 2021
Inside METHOD & CONCEPT, a gallery and design studio on the ground floor.

It’s just before 7 a.m. when the Kurtz Homes Naples team begins to arrive at The Collective, the new luxury design center that Randy Kurtz recently debuted in the Naples Design District.

Their day starts early. Elizabeth Kurtz trickles in first, today. By the time Randy arrives, his daughter is already at her desk coordinating for the day ahead.

She doesn’t spend much time sitting, though. As the one who handles tenant and community relations—and anything else that may come up—she’s often jetting between the two dozen or so design businesses that now operate out of the building.

The day starts early for Randy Kurtz, founder of The Collective. His dog, Bentley, accompanies him to the office daily.

The concept for The Collective is simple enough: Gather some of the greatest businesses in Southwest Florida construction, architecture, development, interior design and art under the same roof. Create an environment where the teams can easily cross paths, congregate and exchange ideas. Open the doors so  anyone from the community (competitors, included) can take part, too. Anyone can reserve the shared office space; shop at retailers like Casa Italia, The Luxury Bed Collection and METHOD & CONCEPT; or pop by for the community-centric gatherings. Today, there’s a planned visit from Narrative Coffee Roasters, which will be setting up an espresso cart on the central courtyard for tenants and passersby to enjoy. 

By 9:30 a.m., Stofft Cooney Architecture, located on the third floor across the way from Kurtz Homes, is buzzing. The architecture team landed on an open-space concept for its offices, similar to its approach for the rest of the building. “The layout supports collaborative interaction between all of our team members,” says Bob Vayda, the senior architect who took lead in designing The Collective. “We find it easy to discuss questions, designs and solutions.” Toward the back of the office, architect John Cooney sits at a large table reviewing blueprints with managing director Jenny Haire. Elsewhere throughout the space, architects and project managers are plugging away at the various projects the team has on the boards, some of which are collaborations with Kurtz Homes (celebrating the partnership, in a hallway between the two offices, hang large prints of residences the two groups have done together in Port Royal, downtown Naples and Aqualane Shores).

Casa Italia, which relocated from Miromar Design Center, was one of The Collective’s first tenants. The sleek space functions as a showroom for Minotti, the luxe Italian design brand.

It wasn’t all that hard for Randy Kurtz to secure the tenants for The Collective. Most are people he’s worked with in more than three decades building custom homes in the region; all were drawn by a shared vision for how Naples could continue to blossom as a contemporary city and collaborative creative community.

Ozzie Pancaro, founder of Casa Italia, hadn’t worked directly with Randy before joining The Collective, but after meeting him personally, Pancaro recognized the symmetry. “Our thoughts were in sync,” he says.

Though Casa Italia, which recently relocated from the Miromar Design Center, deals in about a dozen high-end Italian brands, its space in The Collective functions primarily as a showroom for Minotti, the Italian furnishings brand. “We are one of their 12 dealers in the United States, and this is one of only four dedicated Minotti showrooms in the country,” Pancaro explains. The pieces—with their contemporary shapes, palettes and superior craftsmanship—dovetail with The Collective’s ethos.

By now, it’s midday and the STARability Trailblazer volunteers who come in a couple times a week to help with projects in the building are filing down the hallway outside Casa Italia, wrapping up their shift.

On the second floor, at The Studio, anyone can reserve the shared office space. Below: John Cooney reviews materials for an upcoming project with Stofft Cooney Architecture team members; wood samples at Unique Wood Floor Co., one of the niche vendors that operates within The Collective.

They pass by Unique Wood Floor Co., where Christian Rodriguez is sorting through new samples of handcrafted walnut and genuine French oak in various textures, finishes, grades and parquet patterns. At any given time, the showroom has more than 100 samples on display that a design professional or homeowner could browse.

This is one of the defining features of The Collective. In addition to being home to interior designers and architects, the space also hosts niche vendors specializing in flooring, outdoor furnishings, lighting, sound, security, high-end windows and a host of other services. Between Premiere Systems, AlliKristé cabinetry, GWT Outdoors and dozens of others who have a full-fledged showroom or smaller studio in the building, one could take care of everything needed while building a dream home.

At around 2 p.m.—after sorting through plans and deliberating on materials for a new Moorings residence she’s designing with Stofft Cooney—interior designer Sharon Gilkey, of Montanna Design Associates, heads across the way from her showroom to take advantage of the access available through The Studio. There, surrounding a coworking-style office space that anyone can reserve, more than a dozen vendors have studios with samples of fabrics, cabinetry, window panes and hardware, among other things. As an interior designer, Gilkey involves herself in projects from the inception to ensure a cohesive and holistic end result. She is currently on the hunt for shading and hardware for a new project, so she visits Cassina and ASI Naples, which specializes in automated shading and smart home technology. She stops to admire the current display at the studio for METHOD & CONCEPT, one of the seven fellow Collective tenants she is currently collaborating with for various projects.

At Casa Italia—run by Ozzie Pancaro (below)—shoppers can access Minotti’s full range of customizable contemporary sofas, lighting, tables and design objects.

METHOD & CONCEPT has its own corner space at street level. A glass-encased, high-ceiling beauty, which founder and CEO Chad Jensen designed himself, the gallery and design studio still shows works from the recent Beyond Nature show. Amy Jensen, Chad’s wife and the gallery director, is there preparing for two upcoming exhibits: Family, which features the works of renowned artist friends Chad grew up with in Detroit, along with relationships he’s cultivated in more than a decade of dealing in contemporary fine art; and Semi-Precious, which focuses on Chad’s own works that he created during the pandemic. 

Amy, who works with Youth Haven as the arts program coordinator, is committed to the goal of enhancing local culture and sense of place through the arts. She is particularly enthusiastic about the hyperpersonal nature of these upcoming exhibits. “It’s bringing all the people we love together,” she says. Today, she’s making plans for the opening, which, she shares, is four days after Valentine’s Day. Amy is mindful of the pandemic, but optimistic. Having been part of The Collective’s grand opening a few months back, she was able to pilot a system that ensures safe access, while still allowing people to interact with the space and art.

Interior designer Sharon Gilkey, of Montanna Design, takes an artistic approach to her work. The front of her studio is a dedicated gallery space, which currently features photography and paintings by Naples’ Susan Forrest Castle.

As for everyone else, the pandemic has brought struggles to the tenants of The Collective, which was slated to open February 2020. But, it’s clear that fostering community between all those involved has helped strengthen each part of the whole.

As the day nears its end, Randy Kurtz is upstairs speaking with one of his contractors and a Stofft Cooney architect about the expansion his office is currently undergoing. He’s clear he’s not interested in growing too much bigger. “I don’t want to be a huge company,” he says. “We’ll grow a little more, but not much more.” Still, he’s not shy about advertising the fact that there are a few premium spaces he’d still like to lease, including a restaurant site on the ground floor.

Collaboration lies at the heart of The Collective. Above, from left: Randy Kurtz with daughters Elizabeth Kurtz and Carolyn Gordon and granddaughters Isla and Lucy.
A sketch for a home that tenants Montanna Design and Stofft Cooney are working on together.

Back in his office, with his daughters Elizabeth and Carolyn Gordon and granddaughters, Isla and Lucy, and his dog, Bentley, Randy and crew set the example for the familial spirit that runs through the building.

Elizabeth shares an update on The Collective Cares program, which she’s spearheading to give back to local charitable organizations. It was a natural effort for her, having worked in the nonprofit sector before relocating back to Naples from Orlando a couple years ago. The Collective Cares is her baby, but it’s also indicative of the community-first presence The Collective is cultivating with its tenants, the region and its Naples Design District neighborhood.


Photography by Zach Stovall

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