When John and Lynn Makiej decided to open a homewares and interior design store in 2017, they never imagined they’d be going into expansion mode at the outset of a global pandemic. But they signed the lease on a new location for Mak & Co. on Andover’s Main Street the day that the news of the coronavirus hit home in the United States.
They had to temporarily shut down their original 3,600-square-foot store on Red Spring Road in March as part of the effort to flatten the curve, which was a hit to business but also gave them time to plan out their new store, which opened its doors during the second week in July.
Despite the initial shock, the pandemic has actually been good for business—“ironically,” Lynn notes. “Everyone is home, and everyone is finally working on home projects—you know, replacing that sofa that they hated for 20 years. So we’ve been very busy.”
Lynn executes the creative vision while John manages the business end for the brand, which specializes in unique, upscale design with a bohemian farmhouse look. Browsers in-store or online will find a carefully curated collection of upholstered furniture, dishware, textiles, and décor.
Lynn also provides design services, for which she uses the stores as showrooms where clients can see her aesthetic and identify furniture and accessories that they want to use in their space.
“Now my resume is the store,” she says. “A lot of times people come in and say ‘I want to live here. Can I move in? Can you make my house look like this?’”
While she started professional life as a dancer, performing on cruise ships and competing on the ballroom scene, nowadays Lynn is no stranger to business. She has owned DNE School of Dance in Chelmsford for 25 years, which teaches more than 500 children and maintains a thriving ballroom program.
She continues to help with the studio one day a week, but most of her time is focused on growing the Mak & Co. brand. The launch of the new store coincides with the launch of a line of Mak & Co. furniture and a retail website, MakandCoHome.com, which offers furniture and accessories like rugs, cooking items, pillows, and lighting.
Lynn describes the chance she has had to turn from hobbyist designer to owner of a thriving brand as a “wonderful opportunity,” and notes that, “To do it with my husband only made it sweeter.”
Before opening the store with Lynn, John was in biotech sales for decades and previously worked at Macy’s for a few years.
“I’ve been in corporate sales for 25 years, and Lynn has a background as an entrepreneur,” he says. “I think together we complement each other’s skills. And we have about 40-50 years of sales experience combined.”
Selling medication to doctors, he was never able to see the positive effect of the product on the final consumer—the patient. It’s something that he’s been thrilled to experience in his new retail venture.
“In this business, you can see instant satisfaction from a customer,” he says. “You see the joy in their faces when their home is made beautiful by what we provided, both in services and furniture. It’s just fantastic to see.”
These days, clients are spending a lot of time at home, and their focus has shifted to the look and feel of their spaces. They are enjoying putting their personal stamp on their spaces through redecoration and renovation, or in designing from a blank slate after building or moving into a new house. Lynn sees many people looking for quality décor with clean lines, performance fabrics, neutral palettes with pops of color, and a smart yet casual feel.
Opening the new store during the coronavirus crisis has been a way to signal to potential customers that Mak & Co. is here to stay and dedicated to helping shoppers fulfill their design dreams even when times are hard.
“I think that being on Main Street showed a real optimism that people were attracted to,” John says. “People could not believe this store was opening in the middle of the pandemic. People said it’s a very bold move.”
It was indeed, but, says John, “It’s paying off.”
For more information, visit makandcoandover.com.