Mark McMenamin, a creative and extremely talented business journalist who was one of the original editorial staff of the Today’s Home Highlights, died on 24 August after a brief illness. He was 60 years old.
McMenamin’s experience as a retail furniture buyer, his keen observation of the home furnishing world, and his relentless dedication to covering a market from start to finish have made him a respected figure in the business he has charted for more than three decades. And his skill as a writer earned him the admiration of his fellow journalists.
“Mark has worked in every High Point Market for 30 years, covering millions and millions of square feet. He was tireless, thorough and fair as a writer and columnist,” said Cheminne Taylor-Smith, former editor-in-chief of the in furniture magazine who is now a consultant and strategist for the domestic industry. “He was also one of the most talented writers in the domestic arena. His direct, intelligent and witty way of writing about our industry elevated the conversations we had about design and products.”
“Mark was the hardest working guy in a market you’ve ever seen,” agreed Warren Shoulberg, who while editor-in-chief of HFN launched in furniture magazine in the early 2000s and hired McMenamin to lead its design coverage. “He hated sitting in showrooms, he was always moving. No one would work on a cocktail circuit like him and still be standing.”
Taylor-Smith recalled an Atlanta gift and home furniture market many years ago that featured a new exhibitor, Heather McCartney. Her father Paul McCartney surprised her by showing up to help promote his new line of home accents. “There were so many media outlets there like Entertainment Tonight and People magazine. It was a passion,” Taylor-Smith said. “But then Paul McCartney tells everyone he really wants to support Heather’s business, so he asks all the consumer press to come out. Once they left it was just the Today’s Home Highlights people standing there. But Mark, in his New York way, was too cool to get excited about. And in the photos we took with Paul and Heather, he’s the only one looking away as if this happens to him every day.”
McMenamin was born on February 2, 1962, in Darby, Penn., the youngest of four children born to John T. and Elizabeth (Betty) McMenamin. He graduated from Greensburg Central Catholic High School in 1980 and earned a degree in journalism from Temple University in Philadelphia, according to an obituary written by McMenamin’s brother John McMenamin. After graduating, he worked as a furniture department manager at Horne’s department store in Monroeville, Penn., then held the same position at Strawbridge and Clothier in Philadelphia.
“One Sunday, while scouring the classifieds section of the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer, he saw a life-changing wanted ad: an editor was looking for a writer with a journalism degree and experience in retail furniture sales,” wrote John McMenamin. Mark moved to North Carolina and began his professional career writing and editing for furniture trade publications. he started in furniture today, which at the time covered the home accessories business on a single page. This later turned into what was then called Home Accessories today. McMenamin took over the publication, which was later renamed Today’s Home Highlightsto cover the accent business.
It was in North Carolina that McMenamin met her future husband, Wesley Hendrix. The two were together for 31 years. In 1997, McMenamin and Hendrix moved to New York City, where McMenamin spent the rest of his life. He continued to work for Today’s Home Highlights from New York, until Shoulberg approached him around 2001 with the offer to join in furniture, a monthly publication that also produced pre-show issues and market diaries. Smith served as editor-in-chief.
“It had a real attitude and a real voice,” Shoulberg said. “Mark has done brilliant things for him. I always said he was one of the two best writers I ever worked with.”
He was one of the first to write about imitations in the industry, according to Taylor-Smith. He researched the subject thoroughly and convinced many people – including some of the imitation artists themselves – to speak with him.
“His copying has always been meticulous,” Taylor-Smith said. “If you found a typo, it was a very, very rare occurrence. And he was always careful to do his research and cover all sides of a topic or controversy.
“Mark was also one of the fastest writers I’ve ever met. He never missed a deadline. He would pick up his mug of tea, sit at his desk and literally spin a fabulous copy out of nowhere. What a talent.”
Later in furniture closed in 2006, McMenamin moved to interior design magazine as a market publisher. Most recently, she worked for Sandow Media Group as a native content editor for interior design and Metropolis.
McMenamin loved New York, according to his brother. “He loved musical theater and loved to laugh and make people laugh with his quick wits and decidedly dark sense of humor,” wrote John McMenamin. “He enjoyed pampering his mother during his lifetime and took pleasure in entertaining his nieces and nephews. He was a talented and enthusiastic singer whose musical tastes ranged from Sondheim to the Sex Pistols.”
McMenamin was preceded in death by his parents. He is survived by her husband, Wesley Hendrix; two sisters, Terry Valentine of Marshall, Virginia, and Elizabeth Naggy (Charles) of Calumet, Penn.; a brother, John McMenamin (Meg) of the Tabernacle, NJ; as well as nieces and nephews; and several great-nieces and nephews. As per Mark’s wishes, there will be no service.
“I was also very lucky and honored to be his friend,” Taylor-Smith said. “We used to hang out with our husbands at the holidays and meet up for John Waters marathons at their house. Mark was a thoughtful, honest, and witty friend, and I will miss him terribly.
“High Point Market won’t be the same without it.”