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How retail drives innovation: Mark Plessinger's "This is Retail" story

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Innovation can come in all shapes and sizes - or in the case of today's showcase of "This is Retail" Top 5 finalist Mark Plessinger, owner of Frame of Mind - frames and colors.

Running a business on Main Street can have many perks. The visibility, foot traffic, and sense of community is palpable as you walk down the street and through each store. But when Mark opened his doors in 2007 in Columbia, South Carolina, his Main Street address did not have the characteristics one might find on a usual one. At that time, running a retail operation across the street from the Columbia Museum of Art was atypical for Columbia retailers. But it was his unconventional approach to business that invigorated life into his business and reenergized this section of Main Street - helping to create hundreds of retail jobs in the past five years.

After being open for a few years, Mark saw an opportunity to evolve his store into something more. Seeing the unity between art and eyewear (their tagline is "the art of eyewear", after all) and to help draw more attention to his business, he decided to host an art show in his store. Starting out with a local artist he knew, the art show concept eventually blossomed into a series of  highly successful shows. Frame of Mind is now an eyewear and art store hybrid, providing aspiring artists an unconventional venue to show their work and express themselves - while also giving Mark access to more customers. Frame of Mind has also founded First Thursdays on Main, an event that began as a monthly series of art shows but is now a collaboration with the (now many) merchants on Main Street.

When many shied away, Mark jumped at the opportunity to start a new career and innovate the look of his Main Street. And don't think the fame has gone to his head - Mark intends to reinvest any winnings back into his local businesses and the First Thursdays on Main program.

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