By John Fisher OMP Member 3327
It’s the end of an era here in South Beach. As of Friday the 13th, the (late) great Irene Marie agency is no more.
Back in the day, two small agencies moved from the Miami area to South Beach. In those days, this took some foresight, South Beach was a rough place, probably the most dangerous area of Miami. Drug gangs, run down seedy hotels, and blue haired old ladies dominated the landscape. Think “Scarface” (most of it actually shot in South Beach), that’s what South Beach was like. When they were shooting episodes of Miami Vice (1984 to 1989) in South Beach, the buildings were so run down they were often repainted to make the show look more appealing. But all of that changed when Irene Marie and Michele Pommier moved to the beach.
About that time, A young girl from Fort Lauderdale walked into Irene Marie’s office, and at 14 the sun didn’t set on Niki Taylor. The rush was on, and before you knew it, Ford had opened an office on Ocean Drive at the News Cafe, then Elite followed opening in the Marlin Hotel on Collins Avenue. Michele Pommier had a building 81 Washington Avenue in those days. There has always been a dispute over whether Michele or Irene moved from Miami to South Beach first, it doesn’t matter, both were responsible for the resurrection of the Beach. When I first came to South Beach (February, 1997) Irene Marie had the better known agency outside of South Florida (because of Niki), but Michele Pommier was considered the best agency for women locally.
In 1993, flush with the success of Niki Taylor and the potential of Niki’s younger sister, Krissy, Irene opened offices in Atlanta and New York (“IM New York”? A name unlikely to ingratiate yourself with the tough New York crowd!). Unfortunately with a number of unexpected problems (including the unfortunate and unexpected death of Krissy Taylor due to heart failure), Irene had to close the New York office and rebuild her agency in South Beach. Still, she took her shot and I give Irene her props for making the bold move.
By the late ’90s a combination of higher costs (as South Beach became more popular), unfavorable exchange rates (the dollar soared against the Euro), and the simple fact that South Beach was no longer the “hot new place” made other winter locations (such as Cape Town, South Africa) increasingly more attractive to the magazine and catalog crowd. Then came 9/11, 2001 was a difficult year for everyone here in South Beach. By 2003 things were on the upswing again, the fact that we had an established infrastructure (labs, studios, production companies, and for 5 months the most beautiful weather in the world!) brought back the Europeans, particularly the Germans (who love South Beach).
Unfortunately all things eventually come to an end. For many years have I recommended Irene Marie first as an agency any new model should consider here in Miami. But the struggling world wide economy has taken it’s toll, and one of the grand dames of South Beach is no more. Irene Marie will be missed. Eighth and Ocean is now Eighth and Over.
The hand having writ, moves on.
900 West Avenue, Suite 633
Miami Beach, Florida 33139