Selling Seashells by the Seashore – Keys Mercantile

Sally isn’t the only one who sold seashells by the seashore.

Twelve-year-old Mark Hayes did as well, but he topped Sally by first turning the seashells into candles. It was his first endeavor into entrepreneurship and only the beginning of a long professional journey that has ultimately led him back to selling things by the seashore. Albeit, on a much larger scale.

With the Grand Opening of Keys Mercantile quickly approaching, Mark Hayes reflects on his roundtrip journey, which, interestingly, he shares with the store itself. It’s a story of a seashell salesman, speeding hydroplanes, steadfast friendships, and a supply store.

story begins not with Mark but with the store.

Many years ago, the store that is now Keys Mercantile was once a hardware store opened by Allen Wood’s father. Allen, who will rejoin our story shortly, moved on to open his own lumber yard and hardware store in the Keys with partner Bruce Mcclenithan, called Forest Tek.

Our seashell salesman moved on, too, from selling seashell candles to making tableside Caesar salads at Marker 88 restaurant. His life from there became as varied as the useful products the Keys Mercantile now sells. His path seemed to continuously embrace the growing needs of a community while keeping him tied to his family roots. Something Keys Mercantile can relate to.

Mark’s impressive résumé includes leading roles in the pool and spa industry, new product development, retail sales, and paint contracting. His titles include Senior Solution Architect for the largest manufacturer of chip cards, the VP of Emerging Technologies for one of the biggest banks in the country, VP of LifeWear Technologies… and another title that will soon bring this story full circle.

His résumé also includes a rather interesting Special Interest: hydroplane racing. Since Mark was a teenager, he has worked on various race crews, starting with well-known hydroplane racer Gordie Reed. As crewmember and Crew Chief, Mark’s boats have won many races worldwide, including national championships and the World Championship. His lifelong friendships with Gordie and others in the boating community have taught him many life lessons that he applies to his career.

Speaking of friends, this story now leads us back to Allen Wood, who has also been a steadfast friend of Mark’s for over three decades. Allen and his partner Bruce grew Forest Tek into a multi-store venture that includes Forest Tek and Overseas Lumber. Keys Mercantile is the newest addition to that lineage, and last year, Allen’s good friend Mark Hayes earned a new title on his résumé: President of all three.

As President, Mark and his team transformed the hardware store from many years ago into Keys Mercantile.

As a general store, it once again sells hardware but also so much more. Funnily enough, its inventory reflects Mark’s resume in many ways. Keys Mercantile sells hardware, tools, pool supplies, boat and marine supplies, and is a full-service Benjamin Moore paint store. It also has a gift shop area, a local artist section, home goods, small appliances, and much more people need in their daily lives. To make locals’ lives even easier, the store delivers to every address in the Keys.

“If you need it, we have it,”

Mark says, as his whole goal is to save locals from driving off the rock to get what they need. It also keeps him enjoying life back in the Keys with his mom Carol Hayes, brother TJ Hayes, sisters Laura Gasser and Lisa Taylor, and fiancé Amy Tyler.

As this story comes to an end, the next chapter for Keys Mercantile and Mark Hayes is just at the beginning. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for their Grand Opening.





–Jerrica Mah is a writer, Army wife, and freelance book editor, who loves to travel with her family.


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