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VOL. 126 | NO. 69 | Friday, April 8, 2011

Martino’s Faith at Center Of Successful Design Career

By Allison Buckley

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Angelo Martino, head of the interior design department at Lakeland-based Renaissance Group, has been in the business almost 50 years. But what others may call the result of many years of practice, Martino calls a “gift from God.”


(Photo: Lance Murphey)

And with this gift, Martino and his team at Renaissance Group – a full-service architectural design company – are hastily working on many projects, including the Salvation Army’s Kroc Center Memphis and the Gold Strike Resort and Casino in Tunica.

“Even at 68, I feel like I’m always trying to get better,” Martino said. “I feel like that’s the example that’s been set for me and I try to apply that to my work – no matter what I’m doing or who I’m working for.”

A native of California, Martino moved to Memphis in high school. He received his first interior design opportunity at 19 working for the Ben Franklin Variety Store Distribution Warehouse in Frayser.

After marrying his high school sweetheart in 1962, Martino moved back to California for a few years before returning to Memphis, where it was at a church revival that Martino would make what he considers the most important decision of his life.

“You know, I was a sophisticated guy from California and (church) was not my thing,” he said. “But somebody else had different plans and I gave my life to (Christ).”

Martino said the decision affected his life and his work – “how I approach work, how I approach people, how I value the quality of my work and how much effort I give,” he said.

Martino’s faith was so strong that he even left his job designing hotels for Holiday Inn to acquire a master’s in theology.

Martino first received his undergraduate degree from Mississippi College in Clinton, Miss., and then in 1975 gained his master’s degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

Still, his adoration for interior design never wavered, and after seminary, Martino found himself in Olive Branch, where Martino took another job in interior design and accepted the fact that this was his true calling all along.

About 20 years later, after closing the door to his and his wife’s design company, Classic Design Interiors, Martino opened another to Renaissance Group, where for almost 10 years Martino has led the way in interior design.

He works closely with his fellow principals, architects and interior designers, such as Chelsie Burris, in an effort to keep the company thriving.

And the company – which recently finished construction of Allure Bridals in Bartlett and whose clients include FedEx, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, The ServiceMaster Co., and Memphis and Shelby County schools – is stronger than ever.

“I think God led me here,” Martino said. “I work with people that truly care about us and their relationship with God. They believe, they pray, they trust and I can’t help but think that’s why we’re surviving today when many others are not.”

Martino also attributes Renaissance Group’s success to the drive that is found within each of his coworkers. Like almost every other company in the U.S., Renaissance Group has been impacted by the recession. Its employee count has shifted and many projects have been abandoned.

However, according to Martino, the way the principals run the company has made all the difference. He said it is because of the company’s core values that Renaissance Group has emerged from the recession relatively unscathed.

“All of the principals come by and say, ‘Hi, how are you doing?’ We kid each other. We joke with each other,” Martino said. “When we have to work hard, we work hard. You don’t have to tell people, ‘We need to kick it into high gear,’ or ‘Pull it up another notch.’ Everybody knows. It’s like a family here, and we are lean but I think we’re very efficient.

“This is our core.”

Although the company is just beginning its work at Gold Strike Casino, construction and imagination is rampant at the Kroc Center, under way at the Mid-South Fairgrounds.

One of Martino’s designs at the facility includes the AutoZone/Hyde Family Foundation Multi-Challenge Area, a three-floored obstacle course comprised of themed rooms.

With this project and many more to come, Martino, who usually tries to stay out of the spotlight, hopes to bring the interior design department at Renaissance Group into the same light as its architectural division.

“I let my work speak for itself,” he said. “My reward is being able to take what I get and take care of my family. I’m proud of what I do, (but) I don’t have any badges of righteousness I can hang on my chest. ... If (God) sees something of merit then that’s OK.”

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