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Meet the Friendly Faces at MAI Memorial Antiques & Interiors

Today we’d like to share the story of MAI, as told to us by Kathy Swartzfager, Jana Wright, and Marilyn Maddox, managers of the store.

Kathy, Marilyn, and Jana, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
In 2006, West Houston experienced the opening of a new-concept antiques and interiors store. 
Open to the public and the trade, MAI Memorial Antiques & Interiors featured high-end European and American antiques, bringing together approximately 30 dealers known for their unique and hard-to-find inventory. Word quickly spread about this new store where items were creatively arranged in “magazine-ready vignettes.” Some customers were even known to drop by just for the inspiration, as an escape from it all; many came frequently because, in their words, “There’s always something new to see at MAI.” MAI was NOT your average, stuffy antique store!

Today, MAI has grown to 19,000 square feet of showroom space featuring 50+ interior designers and antique vendors. The store is now known as an interiors destination like no other, offering a wide range of styles and the latest looks. Current, new furnishings and décor are mixed with unique antiques, original contemporary art, custom designs in lighting and furniture, and mid-century finds. MAI’s staff and vendors welcome both retail customers and the trade, who visit from Houston and all points in Texas, the U.S. and across the pond.

MAI is locally owned and locally grown and has been listed in numerous publications as a top place to shop in Houston. It is owned by a group of silent investors, and its managers are the same group who started out with MAI 11 years ago. General Manager Kathy Swartzfager says, “Today, MAI is known as a store full of ‘the mix.’ ‘Modern’ looks fabulous mixed with fine old pieces. ‘Old’ looks fabulous when given a modern face lift. This is MAI today!” A home design destination, MAI is newly relocated just off the Katy Freeway at The Houston Design Center.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
We have experienced very few struggles along the way, perhaps because we always try to work as a team. Our managers also sell at MAI, so they experience first-hand what it is like both to manage and to be a vendor.

Most of our challenges concern our continued growth, and we do appreciate our good fortune! Our teamwork was essential this fall when we made the transition from our original location to a larger space at The Houston Design Center. The move first meant renovating 19,000 square feet and refitting it to the look we wanted for MAI. Moving also meant many people transporting thousands of pieces of inventory, including fragile chandeliers, enormous 19th c. gilded French mirrors, 18th to 21st c. furniture, Lucite tables, one-of-a-kind paintings and more. Porters and staff put in extra hours, professional movers were brought in, and vendors were seen hand-carrying their special smaller pieces.

Please tell us about MAI Memorial Antiques & Interiors.
Also, a well-known local designer recently commented, “Nowhere else in Houston can you walk into one shop and find such a great mix of unique antiques and custom and contemporary furnishings.”

We are proud of our mix!

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Getting in touch: VoyageHouston is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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