Immaturity is finally paying off for Mario Marsicano, whose inner child goes on display in Greenpoint, on Monday, June 3rd, when Jellio Design Lab opens at 239 Java Street. Part showroom, part gallery, the new store, will feature furniture, like Rubik’s Cube chairs and Gummy Bear chandeliers, designed from the childhood memories of Marsicano and partners Chris Lenox and Kevin Champeny.
Jellio started after Marsicano, a former advertising account director, decided to use his vintage toy collection as furniture. After around a dozen people asked Marsicano to make them one of those pieces, a glass box containing a Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robot surrounded by scattered robot parts (“to be like the fallen”), he approached Lenox, his advertising partner, and they formed Jellio in 2004.
In its first two years, Jellio was just a hobby for Marsicano and Lenox. Both continued to work at the ad agency, designing furniture in their spare time. In 2006, they met Champeny, a sculptor and master fabricator. The three opened their first studio, in Red Hook, and had an instant hit with their gummy-themed piece, the GummiLight, which sold thousands of units nationwide. They followed that with a Rubik’s Cube table and Cupcake seat, which also had quick success and were hired by their first custom customer, Sony, who commissioned a collection of Rubik’s Cubes to promote the release of PlayStation 2. From there, Jellio’s custom business took off with clients including Google, Discovery Channel, MTV, Marriott, Ronald McDonald House and Major League Baseball. Their project for the US Army, an American Flag made of more than 50,000 army men, cast in red, white and blue, is currently on display at a base in Michigan.
The partners now hope to grow their consumer products line with the opening of their Greenpoint location. Its first exhibit, “Toy Chest,” will feature prototypes of items like a log cabin chair, banana bench and barrel of monkeys table. “It’s basically going to be a collection of everything we’ve ever wanted to make, on display for people to see,” Marsicano said. Unlike traditional stores, “we want to treat [the new space] like a showroom, to have anyone who wants to come check the stuff out and take a picture with their son or daughter.”
Because Jellio consists of only three people, they partner with larger design and fabrication shops to make their pieces. One of these is Greenpoint-based SFDS Fabrication and Design Shop. When SFDS expanded its Java Street shop, they invited Jellio to use some of the space for their showroom. Not everyone would consider the middle of a giant fabrication shop the ideal location for a store, but for Marsicano, who brings to mind the Josh Baskin character in the film “Big,” there could not have been a better spot. “We’ll even be able to show people items in production, if they want to see how things are made,” he said enthusiastically. Marsicano also did more than move his business to the neighborhood; a few weeks ago, he became a resident too. “I moved here to be close to the space,” he said, “and I just fell in love with Greenpoint. It’s awesome.”
And while Marsicano’s income from Jellio doesn’t approach his advertising salary, “I’m happy,” he said. “A lot of people say ‘it’s cool that you’re living your dream,’ and I am. I like this stuff. I’m just trying to make it work.”
Jellio Design Lab
239 Java Street