June 15, 2024

Madison, a go-to gift and home store in Highland Park Village for 20-plus years, has moved into the Dallas Design District.

Sisters and owners Kelli Ford and Kirsten Fitzgibbons wanted more room to display their finds from around the world. They’ve moved from 1,200 square feet to 8,000 square feet and put their retail and interior design businesses under one roof.

The tiny shop in Highland Park Village was packed floor to ceiling, steps away from luxury-branded storefronts, nestled among the land of multimillion-dollar homes.

Now Madison is in a converted warehouse with a storefront of freshly painted brick in signature navy blue. A large sign was just installed above the door at 114 Express St. Inside is an elegant oasis in a district with no sidewalks lined with identical trees that light up at night ala Highland Park Village. There’s a body-building place next door.

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“Certainly we’re going to forgo some of the walk-in traffic and people waiting to get into Mi Cocina,” said Fitzgibbons. “But Madison on Express Street is a real destination.”

“We’ll get the Mi Cocina,” said Ford. “It’s kind of like the new frontier. When people come down here, they’re going to see it’s much more accessible than they think.”

The Design District is rustic and industrial and its nondescript buildings house some of the most interesting art galleries, interior designer storefronts and antique shops. Many businesses that sell lighting, flooring, tile and kitchen and bath hardware are focused on the trade. The Design District says on its website that it has 370 shops, showrooms and restaurants located along its streets bordered by Interstate 35 and the Trinity River. Dallas-based online retailers Gardenuity and Classic Whimsy create and ship container gardens and children’s clothing from there. Brand home offices have shops attached that are open to the public such as Lucchese Boots and BuDhaGirl bracelets.

“Now we can do what we want to size-wise,” Ford said about moving into the larger space. “Now we have no boundaries. We can get a bed and sell the sheets and have the monogram linens displayed.”

The business name is a nod to Madison Avenue in New York where home fashion includes cashmere throws and cool trash baskets. After growing up in New York and tagging along with their interior designer mother, Dorothy Olsen, the sisters followed her into the decorator business.

Ford moved to Dallas in 2001. Her husband is Dallas billionaire and financier Gerald J. Ford. Southern Methodist University’s football stadium is named for him and his contributions.

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Fitzgibbons still lives in Manhattan and they talk 30 times a day collaborating, always on their devices.

Ford, 56, and Fitzgibbons, 60, count billionaires among their clients including Theodore J. Forstmann, a founding partner of private equity firm Forstmann Little & Co.

Madison at 114 Express St. in the Dallas Design District. The storefront is painted the...
Madison at 114 Express St. in the Dallas Design District. The storefront is painted the retailer’s signature blue. (Azul Sordo / Special Contributor)
The new 8,000-square-foot Madison store has room to display furniture and more home...
The new 8,000-square-foot Madison store has room to display furniture and more home accessories including coffee table books. (Azul Sordo / Special Contributor)

Fitzgibbons said he was one of their first clients early in their careers. “We were running scared back then.”

They worked for Fortsmann almost exclusively for five years. They were tasked with redoing the work of designers that they admired at his Beverly Hills home, his New York penthouse, and his South Hampton home. They quickly turned one of his dining rooms into an African motif when Nelson Mandela was coming to dinner.

“We were published in Architectural Digest, It was a busy time for us,” Fitzgibbons said.

They did a townhouse on Marlborough Street in Boston for one of the founders of Priceline.com.

“We love buying furniture and are addicted to china and silver,” Fitzgibbons said. Their new shop has a wall of monogrammed napkins. It’s a specialty of theirs. They design embroidered napkins to match a china pattern or any special occasion. They do corporate gifts including leather embossing and count the Dallas Cowboys among their customers.

“We had an individual with 15 Hermès briefcases that he wanted to give to his teammates for Christmas,” Ford said. “We’re stamping their monograms and he was so nervous about how they would turn out. We do a lot of business like that.”

Madison has a large textile and embroidery business. The designers will create napkins that...
Madison has a large textile and embroidery business. The designers will create napkins that match china patterns. (Azul Sordo / Special Contributor)

The sisters believe the vibe is right for them at the Design District.

What do these native New Yorkers really think of this still unfamiliar for many, but up-and-coming section of Dallas?

“It’s like you’re getting out of Dallas in a way,” Ford said. “You can see the sky and have lots of space.”

“In New York, it’s sort of like going down to Tribeca, or Soho or something,” said Fitzgibbons. “I mean, it’s just very, very exciting and interesting. It’s more creative. It’s sort of out of the box.”

“Around the corner, you’ve got restaurants, Carbone and Vino,” Ford said.

They’ve watched the change with a 6,000-square-foot workshop/warehouse in the district for 20 years. Now they’re part of the change.

“It’s a natural evolution for us to go down there,” Fitzgibbons said.

“It’s not that far out from civilization, so to speak, or Highland Park Village,” Ford said. “It takes 10 minutes to get down here.”

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