But Mark didn't want to do it without the blessing of the Beatles – and that spring he met with John Lennon to discuss the idea."I wasn't going to do the convention without the Beatles' permission; I didn't think that would be right," he says. "So, on April 28th, 1974, I met with John Lennon in a New York City hotel room, told him my whole idea of a Beatles fans convention, with films, special guests, live concerts, art museum and art contest, flea market, discussions, look–alike and sound–alike contests, auctions, and a charity raffle. John's exact response was 'I'm all for it. I'm a Beatles fan, too!' It is a moment I will never ever forget. He said he had a guitar in his attic that he would sign and donate for the charity raffle, which he did (John chose a drug rehab center in NYC as the charity). All the Beatles contributed signed items to that raffle and to our amazement, we made the cover of Rolling Stone, October 24, 1974."
From that incredible start, the Fest took off. Mark received letters from fans across the country wanting a Fest in their city and the Fest is now an annual tradition in the New York Metro area, and has been for 34 years! Not to be outdone, Chicago has held a Fest for 32 years, Los Angeles has held 24 since 1976, as well as Las Vegas, San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta, Seattle, Houston, Dallas and Orlando.
If that wasn't enough, Mark then decided to start a mail order business, which from a modest beginning is now the world's largest Beatles mail order catalog offering some 2300 items, most of them licensed Beatles items, including CDs, videos, books, clothes, and much more. He boasts 155,000 customers in every state of the US and in 25 countries worldwide.
Keeping all this running smoothly with a staff that can be counted on the digits of one hand is no mean feat. And Mark soon realized he needed more than the simple filing system he was using. "We had all our contacts on filing cards," he recalls. "Everything had to be typed including making labels. It was clearly time to computerize."
Mark started with his first FileMaker database over 20 years ago – upgrading as subsequent versions appeared. But he recently decided that the website needed overhauling with a new store, integrating a FileMaker–Zen Cart shopping module, as well as shipping modules that allowed the team to determine which was the best way to ship out orders. To do all this, Mark turned to Ken d'Oronzio of Paradise Partners.