Though many retailers seek to immerse customers into the shopping experience, not every retailer aims for submersion. But designers of Ripley's Cargo Hold Gift Shop at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies (Gatlinburg, Tenn.) wanted to take visitors'aquatic adventure a step further.
Taking cues from an element in the aquarium's shark exhibit, JGA Inc. (Southfield, Mich.) designed the gift shop as the cargo hold of a sunken ship. To create the feel of being at sea, designers used thematic elements that are also functional. For example, a wall of wood crates sporting graphic emblems -- "Great Barrier Reef" and "Ship to Ripley's" -- becomes the slatwall merchandising system. Oil drums with graphic emblems hold plush merchandise. A trio of yellow "specimen tanks" at the store's entrance contains gifts. And porthole display windows, visible from the aquarium side, house pole systems to merchandise crystal and giftware.
Other elements are purely for the experience. "Warning lights" in the children's department act as beacons. "Fragile" crates draped with giant octopi hang from the ceiling. For customers, the gift shop is intended not just as the "end of the ride," but as an adventure in its own right.
Client Team: Ripley's Entertainment, Orlando -- Robert Masterson, president; Robert Kirchgessner, senior project manager; Duffy Mellor, project manager; Leo Shen, vp, merchandising
Design Team: JGA Inc., Southfield, Mich. -- Mike Crosson, ceo; Skip West, studio director; Mike Benincasa, creative director; Mike McCahill, project manager; Stephanie Bourdon, creative resources manager; Brian Eastman, graphic design director; Jeremy Grech, project services manager
Architect: HHCP, Maitland, Fla.
General Contractor: Suitt Construction, Greenville, S.C.
Lighting Consultant: Illuminart, Ypsilanti, Mich.
Suppliers: Aged Woods, York, Pa., Lonseal, Carson, Calif., Surface Materials, Solon, Ohio, Armstrong World Industries, Lancaster, Pa. (flooring); Benjamin Moore Paint Co., Montvale, N.J., Rust-Oleum, Vernon Hills, Ill. (paint); Formica Corp., Cincinnati, Wilsonart, Temple, Texas (laminates); Aged Woods, York, Pa. (wood); Cozmyk Enterprises, Columbus, Ohio (millwork)
Photography: Laszlo Regos Photography, Berkley, Mich.