Martin Kay, who lived in Key West for nearly 20 years, died peacefully at home on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. He was surrounded by friends and family including husband Jon Allen of Key West and brother Roger Kay of Chelmsford, England. A designer, real estate developer and landscape architect, Martin was a well-known and beloved wit and friend in his adopted hometown.
Martin, 60, was born in London and earned a diploma from the prestigious Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew. Gifted with a love of flowers, people and design, Kay opened Arcadia Flowers in West London. The successful shop grew into the stylish boutique VASE Flowers in central London. Adding stationery and gift packaging to his sought-after floral arrangements, the company eventually opened five shops in London.
Working with partner Jon Allen, Martin later helped create Jouralle, a fashion footwear brand for women. Martin developed marketing concepts, branding and designed lines of shoes for the company. Jouralle was sold to British Shoe Corporation, the U. K's largest maker of women's footwear which distributed Martin's designs worldwide.
Martin's heart and his flair for people and design found their truest home in Key West. Martin and Jon bought the languishing Island House guest house in 1999. The couple's combined talents for retailing, marketing, management and design transformed the property into a sophisticated and popular resort for gay men which OUT Traveler, along with a score of other gay publications and websites, call the best gay men's resort in the world. Jon Allen credits Martin's charm and style for much of the resort's early success.
Tangible accomplishments aside, Martin's innate kindness and humor won the hearts of many in Key West. Friends said he made them laugh and made them think. He loved to bring friends together and made visitors lifelong enthusiasts for Key West. "People choose Key West as their home for lots of reasons," said Jon. "One of the top reasons has to be the amazing people who live here: creative, quirky, warm, charismatic. Martin was surely one of those people."
Plans for a memorial for Martin will be announced in the coming weeks.
Editor's Note: A portion of the obituary was deleted from Sunday's newspaper. This is the corrected version.