Mark and Kelly Larsen and their son, Isaac, 13, are the proprietors of Kelmar Studios and ShopBluff.com, new businesses located in downtown Wykoff in the former Magpie Studio building next door to the Gateway Inn.  GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Mark and Kelly Larsen and their son, Isaac, 13, are the proprietors of Kelmar Studios and ShopBluff.com, new businesses located in downtown Wykoff in the former Magpie Studio building next door to the Gateway Inn. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Although Mark and Kelly Larsen work with sound, it's the silence in Wykoff that they appreciate.

"We spent nine years in Toledo, Ohio," said Kelly, "and we did multimedia with a studio in our living room...you'd have something almost recorded, and then the neighbors would drop something or run into the wall, and then you'd have to start all over again. Here, it's so quiet...it's very special. Wykoff is a neighborly community."

The Larsens, proprietors of Kelmar Studios, an audio and video recording studio located in the former Magpie Studios building in Wykoff, are so pleased to live here and have the opportunity to open their business, along with ShopBluff.com, an online distribution outlet for their own and other artists' productions, in a small, rural town where there are fewer worries and many more new friends.

They explained that Kelmar Studios has a "focus on Christian media and providing production tools and services from initial development to the final products and distribution."

Mark noted, "We have a live room for videotape and sound recording, and we'll be able to have 30 to 40 people in here to listen. In our studio B, we have a window to watch out front as we record live, and it has a complete vocal booth that's totally soundproofed and miked up like you see on TV, so you can fit three to four people in there. We're currently using our studio A to produce, but we can do vocals here, too. We've done a lot of the legwork for an artist to get their music recorded and get it onto the Internet and in stores...it used to be that if you wanted to find out if you could sing well enough to record, you'd save up your money and go to Nashville. I did that, but you don't have to anymore because we're here, in a small town like Wykoff. We're hoping to make it much more affordable to record and find out if you have presence or talent."

Kelly elaborated, "There are packages we can do for people - black and white photos, digital blending into a DVD photo collage with text and special transitions...we've done these for funerals and people who would like to have their memories preserved."

Furthermore, Mark hopes to expand Kelmar Studios to include "archival print services, printers with archival ink and papers so that you can bring your pictures from 1920 and have them scanned and put on archival paper so that the memories will last another 85 years."

The Larsens' memories of apartment life are well preserved, but they find blessings in being sent here at this time. Mark pointed out, "Kelly and I have journeyed and followed God through life, and we were called to this area - Kelly's aunt was debilitated...that's what we came to the area for. We'd just moved here. We'd lived in Spring Valley for a year, and we really weren't looking at Wykoff until Isaac came to school here and I had to pick him up, and that's when I found this place, and we felt that it was good to invest in it."

This investment is just one of hundreds the couple has made in one another in their journey with God. Mark grew up in Wyandotte, Mich., a relatively rough suburb of Detroit, and Kelly grew up "around the Midwest...my dad was a propane plant manager, so the bulk of our time was around the Ann Arbor area." Both have a "factory background," as Mark worked at the General Motors plant, and Kelly, at various factories. The couple met at a book bindery where they were working, but they were "friends for a long time first."

Mark related, "We went our separate ways so that we would know whether or not God had orchestrated our lives to be together, and it brought out something that we never expected - she had writing and I had music. God has been at work in our lives, tuning us up to do what He wants us to do."

The Larsens married in 1995 and were apartment dwellers throughout the founding of Kelmar Studios, enduring thumps and bumps and indifferent, noisy neighbors.

Mark stated, "Kelly and I have been at this since before our son, Isaac, was born. We've been doing this for a while, and Kelly has written play scripts such as 'The Life of Ruth' and one about Noah's ark. I have a passion for music, and she has a passion for writing."

Kelly observed that though they weren't actively searching for a home for their family and studio, they had ideas in mind. "We had set criteria that our building had to meet - we had to be able to live and work in the same place, and this building accommodates that."

Their endeavor will be a whole-family one, as Isaac, 13, is learning the tenets of photography and recording, but the most enjoyable whole-family endeavor they've taken on is learning how to be small town residents, as they've never done so before.

"This is a big transition for us, but we've gone back to Detroit once or to another city, and I wanted to go home to Wykoff," said Kelly.

Mark concurred, "Numerous times since we've been in Wykoff, we've seen the beauty, the openness of the people of Wykoff. They want us to succeed - they've said, 'Boy, we can't wait to see what you're going to do' - and that's very special."

Kelly concluded, "It's been a joy and a blessing."

Kelmar Studios and ShopBluff.com are located at 116 N. Gold Street, Wykoff. Currently, hours are Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment other days of the week. For more information, log onto the Larsens' website at www.kelmarstudios.org, e-mail them at servants@kelmarstudios.org, or call (507) 352-5356.