Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams: 25 years of socially conscious comfort


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HIGH POINT, N.C. -- You don't need a shamrock to be truly green. Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams have been doing it for 25 years, building eco-responsible furniture in their North Carolina-based factory.

"We were the first furniture company to make manufacturing in an environmentally responsible way a real priority, and we did so because it is important for our society," said Mitchell Gold.

The duo met in a bar in New York and what began as a romantic relationship ended up becoming a successful business partnership that changed expectations in and around the furniture industry. Their provocative print ads shook the dust off the staid, conservative this-is-how-we've-always-done-it approach to selling furniture.

Sources

Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams

• www.mgbwhome.com

Weisshouse

• 324 S. Highland Ave., Shadyside (15206); www.weisshouse.com; 412-441-8888.

To celebrate a quarter of a century of bucking the conventional for the innovative, they came out with a new book, "Who We Are" (Assouline, $65). It's their third coffee table book and really does offer insight into how they built a company without losing their souls and staying true to who they are.

MG+BW not only introduced comfort to style in 1989 but also became involved in championing gay rights and the environment. "Our goal was to give incredibly good design and service, to be a jewel of a company," Mr. Gold said.

It began in 1989 with upholstered dining chairs in 36 fabrics and three leg finishes. Today, the company offers a full line of home furnishings, including lamps, rugs and wall art as well as 350 fabrics, 50 leathers, 20 leg finishes and six nail head finishes.

Simply by making good-looking, accessible, comfortable furniture, they changed how consumers thought about what they put in their homes.

"They made furniture exciting," said Stacy Weiss, president of Weisshouse in Shadyside, one of the first independent retailers to carry the line in 1996. Weisshouse is the exclusive retailer for MG+BW in the Pittsburgh area.

"I felt their look was the furniture equivalent of what J. Crew is to clothing -- great quality, great price and great style," said Ms. Weiss.

"We recognized from day one that comfort was a word not used in the furniture business. ... The concept of comfort guides us in everything we do, so in that sense it really has changed our lives," said Mr. Gold.

Being comfortable means a lot more than just a cozy place to plop. It extends beyond sensory appeal to the soul of what it means to be human. "We quickly realized the word had a much bigger and important range," Mr. Gold said.

They also wanted their employees to be comfortable and built an award-winning day-care facility on site.

"I love the fact that their upholstery is made in America, and they have great employee benefits and are involved in human rights," Ms. Weiss said, noting the men's efforts on behalf of LBGT people.

"We know the harm inequality causes innocent and vulnerable young kids," said Mr. Gold.

"That is why we are often involved in supporting organizations that help vulnerable people have a better chance," Mr. Williams said.

To mark the 25th anniversary of more than 20 signature Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams stores, each store has been challenged to support a local nonprofit organization that touches people's lives. "We want to help them survive and thrive," Mr. Williams said.

"We have proven that greed can take a back seat to doing what our hearts tell us is the right thing to do," Mr. Gold said.


Patricia Sheridan: psheridan@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2613 or follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/pasheridan.

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