A NEW JERSEY NATIVE SAW TREASURE IN RURAL NORTH CAROLINA WHERE HE'S CREATED A THRIVING FURNITURE COMPANY WHILE FIGHTING FOR CIVIL RIGHTS.
Mitchell Gold's love affair with furniture and home decor wasn't a calculated decision. "I fell into it," Gold, 68, says.
When he graduated from Long Island University in New York with a history degree in 1974, a faculty member helped him land a job in the home-furnishings department of Bloomingdale's department store in Manhattan. He later worked as a national sales manager for the Lane Co., a Virginia-based furniture manufacturer.
Gold and his business partner, Bob Williams, opened a furniture and home-decor company dubbed Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams in 1989 in Taylorsville, heated 60 miles northwest of Charlotte. They sold 5,000 chairs before production even began. Instead of starting small, Gold contacted the largest retailers with the most buying power. Now the company has 33 stores, including sites in Beverly Hills, Calif, New York's SoHo neighborhood and other retail hot spots. About 65% of production is in North Carolina, with upholstery and draperies manufactured in Alexander and Iredell counties. The company employs more than 600 in the state. Tables and accessories are globally sourced.
Gold's experiences as a gay teenager in Trenton, N.J., shaped his advocacy work for LGBTQ causes. He serves on the board of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, a nonprofit organization seeking to stop religious-based bullying. He's the editor of Youth in Crisis, a compilation of stories by various community and business leaders. He lives in Conover with his husband, Tim, and remains close friends with his former life partner, Bob Williams, who is the company's president of design.
This year, the business celebrated its 30th anniversary and hired a new CEO, Allison O'Connor, as part of a gradual succession plan. Gold, the company's chairman, remains very active in the business. He talked about his career and activism in comments edited for length and clarity.
One of Gold's college deans asked about his post-college plans. I said, "I'm going to take some time, and then I'm going to apply for law school." And he looked at me and said, "Oh, lawyers are so boring, and they're such [profanity]." That was exactly what he said. And [then] he said, "I know what you should do." And he turned around, and he picked up the phone, and he called the executive vice president of Bloomingdale's and said, "Vin, I have this guy here...