A call Monday to Stevens Group, the Little Rock stock company that bought the company in 2015, was not answered.
Gold, 72, who retired as chairman and CEO of the company in 2019, learned of the news last week. “I was devastated and traumatized,” he says. “Bob and I are. And if I had to use one word, it’s heartbreaking.”
When he left the company just before the pandemic, Gould says, “parts of it were fine, parts of it weren’t”. The past few years have unleashed a litany of problems, with changing consumer demand and supply chain issues, and Gould says the bank and the equity firm could not work out a way to keep going.
Gold says the company has 24 distinct stores. The first store opened in 2007, on 14th Street NW in Washington, DC, near Logan Circle. She laid out an eco-friendly green carpet for 500 guests, including Hillary Clinton, who reportedly had an MG+BW dining table and chairs, but never showed up. Her stores were among the first to allow dogs and have a line of designer dog beds.
The company was first called Mitchell Gold, then became Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams after the pair’s relationship ended. It made some of the most popular sofas, sectionals, and club chairs of the 1990s through 2000s. Known for comfort, the relaxed styles were labeled “lifestyle furniture” and matched the relaxed fashion of casual Fridays. Baby boomers, their kids and their dogs were lounging on the company’s cushy, wrinkled couches. The hot leather club chairs were inspired by Paris flea market finds.
The company has manufactured private label linen sofas and velvet headboards for some of the biggest names in retail, including Restoration Hardware (now RH), Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn. In 2000, the company manufactured some of its first stylish home office chairs—in red chenille—for Crate & Barrel.
The furniture industry in general is in a state of flux. Earlier this month, Klausner, a major manufacturing company based in Asheboro, North Carolina, told its employees that it was closing its doors. “I call it the ripple effects of the pandemic,” says Bill McLoughlin, editor-in-chief of Furniture Today. “Currently, consumer demand for furniture is weak, and people are spending on things like travel. Some companies still have inventory left over from the epidemic and are facing cash flow problems.
Gould and Williams, who met in New York, founded the Mitchell Gould Company in 1989. Gould, a former furniture buyer at Bloomingdale’s, was the first man whose corporate attire included a denim shirt and Gucci loafers. Williams, the graphic artist who designed the font, could delve deeper into what consumers are looking for.
Mitchell Gould and Tim Gould loft in DC
They purchased a factory located in Taylorsville, North Carolina, near the center of the American Pacific furniture industry. Then they started shaking things up. Their factory was one of the first furniture factories in the state with air conditioning. They’ve built a gym on site, installed a health clinic and hired a chef to prepare seared salmon with mango chutney in the staff cafeteria. At their childcare centre, the kids sat on club chairs and jeans sofas.
Gould and Williams have been donors to the Democratic Party and women’s rights groups, and have been very active in the LGBTQ+ community.
In 1998, they sold the company to Rowe Furniture in a deal that allowed them to continue running the business. Part of the reason for the sale, Gould says, is that they are gay. “We couldn’t get married,” Gould told the Washington Post in 2007, “and we risked inheritance taxes if one of us died. It would have bankrupted the company.”
The last frontier of gay rights
Gould and Williams’ personal relationship ended in 2001, but they remained business partners and “best friends forever”. In 2002, they bought the company back with a group of New York investors, and the company became Mitchell Gould + Bob Williams, to reflect the contributions of both men. In 2015, Stevens bought it. Williams and Gould remained on the board and in management. Gould retired in 2019, and Williams, now 61, in 2022. Both men remain on the board as observers.
Calls to several Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams phone numbers on Monday received a recorded message: “There are no associates available to return your call at this time.” But it looks as if you can still order furniture through the website. “The company sorts things out,” says Gould.
Gold says he is comforted by the messages he gets from employees, current and former, many of whom have worked there for decades. On Saturday, Gold posted a heartbroken GIF to Facebook with the message: “We’re still working on solutions…but…”
An earlier version of this article listed the incorrect location of where Klausner is located. It’s Asheboro, NC, not Asheville. This article has been corrected.