HOUSTON VOICE » JANUARY 21, 2000
OUT ON THE BAYOU
"That show reaches out to the hinterlands,
to kids who are in high school and going
through sexual orientation turmoil," Gold
said, "I remember when I was in high
school. I almost had a nervous breakdown. I
wanted to commit suicide, because I thought
I was the Only one who was like this."
Gold, 48, was born in Trenton, N.J., and
graduated from Long Island University,
though he took six years. "I was not a great
student," he recalled. He was working at
Bloomingdale's when he came out,
emboldened by a gay boss and other
employees. After that, "I flourished as a
human being." A dozen years ago, Gold
and Williams (art director at Seventeen
magazine) met in a New York bar and have
been together since.
In 1989, the gay quest lor elegance and
comfort led the men to launch their company with a line of upholstered dining chairs.
"If you sit in a regular wooden dining chair,
by the time you get to dessert at a dinner
party, you want to get up and sit in the
den." But in an upholstered chair, "you can
sit down at 8 and at 12 o'clock you can still
be at the table drinking."
Gold was the new company's president
and CEO, while Williams was its executive
vice president and director of design and
product development. Their first factory
had 23 employees; Gold is proud that 17 are
still on his payroll.
A sideline—slipcovers for dining
chairs—then turned into big business, leading Gold and Williams to introduce washable replacement slipcovers for sofas and
chairs, as well as original upholstered
The Mitchell Gold Co. 'came out' with a provocative series of newspaper ads.
pieces designed with lift-off covers. Again,
the pair's passion for casual elegance
"We loved the idea that our dogs could
come up on the sofa, and if it got dirty, we'd
wash it. It's a much less stressful way of living."
Today the company's Taylorsville, N.C.,
headquarters encompasses nearly 400,000
square feet of manufacturing space. Gold is
especially proud that it includes a daycare
center for the children of his nearly 500
employees, plus a gym, indoor track and
health-conscious cafe. The daycare center
even prompted a letter from a local minister, who praised the gay-run company's
commitment to family values. The company offers benefits to workers' domestic
Chamber of Commerce I
Old Fashioned Service1
Sharp, Speedy Repairs I
1212 Westheimer • 713-529-6789
partners and includes sexual orientation in
its non-discrimination policy.
Though Gold notes that Williams' office
"is at the opposite end [of the factory] from
mine," he said he and Williams have found
living and working together to be a great
experience. "1 couldn't imagine not being in
business together. I couldn't imagine not
working together every day," Gold said.
The company's sales this year are expected
to reach $75 million, and Gold acknowledged
that the stress of running the operation can
creep into non-office hours. The partners have
an agreement that either has the authority to
"tune out" work-related conversation at
home if it threatens to kill the mood.
"We have as perfect as you can get in a
working relationship, but you can only do
that with somebody in whom you have
very high confidence, because there's a lot
of monev involved. Whenever we do have
an argument, we remember that we have
an obligation to our employees."
Another resident of the Gold-Williams
household comes to the furniture factory
every workdav: their English bulldog Lulu.
The dog that Gold admits resembles "a snorting little pig" is a big hit with the kids in daycare. She's the star of many company ads and
is even featured on the cover of the annual
report of the Rowe Furniture Corp., which
acquired the Mitchell Gold Co. in 1998.
"We sold my name!" Gold said in a mock
lament. "I'm thinking of changing my
name, because 1 don't own my name anymore. I'm thinking of changing it to Otis."
Kidding aside, Gold is delighted with his
new corporate parent. "In the world of
mergers and marriages, this is as good as it
gets. They don't interfere. The let us do
whatever advertising we want, however
we see fit to build the brand."
Gold said when he and Williams came
South in 1987, "it occurred to me that I was
Northern, Jewish and gay, and had a big problem." He was delighted, then, to find their
neighbors cordial and inclusive. The men now
live in a lakefront home in Hickory.
"Of the things I'm most proud of, one of
them is that we have, on a grassroots level,
presented ourselves to the non-gay community in a very positive, professional
sense without being pretentious. We're just
ourselves," Gold said.
Direct Importers of Fine Furniture
'Where The Trade Is Always Welcome'
Antique Country Pine at
Phone: 713-266-4304 • Fax: 713-781-8445
E-mail: email@example.com • www.europinedirect.qpg.com
3029 Crossview. Houston, TX 77063
One Block East of Fondren and Westheimer