Project Description

Mitchell Gold’s ongoing fight to end discomfort

By Randall Kenneth Jones
Originally published in the Naples Daily News

Mitchell Gold, co-founder and “chair-man” of home furnishings company Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams (MG + BW), wants to make people comfortable—in every sense of the word.

comfortable

[kuhm-fer-tuh-buhl] 
adjective

  1. Providing physical comfort: a comfortable chair.
  2. Free from stress or anxiety: comfortable in one’s surroundings.
  3. Producing feelings of ease or security: a comfortable person; a comfortable evening at
    home.
  4. Sufficient to provide financial security: comfortable earnings.
  5. Happy, content.

Mitchell Gold - Photo by Kevin Randall JonesIn the late ‘80s, with a resume that included Bloomingdale’s and The Lane Company, Mitchell Gold felt comfortable enough to combine creative forces with partner Bob Williams and go out on his own. In doing so, the pair swiftly took ownership, literally and emblematically: “A brand has to be super authentic and honest. That’s why we named the company using my name and Bob’s name,” says Gold. “It’s not a ‘Barrel’; it’s not a ‘Barn.’”

As a nation, we place a premium on comfort and convenience. This is seen in how we live, what we buy, and in our ever-expanding waistlines, a situation many attribute to a national comfort food obsession.

It’s also not shocking to suggest that some define comfort based on a first-person view of the world—i.e. me, me, me, me and finally, me.

Mitchell Gold is all about finding comfort in—and providing comfort to—the universal “we.”

One likely reason? As a young gay man, he wasn’t always made to feel—well—comfortable.

To understand Gold’s ongoing—yet sometimes uncomfortable—quest for comprehensive comfort, let’s break it down, one definition at a time.

Providing physical comfort

Mitchell Gold and Randall Kenneth Jones photo by Kevin Randall JoneGold points to an early “Oprah” segment on home decorating as inspiration. “What came out was that it was a very anxiety-ridden experience for people,” he recalls. “That led us down the road—how do we make people more comfortable?”

The duo also took a much broader view of the meaning of “comfort.” For Gold: “It was not only the way a sofa or chair sat, how it felt to your tush, but also that every aspect of a sofa would be comfortable.” He also insisted their products be comfortable to the eyes and on the pocketbook.

Over 25 comfortable years later, MG + BW has grown to $150 million in annual sales.

The company, which started with dining chairs (hence Gold’s imaginative title: “chair-man”), now provides upholstery, case goods, lighting, accessories, rugs, bed linens and artwork.

There are 25 Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams Signature Stores in major cities. In addition to boutique shops in Bloomingdale’s and Robb & Stucky International, MG + BW products are housed inside a number of home furnishings specialty stores.

The company participated in the redecoration of the Obama White House, and its products have appeared on the sets of several movies and TV shows.

“One of the conventional wisdoms of the industry is, if you have something exclusive and special, you can get extra margin on it,” says Gold. “I wanted to sell it at a great price and sell a ton of it—and we did.”

Free from stress or anxiety

"CRISIS" edited by Mitchell GoldAnxiety crushes comfort.

Gold is the proud editor of “CRISIS: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America.”

“We wanted to be participants in creating a world that was comfortable for kids who are coming of age and realizing their sexual orientation or identity,” he says. “Whatever is natural for a person should be comfortable.”

Published in 2008 and featuring coming-of-age stories from noteworthy members of the LGBT community, the timeless book has literally been hand-delivered to many of our nation’s leaders in politics, religion and education.

Gold is also co-founder of Faith in America, a non-profit dedicated to educating people about the harm religion-based bigotry causes LGBT Americans. In Gold’s view: “I don’t want any kid to go through what I went through in high school.”

As for Gold’s definition of pride? “It’s not about feeling proud and better than anyone else—being arrogant or pompous—it’s more about not feeling less than anyone else.”

To Mitchell Gold, less is NOT always more.

Producing feelings of ease or security

In 1989, same-sex couple Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams based their manufacturing in “the buckle of the Bible Belt,” rural North Carolina. It remains there today, an essential part of the local business community.

Proud of their ongoing focus on family, Gold shares: “When we wanted to open a daycare center in 1999, our insurance company said ‘that’s a lot of liability; you don’t want to do that.’”

So, does Mitchell Gold do “no”?

“I understand what ‘no’ means. I think the bigger thing is knowing when ‘no’ doesn’t have to mean ‘no’—when there are other alternatives and possibilities.”

Sufficient to provide financial security

“My parents always lived beyond their income. No matter how much you make, live within your means and then you aren’t under pressure to do crazy things.”

Happy, content

Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams -- submitted photo“When Bob and I started, we were together as a couple. Unfortunately, after 15 years, we decided to live apart, but we love and respect each other—the business is our child.”

When all is said and done, Mitchell Gold’s passion surfaces most when the comfort of a human being’s way of life is compromised. Yes, he still sings the praises of Williams, his employees and his creations, but he ultimately seems comfortable that the quality of the products speak for itself.

“This is what I want on my tombstone: Mitchell Gold: He edited ‘CRISIS,’ a game changer for a lot of people. He wanted a daycare center—and he got it.”

Another option? Mitchell Gold: comforting, in deed.

 

Randall Kenneth Jones photo by Kevin Randall Jones

Marketer, publicist, business humoristprofessional-courtesy advocate, branded-content writer, creative-development consultant, and entertaining motivational speaker Randall Kenneth Jones is the creator of RediscoverCourtesy.org and the president of MindZoo, a marketing communications firm in Naples, Florida. 

Photos: TOP — Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams branding at Robb & Stucky, Ft. Myers, FL; Photo 2 — Mitchell Gold (photo by Kevin Randall Jones); Photo 3 — Mitchell Gold and Randall Kenneth Jones (photo by Kevin Randall Jones); Photo 4 — “CRISIS” book cover; Photo 5 — Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams today (submitted photo) BOTTOM — Randall Kenneth Jones (photo by Kevin Randall Jones).