‘Furious and heartbroken:’ Founder Mitchell Gold on North Carolina furniture company’s shutdown

TAYLORSVILLE, N.C. — One of the co-founders of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams says he is “heartbroken” over the furniture company’s recent closure and hopeful that a buyer will emerge to usher the brand into a new era.

“I am furious and heartbroken,” Mitchell Gold told Furniture Today. “Bob (Williams) and I built something pretty special in the industry, from customer service to product and store presentation, and to see this happen is very difficult.”

Gold said that he recognizes that difficult decisions must be made in challenging economic situations, but he is also hopeful that someone will come forward to buy the company for what he estimates to be between $25 and $30 million.

“This happened very fast and was a surprise,” Gold said, referencing the weekend closure. “Last Thursday, it was realized that the bank pulled the plug and from there it was too quick to give timely notice.”

On Aug. 26, the Taylorsville Times first reported that signs announcing the closing were posted on the truck gate and office door of the company’s Taylorsville plant announcing the immediate closing as well as the closing of the company’s Hiddenite and Statesville, N.C. plants. Employees were instructed that they should not report to work the following Monday, Aug. 28, and remote workers were instructed to forgo logging in.

Gold, Chairman Emeritus on the board, reengaged with the company earlier this year to work alongside Chris Moye, who was named interim CEO and board member in April following the departure of Allison O’Connor. O’Connor was appointed CEO in 2019 and came to the company with 30 years of merchandising and retail experience at brands including Abercrombie & Fitch, Terrain, and Williams-Sonoma.

The Stephens Group, a Little Rock, Ark. Firm, bought Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams in 2015. Furniture Today reached out to The Stephens Group for comment on the closure, and the family-owned company responded to inquiries with a company statement via email on Tuesday, noting that “We invested in Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams (the “Company”) in 2014 in full support of the Company’s priorities, solid vision, and unique offerings. Over the past 9 years, we have worked closely with the Company as it has released new and exciting collections, collaborated with various designers, and designed unique pieces that are used with love in homes all across the world. Recently, we invested another $20 million to restructure the Company to support its operations and set the business up for success moving forward. Unfortunately, shortly after this restructuring, the Company’s lender withdrew its support, forcing Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams to cease operations. The Stephens Group knows that the Company has done the best it could in a very challenging situation and empathizes with all those who are impacted.”

According to the WARN Notice received by the North Carolina Department of Commerce citing problems securing needed financing, 533 employees at three different North Carolina factories will lose their jobs as a result of the company’s shutdown. The notice said that employees will be permanently laid off “on or about Aug. 26 or within fourteen (14) days thereafter.” The notice was signed by Moye.

Founded in 1989 in Taylorsville, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams “disrupted the furniture industry before the word was even fashionable,” according to the company website. Offering lifetime warranties on products and delivering goods within 30 days, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams “broke barriers”, according to Gold, who was originally a furniture buyer at Bloomingdales.

“In 30 years of running the business, Bob and I treated people the right way,” he said “We never had a company or vendor that did not get paid, and we took care of our employees and customers. I feel horrible for everyone impacted.”

In addition to the furniture manufacturing facilities, the company owns 24 signature retail stores in major cities and has also produced private label upholstery in the past for top retailers including Restoration Hardware (now RH), Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, and Crate and Barrel.

“I feel horrible for our employees, some of whom have been there since day one,” Gold says. “When Bob and I started the company, we never had any idea that we would create something worth millions of dollars. We wanted 25 customers and to work four days a week, and we built it up by giving incredible customer service.”

Gold uses his background and professional expertise to inform Hindsight>Forward, a consultancy business designed to “help people avoid the mistakes I’ve made” and benefit from the career successes he has experienced. Noting that Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams was the “first upper-end, premium company to learn to ship in 21 days,” Gold says that he believes there is still a possibility for a new Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams to emerge, one that capitalizes on the company’s strengths.

“This is a great brand with a great workforce, and a great creative team,” he said. “As a company, we had a strong moral compass and we always treated people right. There is a lot of value in that, and my hope is that a new company will emerge with that at its core.”

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