Man with a mission: a hipper White House
The North Carolina furniture maker wants to redecorate.
TAYLORSVILLE, N.C. (AP) -- Mitchell Gold was a delegate to this summer's Democratic National Convention and has close ties to the party's presidential ticket of John Kerry and John Edwards.
But his desire to make over the White House has nothing to do with evicting George W. Bush.
Instead, Gold wants to replace the executive mansion's "goopy" 18th century French and English furniture -- complete with tassels and fringe -- with hip and comfortable sofas and chairs made by his eponymous company.
"I'm obsessed with this. I'm not desperate," Gold said recently, as he led a tour of his 700,000-square-foot factory in rural North Carolina, including stops in the onsite daycare center and a visit with his beloved English Bulldog, Lulu.
Gold -- whose furniture can be found in chic home retailers like Pottery Barn, Crate & amp; Barrel and Restoration Hardware -- closed his eyes and envisioned the White House, as done by Mitchell Gold.
"When we get our furniture into the Oval Office, the Secretary of State won't have to worry about dropping a Ring Ding on the sofa," he said.
All jokes aside, Gold is serious enough about his dream -- and about marketing his furniture -- to have paid for red, white and blue billboards near Boston's FleetCenter that urged people attending last month's Democratic National Convention to, "Send Mitchell Gold [furniture] to the White House."
He'll repeat the trick with billboards near Madison Square Garden during next week's Republican National Convention in New York.
And Gold is also taking out a two-page ad in this Sunday's New York Times that invites Bush to visit his North Carolina factory, which employs 650 workers.
In the letter, Gold describes Taylorsville as "a place where real family values are infused into our culture and the spirit of our brand. A culture that welcomes all of our employees ... regardless of race, gender, religion, age, national origin, disability or sexual orientation."
Openly gay, Gold, 53, is a Democratic activist and a board member of the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign, the largest national lesbian and gay political organization. He also was an adviser to the presidential campaign of Edwards, the North Carolina senator and former presidential contender who is now Kerry's running mate.
Gold got the chance to personally lobby Kerry at a recent dinner party at the East Hampton, N.Y., home of "Sex and the City" producer Darren Star. Gold sat beside Kerry at dinner and, of course, the conversation veered to furniture.
"I told him they had to use my furniture [when they got into the White House]," he said.
Kerry and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, were impressed with some of the Mitchell Gold pieces in Star's home, Gold said.
"I think I've got him on the hook," he said. "When he got up to speak, he told supporters that if anyone needs furniture they should come and see me."
Gold has worked with prominent Democrats in the past. He redecorated Tipper Gore's childhood home in Arlington, Va. The former second lady was thrilled with the transformation, he said, and her husband helped select a white denim sofa.
Britt Beemer of America's Research Group, a consumer behavior strategic marketing firm based in Charleston, S.C., said Gold stands out in an industry not known for its marketing flair.
"He has a very bright marketing mind," he said. "He's done a very good job of coming up with clever marketing ideas to make him stand apart."
Even better, he said, consumers find Gold's furniture appealing.
"He's got a good product and it is competitively priced in the marketplace," he said.
Gold is optimistic about his chances of breaking into a Democrat-controlled White House, but admits he might have to forge inroads with the GOP. Still, he thinks Mitchell Gold Furniture is a good example of a company that has thrived even in the struggling economy of recent years.
Privately held, Mitchell Gold has 10 showrooms in cities such as Boston and New York with plans to open one next month in Los Angeles. Gold said the company expects to reach $80 million in sales this year.
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