Throughout the summer, Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams have kept close tabs on the construction of their big new Houston store, which opened in Highland Village today. After a brief interlude, when they closed down a Kirby Avenue location in 2011 after the license expired, they are back in the Bayou City in a big way.
"Houston is one of the three or four biggest upscale furniture buying markets in the country; it's a little known secret," Williams said during a Houston visit earlier this summer. "And Highland Village is the most successful shopping center for home furnishings in the country. We're really happy to have this location. Our product really fits the center."
Eyeing their neighbors in the shopping center, which includes a mammoth flagship Restoration Hardware store along with large Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn stores, they declare it the perfect location for their reentry into the Houston market. (The store, which is company-owned, is in the space that Restoration Hardware vacated to move into its larger location.)
"Picking out a piece of furniture takes a lot more commitment. We do all we can to help a customer envision it in their home and give them good advice."
"It's one of the biggest volume opportunities and we want to be able to control all the aspects of branding, from the way the store looks to the way the design associates treat a customer," Williams said.
The 11,000-square foot flagship store offers complete home furnishing vignettes directly from the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams catalogue, including sofas, chairs, rugs, tables, lamps, vases — even the artwork on the walls.
"Virtually whatever you see in the store is for sale and whatever you see in the store is available for home delivery within a week to two weeks," Gold said." We stock everything we show in the store and some smaller items you can take with you."
Special order sofas that come in 350 fabrics, with 17 leg choices and 50 types of leather, are delivered within six weeks.
When the duo first starting offering an upholstered chair for sale 24 years ago, they never dreamed their business would grow this large, now with 18 stores including three international locations in Mexico City, Puerto Rico and Toronto and three more scheduled to open by the end of this year in Beverly Hills, Calif., Manhasset, N.Y. and Paramus, N.J. And there's more in store in 2014 for Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams.
"I thought it was either going to be a bust and we'd move back to New York or maybe Atlanta or D.C.," Williams said.
"And wait tables," Gold continued. "Or be very successful in the furniture business."
The duo, who live in North Carolina and will be in Houston for a big grand opening party later this month, hope to eventually own as many as 60 stores offering a range of new products.
One reason for their success, besides their sleek design aesthetic, is their attempts to demystify furniture buying. "Our people will go into somebody's home, make a floor plan and suggestions. They will really make it as stress-free as possible," Williams said.
"When people buy a shirt they have been buying shirts their whole lives. It's just one of many purchases," Gold said. "But furnishing your home is not something you do everyday."
"Picking out a piece of furniture takes a lot more commitment," Williams said. "We do all we can to help a customer envision it in their home and give them good advice."