Tony Lentino: This year the Gould-Mersereau Co. celebrated its 125th birthday. The company was founded in 1872 as a manufacturer of drapery hardware and upholstery supplies. Sales were established through retail and wholesale channels.
The company grew in size and established itself as an industry leader throughout the early and mid-1900s. In 1955 the Gould-Mersereau Co. purchased the Kroder-Rubel Co., a smaller manufacturer of drapery hardware that excelled in wood products, which evolved into Gould's Seirra wood drapeware. Gould developed with many new and innovative products, some of which can be found now in upscale antique shops throughout the country.
The Gould-Mersereau Co. occupies a 50,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Long Island City, NY, and a 15,000-square-foot sales and distribution facility in San Francisco, CA.
In August 1997 Gould was sold to Worldwide Windows LLC. Its new owners are Jaime Escobar and Richard Holmes. Escobar has an architectural background and has worked for Mobil Oil Corp. and Galbreath-Ruffin Corp. Holmes has degrees in engineering and business and has worked for Mobil Oil Corp. and Trans World Airlines. Prior to purchasing the Gould-Mersereau Co.
The new Worldwide Windows will continue to offer the broad product range formerly offered by Gould as well as many new decorative and innovative items.
Jaime Escobar: As the new owners we have retained a cadre of Gould's management team. Of primary significance is the retention of Tony Lentino, the former president of Gould and a Gould employee for 42 years. Lentino is known throughout the industry for his knowledge and integrity.
D&WC: What window coverings products did you handle initially? What products do you handle today?
Escobar: The product mix of the former Gould-Mersereau Co. consisted of a wide variety of conventional and decorative metal and wood traverse rods, decorative brass rods and accessories, and aluminum track and carriers. These products will continue to be manufactured and distributed from the Long Island City and San Francisco facilities.
Many new products are currently being introduced such as a variety of decorative wood and resin finials, brackets and wood poles offered in many new configurations and finishes. Many other products are being prepared for introduction. A new children's line and a wrought iron line will be available this month.
During these first four months in business we have quadrupled our wood product line by expanding upon existing products. For example, the previous company offered a three-inch wood pole in a smooth finish. Since we manufacture a 2 3/4-inch wood pole and the necessary parts to make the pole traverse, it was a simple matter to now offer a three-inch wood pole with a traversing option and offer it in fluted and reeded designs as well. At the same time we expanded our finishes to include mahogany, gold leaf, antique gold, pickled white, whitewash, cracked and marbleized.
We also have recognized the need for a two-inch wood pole, the industry standard. Gould's philosophy had been to offer a 2 1/4-inch pole thinking the client would get more for the money with the larger diameter. However, we found that many designers specified a two-inch pole and that is what the customer would purchase.
Also, our wood poles are offered in true dimensions: our two-inch poles are a true two inches, not 1 3/4-inches as offered elsewhere. Also, all of our wood poles are made from American woods and all of our metal products are manufactured in the United States.
D&WC: Give a percentage breakdown of these products.
Richard Holmes: Decorative wood poles, wood traverse poles, and decorative wood finials and brackets make up the bulk of our products -- about 50 percent. Conventional and decorative metal traverse rods make up 35 percent, followed by metal and brass brackets and decorative components at 10 percent and aluminum track and associated parts at five percent.
Our newest products -- a wrought iron and a children's line -- are scheduled for release this month.
D&WC: What is your approximate sales volume? What was it after your first year in business?
Holmes: Because our involvement has been for only four months, the best statistic we can report now is that sales have already increased 20 percent over the same period in the preceding year.
D&WC: Who are your customers? What parts of the world do you service?
Escobar: Our customers are designers, workrooms, retail stores and hardware stores. We have customers throughout the United States and clients in Central America, South America, Europe, Canada and the Caribbean.
D&WC: What best describes your niche in the marketplace?
Holmes: Our niche currently consists of small- to medium-size accounts such as designers, distributors, workrooms and an increasing number of larger retailers. What we offer our customers is choice -- particularly in our wood line, which is very unique, decorative and priced economically. For example, we offer traverse wood poles in diameters to three inches with many finishes. These wood poles are available in smooth, reeded and fluted styles. We also offer a rope twist traverse pole.
Therefore, the public is not limited to a narrow choice of mass-produced, off-the-shelf designs that force them to end up with the same window treatments as their neighbors. At the same time we offer our quality metal line to distributors and others at discount prices that they cannot obtain from larger manufacturers.
D&WC: What are some of the key factors involved in your growth and success?
Escobar: The key factors in our success begin first with our sincere effort to do everything we can to please our customers. Second, our honesty and credibility. We believe these ideas are not old-fashioned, but true keys to success. Third, we have excellent product quality, immediate product availability, prompt service and a willingness and the ability to accommodate specific needs and requests of clients particularly custom items that may not appear in the catalog.
We also enjoy joint ventures with designers who may have a new idea to bring to the industry but may be lacking the manufacturing and distribution capabilities we offer.
D&WC: What distinguishes you from the competition?
Escobar: What distinguishes us is that our size enables us to have a more personalized service relationship with our clients, which in turn allows us to be very much in tune with their needs and empowers us to respond quickly to those needs.
D&WC: What trends and cycles do you see occurring in the industry?
Escobar: We see the industry driven by wood products. Wood is increasingly accepted in today's residential and commercial markets at an incredible rate, and it's environmentally friendly.
We also see a return to styles that were produced in the '20s, '30s and '40s. Many of the old Gould catalogs are priceless works of art and design and over the next few years we will reintroduce some of those earlier designs as new products.
D&WC: Where do you see yourself and your company five years from now? Are there additional areas within the industry you would like to get involved in?
Escobar: First, we see significant sales increases in the United States, primarily in the states that heretofore may not have heard of Worldwide Windows/Gould Drapeware. To date, sales have primarily centered on the eastern and western seaboards of the United States. We are about to launch a major advertising campaign to get our name into the midsection of the United States.
Second, we see large increases in the number of distributors handling our product lines.
Third, sales to foreign countries should increase dramatically through contacts that already are in place.
Fourth, we see ourselves in major retail chains that can take advantage of our superior quality products offered at very competitive pricing.
Last, we do not plan ever to compete with our distributors or fabricators who offer alternate window treatments such as horizontal blinds and shades.
D&WC: What advice would you give to other window coverings professionals?
Escobar: Our advice is to recognize that what is offered today as a "new idea" oftentimes is an old idea with a new twist. Gould, having a heritage of 125 years in the drapery hardware industry, introduced many of today's new products in the 1920s and '30s. A good example are the wood and iron products offered today.
Gould furnished a variety of wood products known by our brand name Seirra, which included smooth, corrugated, ribbed and rope twist poles in four diameters and a variety of real wood finials in traditional, contemporary and early American styles. Wrought iron draperyware included cast bronze sets with a hand-hammered finish in twisted rod and square rod styles.
Our advice to the window coverings professional is to deal with a company that has a long history with the only products they offer, such as drapery hardware.
Worldwide Windows LLC/Gould Drapeware
21-16 44th Rd.
P.O. Box 1231
Long Island City, NY 11101
Toll free: (800) 223-8990
Fax: (718) 786-7429
Manufacturer of drapery hardware, conventional and decorative traverse rods, wood and metal poles, accessories, wood drapeware and matching parts.