ABC's Paulette Cole, HFPA Retailer of the Year

Carole Sloan, Staff Staff, March 8, 2009

The Home Fashion Products Association has selected Paulette Cole as its Retailer of the Year.

The scion of a four-generation home furnishings retailing family, Paulette Cole is co-founder, creative director and ceo of ABC Home, a separate retail entity from the legendary ABC Carpet headed by her father, Jerry Weinrib.

ABC Home was founded in the early 1980s, and quickly became the "go-to" place to find the latest in luxury bed and bath linens, quirky accessories, and antique and contemporary high end furniture.

At the same time, she has pioneered the cause of social responsibility — endorsing sustainability in products and having ABC Home take a strong position regarding product development of sustainable, recycled, and reclaimed materials in its product mix — and taking stands on global environmental and health issues, especially those affecting women around the world.

Cole's great-grandfather, Sam Weinrib, began selling used carpet and unusual fabrics from a pushcart on New York's lower East Side in 1897. Her grandfather, Max, turned the business into a discount carpet store and then Jerome moved that store to its present site on Broadway and East 19 St. in 1961, transforming the company into one of the largest rug and carpet businesses in the world.

On the occasion of the HFPA tribute, home textiles industry leaders stepped up to praise Cole.

Paul Hooker, president of Sferra: "Paulette is one of those unique individuals who transcends her personal beliefs to her business model. It's always risky in business to take a stand on politics, or in Paulette's case, planet Earth and everything good that we should be doing to save the only planet we will ever know.

"Her dedication to the working poor women around the world, in her pursuit of finding ways for them to make a living by supporting them from her position in business, is both noteworthy and laudable.

"She is an example that everyone in business should emulate: to operate a profitable business while giving back at the same time, and showing others by your example that is, can and should be done.

"I commend Paulette, and she is truly deserving of this honor."

Elizabeth Miller, svp, Karastan: "Paulette is truly a pioneer, and she gives credibility to that word for what she does personally and for the store.

"She's a pioneer in forging way beyond the way we live. Her pioneering has created so many words that weren't even our vocabulary three years ago like sustainability.

"The store is an amazing place, and it has gone through lots of transformations. The store has provided us with off-the-radar concepts of individual shops that are brought together in a fresh way. She and the store are leaders in theater in a socially conscious way."

Cathy Stemmler, national sales manager, SDH: "She's a fabulous merchant, a leader in the industry. They try things first — and she's always working the markets and gives direction.

"As a retailer she's created a widely recognized store even with just one unit — always ahead of the curve. The European suppliers come to ABC to shop and see how they do things.

"From a social standpoint, she is in the forefront of free trade, environmental issues, social responsibility. And I love her, she's a really nice person."

Murray Massre, president, Fino Lino: "We've been at ABC about 20 years, one of the oldest suppliers, and she was the first to offer a range of high end linens in one building. She took a leap into the fact that Americans were looking for high end linens in one place and the store became a pilgrimage to this. Then the product mix expanded from just beautiful to ecological — including promoting schools in Afghanistan.

"She's had to make some heroic efforts for control balance. She has a commitment to beauty, integrity and ecology. I'm a big fan of hers."

Gloria Lang, adjunct instructor, FIT: "The greatest thing about ABC is that it is so close [physically] to our school. And the people there are such good educators, particularly in the rug area. They have not only unique product, but also unique ways of displaying it.

"Over time Paulette has been a big supporter of FIT, especially in terms of using our students as interns.

"Paulette and her sister Madeline Weinrib are a great duo. Paulette is a merchant and a good business person; she spends a tremendous amount of time searching for the new and different and she's in the forefront of the ecology movement. Madeline is an artist and designer who also has become a merchant."

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