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From Home Furnishing Business

American Furniture Hall of Fame Inducts 4 Members

Four industry leaders were inducted into the American Furniture Hall of Fame during a banquet held last night during the High Point Market.

Joining the current 94 Hall of Fame members are Hershel Alpert, former president of Alperts, Inc.; Bernard Castro, founder of Castro Convertibles; Harry M. Cornell, Jr., chairman emeritus of Leggett & Platt Inc.; and Jena Goldman Hall, president and CCO of Jena Hall Associates.  

“Each year, it is humbling to learn about the great personal accomplishments and contributions to our industry made by the individuals inducted into the Hall of Fame,” said Bill Kimbrell, president of the American Furniture Hall of Fame Foundation. “They are role models in every sense of the word and it is a reminder that our industry is full not just of ingenuity and leadership, but of generosity to others expressed in time, talents and resources.  We are pleased to honor them.”  

Hershel Alpert (b. 1932 d. 2010) began his career working for his father’s furniture store. When his father sold the business, Alpert and his brother founded Alperts Inc., a furniture showroom and warehouse in Seekonk, Mass. After it was sold to General Cinema Corp., Alpert continued as president, growing the business to 15 stores in four states. In 1985, Alpert, his brother and another partner bought it back. Alpert served as president and CEO for the next 35 years, during which Alperts was awarded the Brand Names Foundation Retailer of the Year and the Retailers Association of Massachusetts Retailer of the Year. He served as president and chairman of the National Home Furnishings Association and its foundation, and in 2005 was named NHFA Retailer of the Year. In 2007, the partners sold the business with the stipulation that its 155 employees would retain their jobs. Rather than retiring at age 75,  Alpert founded Alpert Consulting and served as a faculty member and senior executive in residence at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth

Bernard Castro (b. 1904 d. 1991) and his wife, Theresa, started with $400 in 1931 and built what would become Castro Convertibles, a manufacturer and retailer selling more than five million convertible sleeper sofas through its 48 stores on the East Coast. An Italian emigrant who worked as a furniture apprentice while earning a degree in interior decoration, Castro invented many patented convertible mechanisms and gave consumers up to a million choices with 100 styles, thousands of fabrics and 10 bed sizes. The company had two large upholstery plants and a separate steel mechanism plant. An advertising genius, the specialty stores became destination showplaces for interior design trends. Castro donated his time and resources to the home furnishings industry and his community. He received the prestigious Horatio Alger Award and an honorary doctorate from Mercy College, among many other honors. An American patriot, he was a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, a supporter of the Florida National Guard and an honorary Green Beret.

Harry M. Cornell Jr., chairman emeritus of Leggett & Platt Inc., built a small regional company into a Fortune 500 giant. He transformed the company from five plants and $7 million in annual sales into a $4 billion company with 130 plants in 18 countries. His milestones include the initial public offering of Leggett & Platt common stock in 1967 and the 1979 listing on the New York Stock Exchange. As a supplier that manufactured component parts, created the machinery to make them and produced the raw materials, Cornell expanded Leggett & Platt into eight industries. A past president of the American Innerspring Manufacturer’s Association, he received the Award of Exceptional Service from the National Association of Bedding Manufacturers and CEO Awards from Financial World for five years and The Wall Street Transcript for three years. At the University of Missouri, his alma mater, the Business School was dedicated in 2002 as Cornell Hall, where he funds the Cornell Leadership Scholarship and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Law. In 1998, he was named Citizen of the Year in Carthage, Mo., home of Leggett & Platt.

Jena Goldman Hall, president and CCO of Jena Hall Associates, has created licensed programs including Jena Hall’s Inspirations from the Old Country for Broyhill Furniture as well as developing products and integrated marketing for American Leather, Johnston Casuals, DMI-Wynwood, Pennsylvania House, Vanguard Furniture, and aspenhome where she served as executive vice president of merchandising and design. She has curated the launch and design of the HGTV Home Furniture for Bassett Furniture. In addition, Hall has created merchandising concepts for retailers including JCPenney, Robb & Stucky, Macy’s, Domain, Ethan Allen and Thomasville Interiors. A five-time Pinnacle Award winner, she is credited with introducing innovative features and functions formerly reserved for custom made and contract furniture into the mainstream furniture market. The founding president of WithIt, the women’s leadership and development network, Hall is a tireless advocate of City of Hope and the Anti-Defamation League. She has served on the High Point Market Authority Board and Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library Advisory Board. She has received the WithIt Founders Award and Lifetime Achievement Award, the American Furniture Hall of Fame Industry Fellow and the City of Hope Spirit of Life Award.

Under the new selection system, the inductees were determined by the combination of a vote of the membership and a points-based rating system of each nominee by the Foundation’s Industry Fellow Selection Committee. The voting period began June 30 and ended July 31.

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