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From Home Furnishing Business

Restoration Hardware's Road Back with Friedman

There is the RH catalog or "source book," thicker than the September issue of Vogue. There is the hillside home in Belvedere, where everything is beautiful, symmetrical and in pairs - right down to the framed pictures of twin daughters. Then there is the man behind the catalog and home, Restoration Hardware's poster boy and creative force himself, Gary Friedman, 56, in a T-shirt, artfully distressed jeans, belt, boots and leather wristbands.

But go back five decades and there is Gary Friedman, the child: His father died when he was 5. His mother, Angelina, one of the loveliest and happiest people he says he's ever known, battled schizophrenia, leaving Friedman to fend for himself at times. The two lived on welfare and food stamps in San Francisco and Sonoma, and moved 21 times before Friedman was 18. His idea of furniture was their one coffee table that his mom would dress up with Con-Tact paper, one month a green marble look, the next a wood veneer.

"I was the young guy who didn't know what couldn't be done," Friedman said of his career. He has gone from stock boy at Gap to president of Williams-Sonoma to chairman and CEO of the Corte Madera high-end home furnishings company Restoration Hardware, with 70 retail stores throughout the United States and Canada, and adjusted net income of $22 million for the first six months of this year compared with $11 million over the same period last year.

"His success has surprised me," said Millard Drexler, Friedman's onetime mentor who was head of Gap and now runs J. Crew. "He took a substantial risk with a major reinvention of Restoration Hardware. He basically took a moribund business and made it a relevant business."


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Source: San Francisco Chronicle 

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