When a company is created, it is the DNA of the entrepreneur who puts his substance and skills into the business. As the environment around that entity evolves and becomes more challenging, the mark of the founder can be disrupted and destroyed by many means. Succession, competition, and technology come to mind as cause for the demise of a potentially good business; but with those tests can come resourceful opportunities.
In assessing the history of Newel and its colorful past associations with Broadway, window display, and later with motion pictures and television, the last 60 years of the 20th Century was a gold era for the firm. Product could be acquired either in Europe or discarded items on the curb of Park Avenue apartments. Inventory was cheap and available, anywhere in the world. Dealers did fine back then, as selling was more than brisk in a market of home furnishing on steroids. Antiques, art, and the whole idea of a collector now sounds like an oxymoron compared to today’s market environment.
Newel at that time, reluctantly sold inventory to those who got through the (rental only) door. I can attest there being a sign saying “closed for inventory” at the end of the summer, when Broadway was pumping itself up for the new fall shows. But the Babe Paley’s of the world got to go through that door, with the aid of her husband, William Paley. He owned CBS, which Newel was renting tons of furniture and furnishing for all his and the other network shows being performed live to a national audience in New York City. If we had to sell and item, we were reluctant to give it up.
Fast forward to the last 15 years and you see a different Newel, one that seems to have lost its direction from its founder. Selling decorative arts should have been good over that period. However, the hurricane of Mid-20th Century and modern design caught everyone in the industry off guard as to how it became such a dominant social and economic mindset; taste became minimalism. Dealers and dealing were irrepressibly altered, especially with novel auction methods and the advent of websites.
The lesson in all this is that Newel has a young CEO who seems to have inherited his great-grandfathers DNA, and wants to rediscover what made Meyer and Evelyn Newman’s company survive and grow in its formative years. You might think of Newel are purveyors of fine decorative arts, and we are. We are also in the fullest sense, a prop house for all periods and styles, from the 17th Century to the present. If you are looking to recreate a room from the past, chances are we would be your best shot; it’s not too hard to do and a lot of fun to do it in person or online.
After years of trying fight a market that has successfully shot itself in the foot with the lack of unity and direction as a dealer in the trade, I welcome a transition to happier times and future possibilities. With the prospects budding for a strong dealer association AND an infusion to focus back to rental operations, this next generation is redefining Newel’s allure and spirit.