By Cecile B. Corral, Carole Sloan, and Jennifer Marks -- Home Textiles Today, 2/14/2007 12:00:00 AM
Every industry has its romantic side. As this year's market week comes on Valentine's Day, we thought you might want to learn a little about how some of the couples in home textiles "make beautiful music together."
We Met at Market
"We met at a Market Week party!" said Carolyn Kennedy, design director for Scent-Sations, and Terry Gaffney, home furnishing sales at Richloom. "Went dancing afterwards with a group of industry friends and had a blast. (We were more fun back then, and so were the Market Week parties.)"
Carolyn was the designer at Perfect Fit Industries, and Terry was a sales rep for Ametex Fabrics.
Juggling schedules was only a headache during Market Weeks, Heimtextil, and Showtime, the couple related, which "required our babysitter to spend a week with the children.
"One of the benefits though, is we got to go to Europe together!"
What about the downside?
"Our most awkward moment of being married to someone in the industry occurred in High Point at Showtime," said Gaffney. "We were each there with our respective companies, staying in separate hotels. I spent one night at Carolyn's hotel, taking a taxi back to my hotel, arriving at 6 a.m., looking rather disheveled in last night's clothes."
"As I got out of the cab, Carole Sloan and two designers who worked for Robert Allen were standing in the hotel entryway. I doubted they believed me, but I felt compelled to tell them anyway: 'I know you won't believe me, but I just spent the night with my wife!'"
And how about this year?
"As for Valentine's Day at market," Gaffney said, "well, we'd like to go dancing, but we have a girl's basketball game, and horseback riding lessons to bring the kids to … true love!"
Wading in 43 Years of Valentines
Wade Maples isn't happy to admit he "never" remembers Valentine's Day.
"I always forget, so we don't really do anything," he confessed.
"That's about right," recalled Pat, his wife of 41 years, in a separate interview.
The couple — who together own and operate Scottsboro, Ala.-based area and accent rug company Maples Industries — met in 1964 at a Dairy Queen when he was a freshman in college, she a senior in high school.
"Check with Pat. I think that's how it went," he told this reporter.
"That's about right," she repeated, laughing.
You'd think Valentine's Day would be somewhat memorable over the years for this couple, considering their wedding anniversary is five days later, February 19.
No chance. This romantic holiday is not ingrained in Wade's mind.
"Normally, what happens: during the day on Valentine's I hear it mentioned in the office and I realize I forgot, so later in the afternoon on the way home I stop at the store to buy a card, something with a funny rhyme," he said.
"I don't remember the last time I got a card," Pat corrected, again with a chuckle. "But he will occasionally send flowers. Really it's become a joke. When you've been married this long, you can't take things like that personally. He thinks of me in many ways on many other days and that is what is important."
In fact, work is work, and home life is sacred for Wade and Pat, who have two grown sons and five grandchildren who refer to them as Grandy and Honey, respectively.
"At work, we work together on product development," said Wade. "But I leave work at work. And she does the same."
Said Pat, "That's true."
This year could be different, since Wade has been reminded in advance. He has dinner plans for tonight followed by a romantic stroll through Central Park.
Does Pat believe it?
"Absolutely," she said. "If he said he has plans, then he has plans for us."
From Irate to "I do"
Georgiana Zamel, a sales exec with Jeffrey Fabrics, met Robert Leibowitz, who is vp sales, Carlisle Finishing, about 10 years ago.
"I was representing Raytex Finishing, which was supplying wide top of the bed prints to Jeffrey Fabrics on a commission basis," said Leibowitz. "Deliveries were lagging on one of Georgiana's patterns. I enjoy working with an irate customer — I told her if the pattern were delivered on time, would she accept an invitation to lunch with me. She accepted and we have been together since."
For the most part, the couple's paths do not cross regarding intra-industry matters.
"I sell the commission printing services of Carlisle for home decorative prints and plains as well as military, industrial, and other end uses. Georgiana sells finished product for top of the bed, window, and shower curtains." Leibowitz added that discussions regarding the industry generally are limited to "it ain't easy" or "becoming a contact sport."
Travel is a non-issue, he said. "My accounts are scattered across the country. Her accounts are mainly in New York City with some limited travel out of town."
And how will they pass the cherished day this year?
"This Valentine's Day, she will be involved with market week and no doubt be with customers. My plans are to go drinking with the boys to boast and brag!"
Wedded Bliss at Westgate
It was about 25 years ago that the late English high school teacher Mr. Liu taught two of his students, David Li and Fong Chi, the language of love.
Li had already graduated from high school when Chi became enrolled in Mr. Liu's class.
Even though Li and Chi had never met, despite being from the same hometown and only two years apart in age, Mr. Liu instantly had a feeling they would make "a perfect couple," Li recalled.
Soon after, in 1983, Li and Chi met and went on to study together at the Beijing University of International Economics and Trade. Four years later they were married.
This June marks the couple's 20th wedding anniversary.
"Mr. Liu could have been wrong — I mean, I do get a lot of headaches," Li said, jokingly.
"No, but really, when I did meet her, I didn't think my teacher was wrong, and I still don't."
The couple juggles home and work life. They have two teen-age children, 15-year-old daughter Audrey and 13-year-old son Adam.
And they work side-by-side — he as ceo and she as cfo of the fabric, bedding, decorative pillow and window covering company Westgate, based in Gaffney, S.C., with the showroom here in New York.
While business has been strong, it hasn't all been an easy ride, Li admitted.
There were times in the past when "we argued quite a bit" because they both had to bring much of the work home. "We had no choice because we didn't have as much help as we do now," he said.
These days, they make an effort to keep businesses separate from pleasure.
"As we grew older and wiser, we learned the home was not a place for work," he said. "Our marriage comes first."
Matter of Fact
Elaine Pankowicz and Tom Klenart worked together for a dozen years or so before they began dating.
"After we hung around each other for so long, why not?" said Elaine, ceo of Alpha, her new dec pillow and table linens company.
A couple for two years now, they haven't exactly established a Valentine's Day tradition. This year, they'll be taking a customer to dinner.
That might become a tradition in itself. Tom, now retired, isn't much of a holiday enthusiast.
"If it requires a present," he said, "we skip it."
A Merger and a Marriage
Linda Johnson Smith, president, Park B. Smith Co., recalled: "I was an apparel designer and supplier, and wanted to get involved in home furnishings. I met a rep and Park's son who came along with him to our meeting. The rep wasn't interested but I started a business with Park's son, and Park became my mentor and investor in the business. That was about 1990. About five years ago, we merged our businesses.
Park B. Smith, Sr., ceo of the company, explained, "About a year after my wife Carol died, I asked Linda out to dinner and that changed our relationship. We're together 365 days. And we have three worlds — home textiles, the wine world, and our personal world. Only 364 days do we talk business, the other day — Valentine's Day — I tell her how much I love her."
Once is not Enough
Secret marriages are the stuff of great romance novels, but for Rekha and Jay Gadhvi, owners of Décor by Beader's Touch, it's a non-fiction story.
Although they knew family in common in India, the two did not meet until they attended a party in New York. After two years of dating, Jay invited Rekha to go camping in Tennessee.
"He proposed to me in the middle of a Tennessee camp. He had already arranged for a priest. I was in shock," said Rekha.
When Jay called his brother afterward to share the happy news, he, too, was shocked.
"He said this is no good. Her family won't like this," recalled Jay. "We were asked to go home as though it had not happened."
That they did. The marriage request was made after the proper Indian fashion, and a few weeks later, they married again.
On their first Valentine's Day, Jay gave Rekha a red heart pendant from Baccarat. She wears it every year, and every year they celebrate by going out to dinner.
"Dinner — that's it," said Jay. "No camping any more."
A Tough Sell
Kevin and Gretchen Sapin usually celebrate Valentine's Day with a ski trip.
This year, they'll be tending to business.
"That's really killing us!" said Kevin, executive vp, Next Creations, licensed producer of Raymond Waites bedding.
At least the Los Angeles couple will be in the same city at the same time.
"We joke that one of us is always at LAX," said Gretchen, director of soft home at India Ink.
Being in the same industry, they have the advantage of traveling to the major shows together. But even when they're visiting home textiles destinations separately, they stay in the same hotels.
"The doormen all know us," said Gretchen.
The pair met in 1985. She was a buyer at Price Club. He was a sales rep.
"He was attempting to sell things to me," Gretchen laughed.
"Luckily, I was working with the senior buyer, so Gretchen wasn't in my department," added Kevin.
They became friends, and in 1999, Gretchen joined Kevin in the rep business.
"Then friends became more than friends," she said.
They have, at times, worked for competitive companies. "We really keep our business lives separate," said Kevin.
"On the flip side," Gretchen noted, "if you're having trouble at work, you're with someone who understands. If I was married to a lawyer, he wouldn't have a clue. But you have to keep it separate, otherwise you'd talk about it all night."
Primed for Romance
The way to Bud Frankel's heart is prime rib.
"I normally cook a special dinner for Bud on Valentine's Day, so this year I'm going to make his favorite — prime rib," said Marsha Caparelli, his partner in life and work. Frankel and Caparelli, married for nine years, are respectively ceo and senior vp of Arlee Home Fashions.
The sides, you ask? "What's on the side doesn't matter," she said. "To Bud, the prime rib is what's important."
So is dessert. Caparelli might also throw in a homemade key lime pie, "if I have the time," she said.
But her honey will have to wait until this weekend for this romantic dinner for two.
That's because tonight will be all about work. With Valentine's Day landing in the middle of market week this year, the couple has dinner reservations with customers lined up for this February 14.
Working so closely together, one might think it would be hard to separate work from home, and even harder to remember special dates.
"I don't do anything special for Marsha on Valentine's. I'm a terrible husband, just ask her," Frankel baited this reporter.
Not the case, Caparelli said in a separate interview.
"Bud is wonderful to me. He is a wonderful husband," she said.
When the two first got together, Frankel warned her not to expect birthday or anniversary cards or gifts because he tends to forget special dates.
"But the fact is, he always does remember," she said.
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