Palm Beach, Fla.– Jerome “Jerry” Weinrib, retired chairman of ABC Carpet and a giant among flooring retailers, passed away on Feb. 13 in Palm Beach, Fla., following a long illness. He was 86.
Now a fourth-generation legacy company, ABC Carpet & Home traces its roots to Sam Weinrib, who came to the U.S. from Austria in 1897 and sold used carpet from a pushcart on New York City’s Lower East Side. Sam Weinrib’s son, Max grew the business into a discount floor covering store at Third Avenue and 29th Street, and Lena and Max Weinrib’s son Jerome, who started selling floor coverings in 1947, moved the business to its present location at 881 Broadway at 19th Street in Manhattan’s Flatiron District in 1961.
In 1980, Jerry Weinrib rented the basement and main floor of the historic former W&J Sloane department store at 888 Broadway, directly across the street from the carpet store. The following year he bought the building. ABC began its expansion in 1983 from a carpet and rug specialist to a total home furnishings brand called ABC Carpet & Home, under the direction of Weinrib’s daughter, Paulette Cole, the company’s CEO and creative director.
By 1988, ABC Carpet was said to be the largest single-store floor coverings operation in America, with annual sales reported at $60 million. Sales are currently estimated in the range of $150 million for the combined ABC Carpet & Home. The enterprise today includes the three New York City locations (the two Manhattan stores and a warehouse store in the Bronx), and outposts in Delray Beach, Fla., and South Hackensack, N.J.
Peter Spirer, CEO of MaxWoods, fondly recalled Weinrib’s “larger than life” presence. “For more than 50 years, the industry’s notables dropped in to see him. He loved playing host, guiding visitors through what was becoming a startling attraction, the landmark home furnishings fashion and rug emporium in the city, the country and, one could argue, the world,” Spirer said. “Jerry’s importance to the industry was well established, and it was not uncommon to find visitors like Bud Seretean, Bob Shaw, Art Black, Irv Harvey, Shaheen Shaheen or (way back in the ‘60-‘s) Gene Barwick, courting him.”
Spirer said that while much of the credit for the store’s evolution from a rug and carpet store into a total home store must go to Jerry’s daughter, Paulette and her (then) husband, Evan Cole, “Jerry’s willingness to support and bankroll their unprecedented concepts and creative merchandising, was evident. As the owner and CEO, he must be credited for knowing how to get it done.”
Weinrib is survived by his wife Bernice Podell-Weinrib, daughters Paulette Cole and Madeline Weinrib, and his granddaughter Lena Cole.
Funeral services were held Feb. 16 at Riverside Memorial Chapel, 180 W. 76th St. in New York City.