Wolf-Gordon was founded in 1967 by four highly motivated sales executives from Gilford Fabrics: Mel Wolf, Bernie Gordon, Tony Prota, and Frank Carr. They struck out on their own with the intention of building a distribution company for vinyl wallcoverings, a product that was growing rapidly in commercial design markets. Mel and Bernie knew each other from the elementary school they attended on the east side of Manhattan; and Tony and Frank were Gilfordâ€™s very top salesmen. Their wivesâ€”Dottie, Reva, Betty, and Francesâ€”joined in the venture, working in the Companyâ€™s original offices at 132 West 21st Street, in Manhattan. The combination of friendship, experience and determination among the four partners would serve as a solid foundation for Wolf-Gordonâ€™s growth.
The post-War economy was strong in the late 1960â€™s and early 1970â€™s as Wolf-Gordon expanded from its New York City base into major markets up and down the East and West Coasts of the United States. From working with a primarily independent sales rep network, Wolf-Gordon gradually shifted to a salaried sales force that strengthened its relationships with interior designers.
In the early days, stipples and faux grasscloth looks were extremely popular in corporate offices and brokerage firms, Wolf-Gordonâ€™s major end-users. The Company also offered wood veneers and suede wallcoverings that took on more importance in the late â€™70â€™s and â€™80â€™s. Buccaneer Suede, a faux suede vinyl wallcovering, was one of Wolf-Gordonâ€™s best sellers. Custom wallcoverings were offered from the Company's beginning, whether it meant creating a wall pattern out of a logo or designing a new, site-specific pattern from scratch. In fact, Wolf-Gordon pioneered a â€śkit of partsâ€ť screen printed collection of ten patterns developed by Patty Madden in 1982, called 'Metropole.'
The Second Generation
Rick Wolf, David Gordon, and Rob Wolf worked at Wolf-Gordon during summer vacations as they were growing up, pulling samples and messengering them to design firms in Manhattan. Rick and David started their careers after college in what might be the toughest job at Wolf-Gordonâ€”Customer Service. They rotated through several departments with David eventually focusing on all aspects of Product Development, and Rick learning from his father, Mel, what it took to become a chief executive. Rob gravitated toward the financial aspects of running the Company. When Bernie and Mel retired from Wolf-Gordon in the 1990â€™s, Rick became President and CEO, David was named Executive Vice President, and Rob became Chief Financial Officer.
The generational change brought a renewed entrepreneurial spirit and determination to grow Wolf-Gordon. In 1997, a new team of sales and creative executives joined the Company, bringing with them fresh strategies for designing, communicating, and selling. The sales force grew by 50% and expanded into all major markets throughout the United States, in addition to representation in parts of the Near and Far East. Wolf-Gordon also began to sell Scuffmaster Architectural Finishes, thus adding the category of specialty paints to the product line.
Design as the Driver
In 2012, Wolf-Gordon initiated a sculpture project in the Merchandise Mart, Chicago, during NeoConÂ®. That year, and in each subsequent year, the Company has designed, fabricated, and installed diverse, product-clad structures that celebrate the buildingâ€™s civic space, during the NeoCon trade show. Focusing on concept and process, the sculptures serve as a unifying theme for year-long advertising campaigns that track the early â€ś'sketches' of the sculpture through to photographic based close-ups of the finished installation.
In addition to Wallcovering and Paint, Wolf-Gordon began offering Upholstery and Drapery textiles, as well as Wink clear dry erase coating, in 2012. Expansion into textiles has opened up a whole new landscape of exciting product development for Wolf-Gordon Design Studio; and a reinvigorated WG Customs Lab is working to design unique, site-specific wallcoverings that perfectly match interior designersâ€™ artistic visions.
New wallcovering and upholstery designs by Tsao & McKown, Grethe SĂ¸rensen, Kevin Walz and Boym Partners have all debuted in the past few years, with several additional, internationally respected designers lined up for the coming years. While offering a diverse product lineâ€”materially and stylisticallyâ€”is in keeping with Wolf-Gordonâ€™s 'DNA,' the Design Studio continues to develop new work that is provocative, inspiring, and of our time. As a company that speaks to interior designers, we seek to challenge with unexpected ideas for interior finishes, and have deliberately avoided historic reissues. The once daring collections weâ€™ve developed have become contemporary classics, and weâ€™ve had the privilege of introducing independent 'voices' from around the world to the American market.