Ed Haimsohn, retail pioneer and modern furniture leader, passed away peacefully on May 24, 2020. “Ed loved the furniture business, “says his son Howard Haimsohn, owner of Lawrance Furniture in San Diego, “Ed loved people.”
Ed, or Eddie, as many of his close friends called him, was born in San Diego, California on June 5th, 1928. He left college early to join his mother and brother at Modern Furniture Company in San Diego, founded in 1937 by his parents Sadie and Herman Haimsohn. By the 1950’s Ed began running the store operations, following his own personal aesthetic preference for clean modern and contemporary style. Modern Furniture Company soon become one of the major independents in Southern California specializing in mid-century modern design. In 1981, the company was renamed Lawrance Contemporary Home Furnishings and Ed continued the successful family business until his retirement in the late 1990’s.
Ed is remembered fondly as an influential and charismatic member of the furniture industry. In the 1960’s, when Ed first went to High Point Market, he reached out to a young man he knew in North Carolina and asked for help finding a motel room. This young man worked with a designer named Milo Baughman, producing pieces that Ed sold at Modern Furniture Company. Over the years, Thayer Coggin and Ed would develop a great friendship and business partnership. Ed was known and respected by modern designers like Paul McCobb, Adrian Pearsall, and Vladimir Kagan; as well as furniture families like Bassett, Hooker, Broyhill, and Lane. He also served on the boards of both the National Home Furnishings Association and Western Home Furnishings Association for many years. “It seemed that everyone wanted to know or knew my dad,” recalls Howard. “I would walk the halls at a furniture market with him and it was hard to walk more than a few steps without someone coming up to Ed to say ‘hi’ and shake his hand.”
A forward-thinking Ed recognized that other retailers could be allies, encountering the same types of issues and opportunities. “Ed took me under his wing way back in 1986,” says Kelly Wallman, owner of San Francisco Design in Salt Lake City, Utah. “He allowed me to tag along in High Point so I could get my feet wet, even letting me bunk at his High Point home!” Ed loved sharing what he knew as much as he loved learning from others. In 1983, Ed and his son Howard leveraged that trust and friendship with other modern furniture dealers to create one of the first retail performance groups in the industry, Contemporary Design Group. “He was a student of our business and at the forefront of the ‘buying group’ concept, “says Bruce Birnbach, president and CEO of American Leather.
Today Contemporary Design Group has grown to become a dynamic buying, networking, and performance group with 28 members throughout the U.S. In 2014, CDG launched an international competition recognizing manufacturing excellence in modern furniture design. The award was christened the Edward Haimsohn Award, also known as “The Eddie”, in honor of their founder’s deep appreciation of design and quality. The group carries on Ed’s legacy of constructive collaboration, teamwork, and partnership between retailers and manufacturers.
Ed is survived by his wife of 66 years, Shirley Haimsohn and their four children: Mardi (Ben) Loeterman, Howard (Julie) Haimsohn, Marc (Artine) Haimsohn, 6 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren. Memorial donations in memory of Ed may be made to Congregation Beth Israel of San Diego ( www.cbisd.org ) or the Alzheimer’s Association of San Diego (www.alz.org/sandiego ).