Pool & Patio Center founder Norman Aronson dies
Pioneering casual furniture retailer remembered as a visionary
Cliff Annicelli -- Casual Living, August 10, 2012
Norman A. Aronson
Aronson was a residential contractor and built many homes, swimming pools and commercial developments throughout New Orleans and surrounding areas.
He was pursuing a degree in architecture and designing buildings in New Orleans when World War II interrupted his education. He was called to serve with the U.S. Navy Ship Design Corporation. In 1952, he began building swimming pools, later started the local chapter of the National Swimming Pool Institute and became its first president.
"He built very high-end pools for clients who were furnishing the inside of their homes in costly antiques and the finest furniture available at the time," said his son Bruce Aronson, managing director of The Pool & Patio Center. In the early '50s, the only outdoor furniture available to Aronson's clients was tubular aluminum folding chairs with cheap nylon webbing. To upgrade the looks of the furnishings around the pool, Aronson began selling pool furniture to his clients. "He started off carrying the Mallin Ring Chair, which had the woven spaghetti style extrusion vinyl strap," Bruce said. "He also carried Medallion and Brown Jordan's Tamiami. He had no showroom; everything was custom ordered from catalogs."
After a year or so, Aronson had the vision to take a risk and open a showroom, although there were few other outdoor furniture stores in the Deep South and none in Louisiana at the time.
"I remember him telling me about his first big umbrella order from Sam Levine, who represented California Umbrella," Bruce recalled. "My dad's big order was for three umbrellas. One was already sold, another would go on display in the new store, and the third was for stock. He figured if it didn't sell, he could always bring it home."
He traveled to Europe regularly and became the first retailer to import the EMU wire chair into the United States. He had met and become friends with the owner of EMU and his wife on one of his trips, and they eventually were business partners.
"He was a risk taker, a visionary and had a natural born eye for style," Bruce said. "In fact, he designed the first chat table which he got Medallion to make especially for him. Now, chat tables are as common as dining tables were back when Dad started the store."
In addition to his sons Bruce and Arthur Aronson, he is survived by his wife of 20 years, Rachel Prisk Aronson; his grandchildren, Lee Aronson and Beth Aronson Slater (Joe); his great-grandchildren, Sarah, Leah, Kovi and Samuel Slater; and Rachel's grandchildren, Thomas Marks, Caroline and Catherine Zaunbrecher, and William (IV) and Sarah Trotter. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Claralee Antin Aronson; his parents, Abraham and Miriam Shapiro Aronson; and his siblings, Bernard Aronson, Charles Aronson (Edna) and Lillian Aronson Feldman (Max).
Private graveside services were held at Hebrew Rest Cemeteries on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012. Donations to a charity of your choice are requested.
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