Pioneer Bay passes at 82
GDA Staff -- Gifts & Dec, July 8, 2002
Charles Bay, 82, a home fashions pioneer, early entrepreneur and one of the first in the business to recognize the value of niche marketing, died here June 18 due to complications following heart surgery.
As founder of the Eiderdown Studio, a carriage trade resource for down comforters, Bay was one of the industry pioneers responsible for turning a commodity business into a high-price, high-margin fashion business. His early comforters, covered with Waverly Glosheen fabric and trimmed with velvet ribbons, were among the first to break the $500 retail barrier during the late 1970s. The Eiderdown signature look made innovative use of Glosheen fabric with a contrasting color, sewn-down velvet ribbon boxing and edging.
Eiderdown Studio was only the first of a number of Bay's entrepreneurial ventures, and after selling Eiderdown, he became the exclusive flannel bedding licensee for apparel manufacturer Lanz of Salzburg, helping to introduce and popularize the flannel category in the United States. He later founded and sold Charles Bay Linens, a table linens producer, repeating the familiar, entrepreneurial Bay pattern of creating a niche product, building up the business and selling it several years later at a handsome profit.
Bay became involved in textiles only after a successful career in luxury retailing, first as president of Cartier New York and subsequently as an executive vp of the former Bonwit Teller stores.
An astute businessman, Bay was a 1938 graduate of the Harvard Business School and notably was one of the first Jewish individuals to be admitted to what once had been a highly "restricted" bastion of WASP academia.
In later years, Bay retired from the home fashions industry but remained heavily involved as a member of the federally sponsored Service Corps of Retired Executives. As a goodwill ambassador, he was invited by Egyptian textiles producers to help them develop a bedding business. Later, he spent time in Hungary, helping down suppliers there develop their businesses and find markets abroad.
Bay was enamored all of his life with the theatre, and that passion found a perfect expression in his marriage to Francis Bay, one of the most enduring and familiar of American character actresses. His wife has appeared in 58 feature films and is a favorite of director David Lynch, appearing in three of his movies, "Blue Velvet," "Wild at Heart" and "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me." Other film credits include "The Wedding Planner," The Grifters," "Big-Top Pee Wee" and "The Karate Kid," among many other films.
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