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Greater Metropolitan Furnishings Association Honors Friedman, Bilici and Aaronson at Annual Dinner and Dance.

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Photo (l-r):  Alan Granetz – Executive Director GMFA, Rick Aaronson- Dean of IHFRA Award Winner , Irwin Friedman – Jerry Gans Memorial Award Winner, Mehmet Bilici – Howard Liveright Award Winner, Andy Gans- GMFA 2012 Dinner Dance Chair, Patrick Cory- President GMFA. (Photo credit Tommy Leflein)

Three industry leaders, Irwin Friedman of Crest Furniture, Mehmet Bilici of Sunset International and Rick Aaronson representing Klaussner were recently honored at a formal dinner and dance hosted by The Greater Metropolitan Furnishings Association (GMFA).

Over 200 furniture retailers, representatives and industry suppliers were on hand to celebrate the evening marked by a commemorative journal that can be downloaded by clicking here.

Association President Pat Cory of Cory First Choice Home Delivery set the evening in motion by recapping the progress GMFA has made to deliver benefits, networking opportunities, social and educational events this year following the merger of GMFA and MFA into a combined New York, New Jersey, Connecticut organization. He also announced that the evening would include a raffle of tickets donated by Planned Marketing Promotions to benefit Super Storm Sandy victims through the American Red Cross.
Rick Aaronson, the recipient of the 2012 Dean of IHFRA Award was then introduced by Chris Clarizio. The award recognizes quality of service to the industry, the recipient’s charitable nature, and a dedication that sets an outstanding example for others to follow.

Accepting the award, Aaronson spoke about his experiences in the furniture industry, giving credit to his mentors Burt Aaronson and Tony Bellarosa. In 1990 Rick went to work for Klaussner Home Furnishings and joined with Furniture Concepts, a sales company founded by Tony. Rick has worked with Tony for the last 22 years and along with their other partner Chris Clarizio cover Metro N.Y., New Jersey, southern Connecticut and the Hudson Valley.

Following Rick Aaronson’s remarks, Tony Bellarosa introduced Mehmet Bilici the Founder and Managing Partner of Sunset International Trade, L.L.C. and recipient of the 2012 Howard Liveright Memorial Award. The Liveright award is given to a person of great leadership ability, who provides guidance, thought and consideration to people of all colors and creeds, plus recognizes and assists in civic and charitable activities.

Bilici who was born in Eskisehir, Turkey, spoke of moving to the USA and the opportunities that followed. Bilici received a Master’s Degree at Fairleigh Dickinson University in international relations. He went on to found Sunset International, the US distributor for Istikbal, the largest furniture manufacturer in Turkey. Sunset International, the innovator of the “Click-Clack” mechanism has found favor with over 2,000 independent retailers including the Top 100 chain-stores such as: El Dorado, Raymour & Flanigan, American Signature, American TV, and JCPenney.

The final presentation of the evening was made to Irwin Friedman, Executive Manager at Crest Furniture, winner of the Jerry Gans Memorial Award for 2012.
After a long career at Barney’s Furniture of Paterson and Newark, NJ, Irwin joined Simon Kaplan at Crest/Value City Furniture, whose own reputation and contribution to our industry earned him the same award. Together, with Simon, his wife Annett and colleague Larry Young, and, until his passing last year, Simon’s Uncle Sidney, Irwin has served in an executive capacity for the past 17 years. Under Simon’s team approach to management, Crest has experienced dramatic and unparalleled growth. Crest has gone from 43 to 370 employees, making another meaningful contribution to our industry and economy.

Mr. Friedman received introductions from Andy Gans, who established the award in memory of his father Jerry, and Simon Kaplan, CEO of Crest Furniture. Gans and Kaplan spoke of how the Friedman’s honesty, integrity, humility and abilities are legendary in the furniture industry and a perfect fit with the attributes the Jerry Gans Award represents.

Following the presentations, guests enjoyed dinner, dancing, networking and the live auction.

About GMFA: The Greater Metropolitan Furnishings Association, established as The Furniture Club in 1942, consists of 210 members, including metropolitan area retailers, representatives, designers, and service providers. It is a non-profit run by furniture industry volunteers (members of the former MFA and GNYHFA Associations) for the purpose of creating a strong and cohesive regional home furnishings industry. For more information contact Alan Granetz, Greater Metropolitan Furnishings Association at (908) 725-3460 or email greatermfa@gmail.com.

Rick Aaronson, Tony Bellarosa & Chris Clarizio of
Furniture Concepts representing Klaussner.

(l-r) Celal Secilmis - President of the Turkish-American
Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Mehmet Bilici with Howard
Liveright Award, and  Ahmet Canli - Turkish Trade Attaché.  

(l-r) Simon Kaplan and wife Annett of Crest Furniture,
Honoree Rick Aaronson and Rick's father Burt Aaronson.

Cory Group (l-r): Odeh Ahmad, Virginia Cory-Carhuff, Bob Alter,
and Patrick Cory of Cory First Choice Home Delivery.

Tommy Leflein with wife Bobbie Leflein.

Rick Aaronson with granddaughter Samantha and wife Rebecca.

(l-r) Lenny Kharitonov and Sarah Shikhman 
of Unlimited Furniture Group Inc.

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