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Irving Schwartz To Be Honored At Canadian Home Furnishings Awards Dinner

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In addition to honouring the recipients of the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award, Retailer of the Year and the Retailers’ Choice Awards the Canadian Home Furnishings Alliance announced that it will honour Irving Schwartz for his contributions to the Canadian home furnishings industry with an Honourary Membership.

The 2011 edition of the Canadian Home Furnishings Awards will be held on Friday, January 14, 2011 at the Conference Centre in the International Centre, Mississauga, Ontario.

Irving Schwartz passed away on September 18, 2010. Irving will be honoured posthumously. He was greatly admired by the Canadian home furnishings industry. He is the third recipient of an Honourary Membership that honours industry leaders who due to established criteria might not be recognized under the other awards categories. Prior recipients include Bruce MacPherson, Jr., former President of Gibbard Furniture and Joseph Carroll, former Publisher of Furniture Today.

Irving Schwartz was an entrepreneur, humanitarian, community leader, devoted son of New Waterford, Cape Breton and a leading figure in Atlantic Canada’s Jewish Community. Schwartz & Company has four retail outlets which sell furniture appliances, mattresses and electronics. His company is also a member of the Dufresne Retail Solutions Group (DRSG).

At the age of 13, Irving assisted his mother in running the family general store. Over the years Irving owned or invested in a diverse range of businesses, including a hotel, nursing homes, a cable TV franchise, computer software companies, a clinical research company, a wireless Internet service provider, various real estate holdings and a coal mine reclamation company.

Irving also served as President of the Children’s Aid Society, President of the Lions’ Club, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the University College of Cape Breton, co-founder of Junior Achievement in Cape Breton, Director of the National Theatre School of Canada, advisory board member of the Dalhousie School of Business, and Chairman of the Cape Breton Chapter of the Hebrew University. He was a longtime member of the National Capital Commission, and volunteered with the Nova Scotia Division of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. He served on the board of the Nova Scotia Business Development Corporation, the Sydport International Free Trade Zone and the Nova Scotia Community College. Of all these volunteer activities he was perhaps proudest of his 12 years service as a volunteer firefighter in New Waterford.


Irving founded and operated the non-profit Canadian International Demining Corps, which carried out land mine removal operations in many countries around the world, and
was part of the impetus for his 1997 investiture in the Order of Canada. In 2003, he was
named an Officer of the Order. At the time of his initial investiture, Governor-General Romeo LeBlanc cited him as, “a staunch supporter of educational institutions, notably the University College of Cape Breton, Dalhousie University’s School of Business, and the National Theatre School of Canada...He is dedicated to the eradication of the use of land mines and the reclamation of mine-polluted land for productive use by indigenous populations,” the citation said. When Irving was named an Officer of the Order six years later, Governor General Adrienne Clarkson described him as, “a visionary entrepreneur and committed philanthropist (who) has made significant contributions to Cape Breton. Irving Schwartz has invested resources, time and expertise in local knowledge-based companies, helping to diversify and develop the island’s economy.”

In 2002, Irving was awarded the Queen’s golden Jubilee Medal, and the following year was inducted in the Nova Scotia Business Hall of Fame. He was also an inductee of the Cape Breton Business Hall of Fame. In 2008, he received the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, from Dalhousie University.

Irving loved to engage friends and strangers alike in conversation and storytelling. The door to his office at the furniture store was always open, and saw a constant stream of visitors, from titans of the industry and politics to coal miners, school teachers and home makers. He was known for quietly offering advice and assistance to scores of Cape Bretoners starting out in business or facing business difficulties. The Canadian home furnishings industry will fondly remember Irving Schwartz.

The Canadian Home Furnishings Alliance is an industry association representing home furnishings manufacturers, importers/distributors and suppliers to the industry. For more information on the association or the 2011 Canadian Home Furnishings Awards, please contact Murray Vaughan at 905-677-6561 or by e-mail at murray@chfaweb.ca.

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