LANDAU, WILLIAM – Innovative Ethan Allen Merchant THE SON OF IMMIGRANTS whose creative approach to marketing and dedication to quality service helped him establish a sucessful New York/ New Jersey independent Ethan Allen retail organization died July 5, 2007 at his home in Fort Lee, New Jersey. The oldest son of Rose and Morris Landau, Bill was born December 4, 1925 in the Bronx, New York, and raised in a home where Yiddish was the primary language. A bright and curious child, he was selected to attend the competitive Townsend Harris High School. He helped bolster family finances by rising at 4am to assist his father in the window-washing business. He then commuted by subway, doing his homework (or sleeping) on the train. He graduated from Townsend Harris in 1942.
Bill was drafted into the army during the waning days of World War II. A Medical Corpsman, he witnessed firsthand the horrors of the Nazi death camps when his unit entered Ohrdruf, a sub-camp of Buchenwald, the first camp liberated by the Western Allies in April 1945. After the war, Bill continued his education at City College in New York on the GI bill and graduated in 1947 with a degree in accounting. He met Laura Haskel of Kew Garden Hills, New York at the White Roe Hotel in the Catskill Mountains and after a dogged pursuit that included a first date secured by a pair of tickets to the recently opened production of “South Pacific” on Broadway, he succeeded in winning her hand. They were wed September 8, 1951. After a stint with his father-in-law’s monument carving firm Bill ventured into the furniture business with a buddy from the army. His first store was C.M. Whitney, a purveyor of Early American furniture in Union, New Jersey.
In 1962 he met Nat Ancell, co-founder of Ethan Allen and, with his encouragement, opened the area’s first freestanding Ethan Allen Gallery in River Edge, New Jersey. Doing business as W.L. Landau’s Carriage House, Bill, along with his wife Laurie, established the store’s reputation as one of the leading home interiors destinations in Bergen County. At a time when the typical furniture store featured rows of product arranged by price, he and Laurie helped pioneer the concept of displaying room settings of coordinated home furnishings. Recognized as one of the top Ethan Allen dealers nationwide, the Landaus won many sales and marketing awards for their creative approach to business. In one TV commercial from that time Bill was featured in white tie and tails, baton in hand, ” conducting a sale.” Bill was a long-time member of the Ethan Allen Retail Advisory Group and in 1998, current Ethan Allen Chairman and CEO Farooq Kathwari awarded him the prestigious “Golden Kite” for service to the company, worded in part: “he has served as an inspiration and role model for generations of Ethan Allen family members, including his own… He has applied his talent, creativity, vision and sense of humor to everything he does…” Bill’s personal motto in business was “I may not ever be the biggest furniture operation around but I want to be the best.” Today, W. L. Landau operates service-oriented Ethan Allen Design Centers in Bergen County, New Jersey and Rockland and Westchester Counties in New York and is run by a partnership including a member from each of his three daughters’ families.
A runner and fitness buff, Bill competed in four New York City Marathons, his last at age 60. His death July 5, 2007 was due to pancreatic cancer. His final weeks were a quiet display of his courage and dignity, and at the end he died peacefully at home surrounded by his close-knit family. Bill was a long time resident of Bergen County, New Jersey and was a member of Temple Emmanuel in Woodcliff Lake for many years. He is survived by Laura Landau, his loving wife and partner of 55 years and his three daughters: Lois (Andy) Leeds of Park Ridge, New Jersey; Pamela (David) Connolly of Pleasantville, New York; and Nancy (Josh) Gillon of Tenafly, New Jersey. He was also grandfather to seven girls: Rebecca (John) Kowal and Melissa Leeds; Jackie, Margot and Katie Connolly; and Leah and Danielle Gillon. His first great-grandchild-also a girl-Isabella Rose Kowal, was born this past April. His sister, Frances Illivicky, lives in Queens, New York and his brother, Samuel Landau, lives in White Plains. A funeral service was held at 12 noon, Sunday July 8, 2007 Robert Schoem’s Menorah Chapel, 150 Route 4, Paramus, NJ 07652 (201) 843-9090. Donations in his memory may be directed to Hospice of Englewood Hospital, 75 Demarest Avenue, Englewood, NJ 07631.