In 1931, Bernard Castro (b. 1904 d. 1991) and his wife, Theresa, started Castro Decorators with $400. It would soon become Castro Convertibles, a manufacturer and retailer of sleeper sofas, ultimately selling more than five million convertible sleeper sofas exclusively through their own 48 retail showrooms on the East Coast. Over the years, Castro had three large upholstery plants, one in New Hyde Park, New York, one in Danbury, Connecticut, and one in Ocala, Florida, with a separate steel mechanism plant in New Hyde Park. From receiving the raw steel to delivering the finished product to the customer's home, Castro Convertibles was uniquely "vertical." Always creating, Mr. Castro was an inventor of many patented convertible mechanisms and gave consumers up to a million choices by offering 100 styles, thousands of fabrics and 10 bed sizes. In 1993, the retail and manufacturing operations were sold to Krause's Sofa Factory.
An emigrant from Italy, he was a furniture apprentice who earned a degree in Interior Decoration from the New York Evening School of Industrial Art. Mr. Castro was involved in every aspect of product development, production, advertising and sales, demanding the utmost quality in every detail. Furniture was displayed with high-end accessories in room settings, to favorably compare it with designer stationary sofas. By highlighting the value of fashion-forward sofa beds and leading product innovation in the category, he created a specialty niche of chain stores for sofas by day that turned into beds for the night. Each showroom was designed to be a destination showplace, attracting people who visited to see the latest interior design trends.
Mr. Castro was an advertising genius with exceptional foresight. He recognized the potential impact of television advertising when only two TV channels existed, airing a commercial featuring his four-year-old daughter, Bernadette, who demonstrated that a Castro Convertible was "so easy, even a child can do it."
A hands-on leader and avid mentor, who often worked seven days a week, Mr. Castro believed in promoting from within and generously donated his time and resources. In 1963, he received the prestigious Horatio Alger Award. He was a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, a founding member of the Florida Council of 100, a member of the 23rd Street Association and active in the Ocala/Marion County Chamber of Commerce. A supporter of the Florida National Guard, he dedicated several hundred acres of his Ocala farm for a Special National Guard Drop Zone and was named an honorary Green Beret. Mr. Castro received an honorary doctorate from Mercy College. A member of the Knights of Malta and the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, he was a founding member of the Columbus Citizens Foundation and was honored by numerous nonprofit organizations, including Boys Town of Italy and the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, both of New York City. In 2014, Mr. Castro was inducted into the American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame.