A few years ago, John Edelman was CEO of Design Within Reach, a $475 million furniture empire.
Today he’s selling liquor door to door in Westport.
He couldn’t be happier.
Edelman has always lived his life by one motto: “doing well by doing good.” It led him to a longtime allyship with the LGBTQ community, including 15 years on the board of DIFFA: Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS.
Now, as co-CEO of Fourth & Pride — a new beverage brand — he’s donating a portion of the profits to LGBTQ organizations.
Edelman understands the intersection of life and consumer products. It served him well as he transformed DWR from a brand struggling to define itself into a world leader in modern design. He’s just as excited by his new vodka: gluten-free, made from premium white corn and organic grapes, and — he says proudly — the best vodka he and many others say they’ve ever tasted.
Edelman has had quite a life. A Ridgefield native whose parents brought him every Sunday to Gold’s — and nearly as often to the Arrow — he finally moved here last Janury.
Westport suits him well. He’s on the river; he owns a boat, heads often to Cockenoe, and walks all around Saugatuck enjoying the scene.
After a career spent in design, traveling the world — and before that as president of Edelman Leather, the family business where he worked with Herman Miller and Knoll — he was ready to spend time at home. He was enjoying the new pleasure of relaxing with his kids.
Edelman was not looking for a new gig. But friends who owned the Boiler Room — a fixture on the East Village gay bar scene — were creating a brand that gives back to the LGBTQ community.
They called it Fourth & Pride (the bar is on 4th Street). Wthin weeks, they were brewing a popular beer with that name.
“I’ve had hundreds of gay employees. I knew thousands of gay people in the design world,” Edelman says. Joining the new venture was easy. (The 4th investor is another Westporter: Edelman’s longtime friend Joe Massoud.)
But Edelman doesn’t really like beer.
His heritage is Russian. Vodka sounded great.
It took a while to get the smooth taste just right. Traditionally vodka is made from fermented grains like rice, corn, rye or wheat. Edelman says that Fourth & Pride is the first vodka made that combines premium white corn and organic grapes.
“Most people don’t really taste vodka. They put it in mixers,” Edelman says. “But when they try ours, they love the taste. They don’t have to add anything to it.”
Selling a new brand is never easy. Most restaurants and liquor stores are independent; they must be approached one by one. During COVID, restaurant dining restrictions and the cessation of in-store wine tastings makes the task even tougher.
Edelman is handling local sales The reception has been fantastic.
99 Bottles in Bridge Square bought 10 cases, and sold them all in 3 weeks. Greens Farms Spirit Shop, Westport Wine & Spirits, Dan’s Liquors and BevMax carry Fourth & Pride too.
You can order the vodka at the Whelk, Tarantino’s, Romanacci, Parker Mansion and Tarry Lodge.
It’s also available in New York and Long Island (and online).
Edelman notes, “To be an ongoing business today, you have to do more than sell a product. You have to be involved in the community.”
Fourth & Pride is doing that, with its contribution of 5% of wholesale profits to DIFFA and SAGE, which serves LGBTQ senior citizens.
John Edelman has always wanted to “do well by doing good.” It doesn’t hurt that his vodka tastes so good too.