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Three industry leaders honored at GMFA event

CLIFFSIDE PARK, N.J. - More than 200 furniture retailers, representatives, suppliers and other guests honored three industry leaders at a dinner and dance hosted here by the Greater Metropolitan Furnishings Assn.

The event at The Palisadium honored Irwin Friedman of Crest Furniture, Dayton, N.J.; Mehmet Bilici of Sunset International; and Rick Aaronson, representing Klaussner Home Furnishings.

Industry leaders honored at GMFA eventAlan Granetz, left, Greater Metropolitan Furnishings Assn., with award winners Rick Aaronson, Klaussner Home Furnishings; Irwin Friedman, Crest Furniture, Dayton, N.J.; and Mehmet Bilici, Sunset International; with Andy Gans, Gans Bros., and Patrick Cory, Cory First Choice Home Delivery.
Aaronson received the 2012 Dean of IHFRA Award, recognizing quality of service to the industry, charitable nature, and a "dedication that sets an outstanding example for others to follow," according to a release.

In accepting the honor, Aaronson told of his experiences in the furniture industry, giving credit to his mentors, Burt Aaronson and Tony Bellarosa. In 1990, he went to work for Klaussner and joined with Furniture Concepts, a sales company founded by Bellarosa. He continues to work with Bellarosa and another partner, Chris Clarizio, covering metro New York, New Jersey, southern Connecticut and the Hudson Valley.

Bilici, founder and managing partner of Sunset International Trade, received the 2012 Howard Liveright Memorial Award, honoring 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 his move to the United States and how founded Sunset International, the U.S. distributor for Istikbal, Turkey's largest furniture manufacturer.

Friedman, executive manager at Crest Furniture, received the Jerry Gans Memorial Award. After a long career at Barney's Furniture in Paterson and Newark, N.J., Friedman joined Crest leader Simon Kaplan at what would become a Top 100 company operating Value City Furniture and Ashley Furniture HomeStores in New Jersey.

Friedman has served in an executive capacity there for the past 17 years, and under Kaplan's team approach to management, Crest has seen dramatic growth, increasing its workforce to 370 people from 43.

Friedman received introductions from Andy Gans, who established the award in memory of his father, and Kaplan. Both "spoke of how the Friedman's honesty, integrity, humility and abilities" in the furniture industry, befitting the award, the release said.

GMFA President Patrick Cory of Cory First Choice Home Delivery also took time to recap the progress the organization has made in areas such as benefits, networking opportunities, social and educational events following the merger of Greater New York Home Furnishings Assn. and the Metropolitan Furnishings Assn. of New Jersey early last year.

The event also included a live auction as well as a raffle sponsored by Planned Marketing Promotions benefiting victims of Superstorm Sandy through the American Red Cross. The group marked the evening with a commemorative journal that can be downloaded at

GMFA has 210 members, including furniture retailers, representatives, designers and service providers.

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