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Eric Woythaler, 94; Owned and Operated Taylor's Fine Furniture Trends in Van Nuys for 50 Years

June 01, 2005|From a Times Staff Writer

Eric Woythaler, who owned and operated Van Nuys' landmark Taylor's Fine Furniture Trends for half a century, has died. He was 94.

Woythaler died Monday in Los Angeles of natural causes, according to his son Julius. He had suffered a stroke in 1987.

A native of Bromberg, Germany, Woythaler immigrated to the United States in 1938 after designing department store window displays in Paris.

In 1940, he and a couple of partners set up shop as Van Nuys Furniture Mart on Van Nuys Boulevard, selling used dining tables and bedroom sets.

A year later, Woythaler bought out his partners and renamed the store Taylor's Furniture. He thought the English surname Taylor would attract business better than his own name, his son Ben told The Times when the store closed in 1991. Woythaler became known to his customers as Mr. Taylor, and even considered legally changing his name to Taylor, until his mother objected.

Beginning in the 1960s, Woythaler began selling expensive, ornate European furniture and accessories, such as gilded and carved mirror frames, elaborate tapestries, Louis XV-style rosewood parquet dressers and overstuffed sofas upholstered in cut velvet.

The switch occurred during a family trip to Europe in 1966, when two children became ill, causing the family to stay put for a couple of months. Restless, Woythaler wandered off to the Italian furniture marts and ordered several accessory items. When he sold them quickly, he decided to specialize in European merchandise.

Among the celebrities who snapped up his pricey items over the years were actors George Kennedy, Robert Conrad and Margaret O'Brien and musicians Jimmy Seals and Dash Crofts of Seals & Crofts.

Woythaler decided to retire and close the shop in 1991 because of increased competition from import stores and a shift of high-end Valley shoppers from Van Nuys Boulevard to Ventura Boulevard.

In addition to Julius and Ben, Woythaler is survived by another son, Albert; a brother, Rabbi Bert Woythaler; and six grandchildren. His wife, Helen, died three years ago. The funeral will be at 2 p.m. Thursday at Groman Eden Mortuary in Mission Hills.

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