What does it mean to live a truly substantial life?
How does a visionary entrepreneur repeatedly overcome risk and rejection?
Is there more to a life well lived than the sum of a person’s successes and failures?
A Summer Classic: The Bew White Story explores these questions and more through the life and eyes of William Bew White III, the founder of Summer Classics, a manufacturer of luxury outdoor furniture.
“When you start a small business and grow it, you go through a lot of trials and tribulations,” observes Bew. “This really is sort of a modern re-telling of the Jimmy Stewart It’s a Wonderful Life movie.”
The biography, written by Christopher Taunton, delivers a detailed chronicle of Bew’s childhood, college years, early professional life, the successes and failures that got him to where he is today and how he overcame a health condition which nearly killed him as he makes the most of his life on Earth.
The high costs and sacrifices behind this success make A Summer Classic compelling and instructive, a gripping illustration of the saying, “One step forward, two steps back.” Bew’s career was beset with “hurdles, challenges, sleepless nights, poor health, things that didn’t work, (facing) the recession” and the twists and turns of a life spent doing business with a host of people. Trustworthy business partners were hard to find, and those who did not share Bew’s commitment to faith, character caused big problems along the way. At each obstacle, his creative thinking, foresight, and leadership helped the company to move forward with its vision that people might look at Summer Classics furniture and see “beautifully furnished spaces where they might share memorable moments with their friends, family, and loved ones.”
Bew White III is the Chairman of the Board of Gabriella White and its brands, Summer Classics, Gabby, and Wendy Jane. He graduated from Auburn University in 1972 with a degree in textile engineering. The phrase “outdoor living” had hardly been coined, as outdoor furniture was simply known as a table and chairs you would find on a basic patio deck
At just 28 years old, Mr. White left his job at his family-owned business, Avondale Mills, and started a sales representative company in 1978 called Vista Corporation, specializing in selling outdoor furniture. In 1987, Bew started multiple companies in an effort to expand from selling on the road to building a national brand. One of those companies was Summer Classics, which was created around Bew’s thought of designing and manufacturing products that he would want for his own backyard. With a business model based on creating products that were consumer driven, would stand the test of time, and would not go out of style, Summer Classics officially took off in 1987.
Born in 1950 in Birmingham, Alabama to William Bew White II and Gabriella Corner White, Bew is the great-grandson of Braxton Bragg Corner, governor and then senator for Alabama, as well as the founder of the Alabama-based Fortune 500 textile company Avondale Mills.