Gump’s is an iconic business with an interesting back story and fascinating history as one of the oldest luxury retailers in the USA. It has long been heralded for supplying customers with beautiful artifacts from all over the world, and has served millions of clients worldwide.
Gump’s was originally founded all the way back in 1861 by two brothers, Solomon and Gustave Gump. While it started out as a mirror and frame shop, it would, over the decades, morph into something much grander and ornate.
Following the gold rush in California, Gump’s ventured into the sale of art to capitalize on new opportunities. And this was just the start of its continued innovation. In 1906, its original location burned down and it was forced to relocate to Union Square.
While this may have been an unfortunate calamity, new growth was to take place from the ashes of the San Francisco fire. Gump’s sent buyers out to the far east to acquire all sorts of oriental luxury pieces, including jewelry, silk, furnishing, upholstery, and art. Over the decades, it would gain fame as one of the biggest suppliers of exotic oriental gifts that were not readily available in the west. Some of the more notable individuals who were said to have made purchases in Gump’s include none other than President Franklin D Roosevelt, as well as actress Sarah Bernhardt.
The luxury retailer would change hands multiple times in the intermittent period. It’s more recent history starts in 2005, and is concerned with an investment banker named John Chachas and a statue of the Buddha.
Chachas used to visit Gump’s as a boy, and was always fascinated, in particular, with a statue of the Buddha. 50 years later, in 2005, he arranged a deal to connect buyers with the sale of Gump’s. The deal did not turn out as planned for Chachas, at least not initially. Nobody was willing to pay him the hefty fee of $225,000 for arranging the transaction. Instead, Chachas would ask for the Buddha statue.
The Gump president (now former president) agreed – the statue has been acquired for $800 in 1957, and it seemed a good deal. The contract stipulated that the ownership of the statue was to be transferred to Mr. Chachas in lieu of any payment or compensation. Ultimately, Chachas would end up not only with a statue, but with the entire company.
A 2007 appraisal revealed that the statue was, in fact, worth $240,000. It seems that Mr. Chachas had earned his fee, and then some. However, the contract also stipulated that the Buddha was to remain where it was, unless he replaced it with a high-value replica. He would later do this, hiring a 3D printing company to make a replica and taking the original home, at a cost of $25,000.
But the story of the buddha does not end here. Chachas would eventually put up the Buddha for sale at an auction in Hong Kong, where it would sell for the equivalent of $4 million in Hong Kong Dollars. This is more than 18 times the original fee that Mr. Chachas had sought for the business arrangement. Chachas would further go on to found an investment firm, Methuselah investors, in 2010, and work on a number of high profile transactions such as the sale of the Rolling Stone magazine.
Last year Gump’s, America’s beloved luxury retailer filed for bankruptcy, selling everything except the Buddha that was owned by Mr. Chachas. But the story of Gump’s is not a sad one, but a new beginning, and the saga is set to continue. Mr. Chachas is using the proceeds of the sale of the statue to start Gump’s afresh. He has since paid $650,00 for the intellectual property of the company, such as the customer list, brand name, and trademarks, and intends to uphold the fine reputation that Gump’s has created over its century-old business model.
Like the original Gump’s, it is now family-owned, spearheaded by John Chachas and his wife Diane Chachas, along with daughter Anne Chachas, who is set to revamp the enterprise. Anne Chachas, Executive Vice President of Gump’s, stated that:
“We have been impressed by this brand for over a decade. Gump’s has a very special connection with its clients. We believe this iconic brand has a unique ability to curate an exceptional product that can once again delight clients for years to come.”
Many of the executives, unemployed after the bankruptcy, have been rehired by the new owners. The new store location has yet to be ascertained but Gump’s is set to reopen by Christmas, 2019.
As for the original Buddha, the replica will have to do in its stead, when a location is established. But the work has already been done, and new ownership of Gump’s has taken place, with the benevolent help of the Buddha.