Born in Sicily, Castro emigrated to the U.S. in 1919. He never finished high school but went to work as an upholsterer’s apprentice. In 1931 with $400 in capital he opened his first store, which eventually became a chain he named Castro Convertibles. At his death in 1991, he had sold over 5 million of his convertible sofas through 48 retail showrooms in 12 states, becoming a multimillionaire in the process.
In the 1959 novel Epitaph for a tramp by David Markson, the main character Harry Fannin, in chapter six, says: "She was staring at the Castro they’d squeezed in against a far wall", referring to the Castro Convertibles.
Bernard Castro married Theresa Barabas on Valentine’s Day 1942. Their two children were Bernard, Jr. and Bernadette. Bernadette became locally famous in the New York area as the company’s official four-year-old spokesperson. Theresa died at 85 in March 2002. Castro Convertibles was acquired in 1993 by Krause Furniture.
Bernard was involved with every aspect of the product’s development, production and sale. Bernard brought the sofa bed into the living room, formerly that category of product was not thought of as a living room piece of furniture. With Bernard’s interior design background, he was able to introduce a more fashion forward concept for convertible furniture. Bernard was a genius at advertising, using all 3 mediums at once: television, radio, and print in all markets where Castro Convertibles had showrooms. Bernard’s legacy of innovation was key to the company’s success. He believed strongly in creating new and inventive products to propel the brand. A favorite innovation includes the ‘Scotch n Sofa,’ a sofa that converted into a bar with built in turntable, unlike anything else out in the marketplace. Products like this made Castro Convertibles the leader and innovator in convertible furniture. Bernard believed in making his showrooms a destination for customers, with a real “show business” experience. Bernard built a 35-foot boat in his celebrated Fort Lauderdale showroom, which attracted customers from all over the region.
Bernard donated his time and resources generously to a number of causes throughout the course of his life, including the Columbus Citizens Foundation (Bernard was a founding member of the organization), Boys Town of Italy, Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, The American Heart Association and The Royal Dames for Cancer Research. Bernard was a recipient of the coveted The Horatio Alger Award in 1963. The award is given to entrepreneurial and nonprofit leaders who have achieved the American Dream via extraordinary accomplishments. Bernard was also a member of the Knight of Malta and the Knight of Holy Sepulcher. In 2014, Bernard was one of four inductees into The American Furniture Hall of Fame at the Foundation's annual banquet in High Point, North Carolina. Bernard also received a bronze plaque on the Foundation’s Walk of Fame, and is featured in Foundation's Wall of Fame exhibit, which are both located in Furniture Plaza in High Point. Castro received an Honorary Doctor of Commercial Science Ph.D. from Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, New York in 1974.
Bernard was a founding member of the Florida Council of 100 and a member of 23rd Street Association in New York City. Bernard spent many years in Florida and was very active in the Ocala/Marion County Chamber of Commerce and was also a huge supporter of the Florida National Guard. He dedicated several hundred acres of his Ocala land for a Special National Guard Drop Zone and was made an honorary Green Beret and upon his death there was a tribute in the American newspaper United States Armed Forces publication, Stars and Stripes.
Bernadette Castro managed the sale to Krause but retained the large portfolio of commercial real estate her father had acquired, both retail and industrial. Those properties in New York, Florida, Connecticut, and Virginia put the family in the real estate business. The iconic Castro Convertible brand was retired until 2010 when Bernadette Castro and her children bought back the intellectual property and relaunched the business with one of the most popular original products, the Castro Convertible Ottoman. Rather than retail locations, the new Castro is available online for purchase by both consumers and the lodging and resort industry.
- Bernard Castro, Inventor, 87, Dies; Founder of Convertible Sofa Chain
- Theresa Castro, of Sofa Fame, Dies at 85
- Bonita Banner Archived June 17, 2004, at the Wayback Machine.
- COMPANY NEWS; Castro Sofa Concern Sold By Family
- The Girl From Castro Convertibles’ Early Commercials Is Back
- Castro Convertibles Website.