Friends, Colleagues, Social Impact Entrepreneurs
Cisco Pinedo immigrated with his family from a Mexican town near Jalisco to South Central Los Angeles when he was 13. The oldest of four siblings, he dreamt of becoming an architect. Those dreams were dashed when, at 14, both his parents developed health issues that prevented them from working, and Cisco dropped out of school to help support the family. Taking a job at a neighborhood upholstery shop, he soon fell in love with the craft, and with making beautiful things with his own hands that had a function. His passion and commitment opened new opportunity, and he advanced to working with more established shops. When he was 26 and newly married, Cisco opened his own shop in the garage of his South Central home.
Shortly after the ‘92 LA riots devastated South Central, and businesses began to flee the area, Cisco moved his fledgling company, Cisco Brothers, to the heart of that decimated community, eventually building the LA Design Center, which has won awards for urban architecture, and is visited by thousands each year.
Honored by Rebuild LA and the LA Mayor’s Office for his civic leadership, Cisco is also a recognized leader in the home furnishings industry. Cisco Brothers now sells all over the world to more than 350 designers and stores, including ABC Home and Soho House. Cisco Home, Cisco’s retail brand, has 11 stores in California, Washington and New York, and Cisco’s Made in LA wall is the most Instagrammed location in Los Angeles. With almost 300 employees in South Central, Cisco is now developing additional production facilities in High Point, NC, where Refoundry plans to open its third site.
Tommy, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from Vassar College, received an MA in Literature from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 1991. With plans for a teaching and writing career, a few weeks after relocating to Los Angeles, a recession hit, and thousands of teachers were laid off. With school debts and living expenses looming, Tommy began picking up furniture out of the garbage, repurposing it, and selling it in front of his home in a weekly sale called Avant Yard; soon store owners began buying his work, and within two years he had a factory in South Central with 30 employees,selling to stores through California and across the country.
Moving back to New York in 1998, Tommy opened Nova Zembla, a retail home furnishings store on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn that featured eco-sensitive furniture and products by young artisans. Regular sales contributed funds to the 9-11 Widows Fund for the local firehouse, and to Save Darfur. In 2009, Nova Zembla was voted Best Furniture Store in NYC by users of CitySearch.
Closing his store in 2010 to raise his son as a single parent and doing periodic consulting, in 2014 Tommy was asked to join a project working with one of the largest and oldest reentry organizations in the country that was interested in a social enterprise in the home furnishings field. He brought in his longtime friend and colleague Cisco as an advisor. And the rest is history…