Jerry Cunningham, Napa Home & Garden CEO, Dies
Jerry Cunningham, Napa Home & Garden CEO, passed away at his home in Atlanta on June 19. Together with his wife, KC Cunningham, he founded Napa Home & Garden in 2000 and built the company into one of the leading home décor firms in the wholesale industry. He was 76.
Cunningham was born in 1942 in Missoula, Mo., and developed a sense for business at a young age by working in his family’s bakeries. He graduated from the University of Montana and Harvard Law School and practiced law in Denver. Cunningham prosecuted financial crimes for the Securities and Exchange Commission in Seattle and then became a leader in the financial services industry. First, as head counsel for the insurance company GNA in Seattle, then as a co-founder of a firm that would eventually become Essex Corp., co-located in Napa, Calif., and New York. Working with his wife and partner, KC, he helped expand the range of financial products provided by the American banking industry.
Looking for new opportunities, the Cunninghams sold their interests and invested in a number of smaller businesses including a winery. Again, working together, he and KC would turn one of these businesses into Napa Home & Garden, a leading importer and designer of home décor and garden products. They would eventually move the business to Duluth, Ga. With incredible foresight and keen business acumen, Cunningham directed Napa through difficult legal battles in 2011. He single-handedly kept the company in continual operation, directing a constant flow of products to its customers and maintaining a loyal staff of employees. Cunningham would lead and grow the company as CEO until his death. KC Cunningham remains as the company’s president and creative leader. Napa Home & Garden will continue with normal business operations under her leadership.
In his free time, Jerry Cunningham was a competitive long-distance runner, completing the New York, Boston and the original Marathon in Greece, among others. At his peak, he ran marathons in less than three hours. Later in life, he embraced golf.
Throughout his life, Jerry was a voracious reader of fiction, non-fiction and the news. He always wanted to learn more, and loved the written and spoken word. He was an inveterate punster and crossword enthusiast. Cunningham traveled extensively for pleasure and later, as CEO of Napa Home & Garden, he and KC traveled the world meeting with designers and suppliers. Jerry and KC re-built homes in Napa, Yountville, Calif., and Highlands, N.C. They were just starting on their fourth home.
In the last three years of his life, Jerry helped others with ocular melanoma navigate the various treatment regimes and drug trials by creating and managing a dedicated Facebook page for the group, often mixing thoughtful counsel with a light-hearted joke.
Jerry Cunningham is survived by his wife of 33 years, KC, his son Chris and daughter in-law Solveig, and grandchildren, Ingrid, Leif and Bridget. He also leaves a number of good friends including Michael Corrigan of Santa Barbara, Calif. Though he left this world too soon, he left having achieved everything he wanted to do. Throughout his life, he always displayed incredible drive, vigor, equanimity, humor and optimism, including in times of crisis and in the last few months of life. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Jerry’s memory to the American Cancer Society. A private family memorial service will be held at a later date.