Jennifer Convertibles sign on store in Farmingdale

Jennifer Convertibles sign on store in Farmingdale Credit: Newsday, 2004 / Karen Wiles Stabile

It is hard to imagine how last week could have been any worse for Jennifer Convertibles Inc., the Woodbury-based home-furniture retailer.

On April 13 the company announced mushrooming losses in the second quarter, saying it was in the red for $6.3 million, compared to a loss of $2.1 million in the same period a year ago.

Then two days later, indescribably worse, Jennifer's chief executive, Harley Greenfield, 65, of Manhattan, was charged with driving while ability impaired by alcohol, a traffic violation. His car struck and killed a 45-year-old Bangladesh immigrant, Mohammed Rohman, married and the father of two, who was crossing the Whitestone Expressway in Queens.

Greenfield told police that he'd had a vodka drink and a glass of wine. Police said he was not legally drunk, based on the 0.06 reading from a roadside Breathalyzer test. A level of 0.08 is required for a DWI charge. Kevin Ryan, a spokesman for the Queens district attorney's office, said earlier this week that results are not in yet on blood tests from Greenfield.

Jennifer has been a troubled company for several years, piling up losses, closing stores and getting booted off the American Stock Exchange because it failed to maintain minimum listing requirements.

Jennifer has said nothing publicly since the accident. That is a mistake, said Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates, a national retail consulting and investment banking firm in Manhattan.

"I think this is a time for the company to be very transparent," Davidowitz said. "They can't go underground. If they're going to go underground, then they should be a private company. They have an obligation to shareholders."

Davidowitz would not call for Greenfield to step aside, even temporarily. But, he said, "now is the time for intense management focus. They're losing lots of money. They're closing stores. Their losses are exploding. There's a life issue on the line here."

Jennifer still has 141 stores nationwide, including several on Long Island. The company has blamed the recession for much of its problems. Davidowitz agreed the bad economy has hurt the company but said other retailers, including Ethan Allen, are showing improvement.