RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. --Courtney A. Gould, chairman of the Misco Shawnee distributorship, died in his sleep from a cerebral hemorrhage at Eisenhower Memorial Hospital in Rancho Mirage, Calif. on March 22. He was 85.

Born in St. Louis on June 23, 1915, Gould started his business career in 1935 with the Missouri Auction Co., a retail furniture store opened in 1912 by his father Louis Gould. In 1941, he was introduced to wholesale distribution when he began working for wholesale appliance distributor Mayflower Sales.

When his father fell ill in 1945, Gould returned to Missouri Auction as its president and quickly revamped the operation into a wholesale furniture and floor covering distributorship that was renamed Missouri Furniture Co.

In 1957, Mohawk Carpet offered the company distribution rights to their line in St. Louis and a 60-mile radius surrounding the city on the condition that Missouri Furniture would carry no other products of any sort. Eliminating appliances and furniture was a risky decision, but one that proved right. Without furniture to sell, the company’s name no longer fit and, as a result, was shortened to Misco Inc.

Misco grew at an explosive rate, expanding into Memphis (1959), Louisville (1963), Chicago (1967), and Cincinnati (1971). Each expansion was created by the purchase of the existing Mohawk Carpet distributor in each respective area.

In the case of Chicago, Mohawk Carpet owned Shawnee Distributors, which at the time was an unprofitable enterprise. Misco bought the company from Mohawk and renamed itself Misco Shawnee Inc. The move made the company Mohawk’s largest customer.

In 1979, Misco added Armstrong Flooring in its Chicago branch and quickly became one of the 10 largest floor covering distributors in the country. In 1980, Gould appointed his son, James C. Gould, as president and assumed the title of chairman of the board. By 1981, Armstrong appointed Misco as the company’s distributor in St. Louis.

In 1985, Mohawk Carpet — which at the time accounted for 60% of Misco’s sales volume and 70% of its profitability — announced it would eliminate all of its distributors within 90 days. Previous strategic planning sessions within Misco had anticipated this possibility, even though it seemed very unlikely. By implementing several different strategies, the company closed out that year, as well as subsequent years, with a profit.

By 1988, Misco Shawnee had added branches in Louisville, Ky., Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio.

Most recently, Gould had been living half of the year in St. Louis and half in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Gould was active in the Better Business Bureau of St. Louis and the United Jewish Appeal. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Dorothy Bitker Gould; his sister Betty Ratner; sons Terry A. Gould and James C. Gould; three grandchildren; and a great grandson.

The family asks that any donations in Gould’s name be made to the St. Louis Children’s Hospital, One Children’s Place, St. Louis, MO 63110 or Eisenhower Memorial Hospital, 39000 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270.