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Title: Oral History Interview with Richard Barentine, January 28, 1999. Interview I-0068. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Barentine, Richard, interviewee
Interview conducted by Mosnier, Joseph Darr, Dorothy Gay
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Mike Millner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2006
Size of electronic edition: 220 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
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Languages used in the text: English
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2006-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2006-04-12, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Title of sound recording: Oral History Interview with Richard Barentine, January 28, 1999. Interview I-0068. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series I. Business History. Southern Oral History Program Collection (I-0068)
Author: Joseph Mosnier and Dorothy Gay Darr
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Richard Barentine, December 5, 2000. Interview I-0068. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series I. Business History. Southern Oral History Program Collection (I-0068)
Author: Richard Barentine
Description: 338 Mb
Description: 71 p.
Note: Interview conducted on January 28, 1999, by Joseph Mosnier and Dorothy Gay Darr; recorded in High Point, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Unknown.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series I. Business History, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Interview with Richard Barentine, January 28, 1999.
Interview I-0068. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Barentine, Richard, interviewee

Interview Participants

    RICHARD BARENTINE, interviewee
    JOSEPH MOSNIER, interviewer
    DOROTHY GAY DARR, interviewer


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This is an interview on Thursday, January 28, 1999 with Mr. Richard Barentine who is the Chief Executive Officer of the International Home Furnishings Marketing Association in High Point, North Carolina. We are at his offices in High Point. My name is Joe Mosnier of the Southern Oral History Program. This interview is a part of the SOHP's new series North Carolina Business History. We are joined today by Dr. Dorothy Darr who is involved with the Center for the Study of the American South and the Oral History Program, a long time ally and colleague. Because it is the 28th of January, this is cassette number 1.28.99-RB. I thought Mr. Barentine we might start today with just a sketch of your personal background: where and when you were born, your family life, what you folks did, the community you lived in, early schooling.
I was born in Memphis in Tennessee in 1944 in February, so I am nearing my fifty-fifth birthday. I was educated in the public schools of Memphis. I received a Bachelor's degree from Memphis State University, which has renamed itself the University of Memphis. My degree is in history and political science, which shows that if from my generation you were educated in a broad based way, you could do a lot of things. I don't know if that holds true today in today's technological world, but it did in my world. I grew up in the wonderful, sort of sleepy, hazy '50s. [I] experienced the opposite in the '60s. [I] wouldn't have missed the opportunity to live through the '60s. I left Memphis three days after I graduated from college.
Which was which year?

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1967. I came to North Carolina. I came to North Carolina to work for the United States Public Health Service. I worked for that agency for two years. I served a two-year term in the Public Health Service. At the end of that term—.
Let me ask. What were you doing and where?
Well, you know, I knew you were going to ask that. I was a federal venereal disease investigator. Having lived through the sleepy '50s and the turbulent '60s, that was a real shock for the grandson of a southern Baptist minister.
Was this a Great Society job?
I don't really think it was a Great Society job because the jobs are still in place today and were in place, I would suspect, from the end of the Second World War and maybe back before then. It was an interesting job. My mother never quite got up to speed on what I did for a living for those two years. When asked, she would just say, "He works for the Public Health Service." "Well what does he do?" "I don't know." She didn't know.
A young person coming out of college, did this look like a potential career path, or was this "I'm going to do some public service" in that era?
No, I got a draft deferment. Anyone who didn't live through the '60s could be quick to criticize. We have heard the criticism of our public officials who lived through the '60s. The Public Health Service of the United States government was offering college graduates a draft deferment to do this work. I came to North Carolina and worked in that capacity for two years, which was the deal I had with the government, to serve in the Public Health Service. Perhaps I would have gone on in the Public Health Service, but they move you around too much. They wanted me to go to New Mexico to

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investigate vd [venereal disease] on the Indian Reservations. I didn't think that was a real good idea. I didn't have the accent for it. I didn't think that the Indians would be hospitable. I wouldn't think that we'd have been very welcome. Then they wanted me to go to Pittsburgh, and I didn't want to go to Pittsburgh. I left that career. I had come back to North Carolina. My family in Tennessee is directly descended from early North Carolina settlers. I was the first in a long line of family to come back to North Carolina. Back to 1630, we had been here. We had worked our way across this state. Tennessee was a territory. It was part of North Carolina for many years because the colony went across to the Pacific Ocean. So, previous to 1796, when Tennessee became a state, the Tennessee territory used to pay veteran's of the American Revolution and paid state debts. My ancestors were serving in the General Assembly and knew where the land grants were. You had to settle those land grants. So, ancestors of mine moved across Tennessee, settling and purchasing those land grants. I guess they were land speculators, real estate developers. At the end of the American Civil War, they found themselves sixty miles from Memphis with their life greatly changed. The family stayed in that area until I came back.
Let me ask you another question, too, before we move too much beyond the distance of this discussion of your early childhood. Can you describe the process, as you look back, of your values formation? Like most of us, parents were a principal influence?
I had a very stable childhood. My parents are both, at this point, still alive in their eighties. I didn't experience divorce. I did experience much death. I lost grandparents, but I had no siblings who died. I have an older sister, a younger brother

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and a younger sister. I got a very strong public school education. When I look back on my public school education, it wasn't education by intimidation, but we certainly didn't have the same kind of learning atmosphere that you find in a number of public schools now. I attended a public state-owned university. It was my choice to go to that university. I feel I got a very sound education there. I think life was very stable. It was perhaps a little more simple. There were not the outside pressures. We certainly weren't faced with drugs. Twenty-one was an age of being able to do a lot of things, and that certainly kept you from doing a lot of things until you could get to twenty-one. I think it was a good time to grow up. I think Memphis was a good place to grow up. Early in my life I experienced segregation, and then in my life, have experienced integration. Not always at a flash point, although I was in the deep south. Memphis didn't have some of the problems that other parts of that part of the south had in terms of adjusting to integration. I saw a great deal change, and I think that helps educate you because I was reared on the end of that segregation. Every generation from my grandfather's generation, to my father, to mine, to my nieces and nephews, that's a blurring picture. Everybody has their own feelings. As you go back, those generations, they're a little different. I grew up with Depression-era parents, who were scarred by that, [and] still [are] today. It influences the way they reared their children. My grandparents were university educated. My parents were not because they were teenagers during the Depression and that just wasn't an option. I grew up in an enlightened environment where good grammar, good manners were required. They just have become second nature and so for that and all of the things my parents did for me, I'm very grateful as are my siblings. I think it was not harsh. It was not hard. It was certainly influenced by the

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Depression, but I think anyone my age, their parents were influenced by the Depression. None of us live in Memphis. My parents reared four very independent children. We were not expected to stay in Memphis, if we chose not to. I graduated from college on Wednesday and left on Saturday and haven't lived back in Tennessee since. Actually, I have now lived in North Carolina longer than I lived in Tennessee and consider North Carolina my home. It's a home that my family, my ancestry [came from]. I've returned to where we all came from, anyway. We were just kind of in Tennessee, but for a long time.
What did the employment landscape look to you like in '69 when you were coming out of your Public Health Service job?
I was fascinated by Winston-Salem. I had moved from Memphis. Memphis in the '60s had a million people. [It was] a very large metropolitan area. It certainly had all the cultural and social and shopping opportunities that cities of that size have. I moved to North Carolina [and went] first to Raleigh — and didn't stay there very long —with the Public Health Service. Then they moved me to Winston-Salem. I was absolutely fascinated with Winston-Salem because it was a microcosm of a big city only it was a small city. I started off a little frightened because the opportunities for shopping were fewer. Then I realized the same things I could get in Memphis, I can get here. That's not always true when you move from a city of a million people to a city then of probably 135,000. It was sort of a shock. I was fascinated by Winston-Salem. It's an extremely sophisticated, very cultured city, and very wealthy city. I was able to be befriended by and become a friend of James A. Gray. James A. Gray, Jr. served as a mentor of mine for a number of years. Jim Gray is descended from a very prominent

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Winston family. His father was a founder and president of Wachovia Bank and president of the tobacco company. Jim, at that point, was president of Old Salem and also was the vice president of the Chamber of Commerce. When Jim realized in our conversations that I was not going to go to New Mexico and was not going to go to Pittsburgh, he helped me get a job at the Chamber of Commerce. It was in tourist promotion. My job was was to put together the Convention and Visitor's Bureau effort for that city. There was a gentleman there who had done a wonderful job of bringing that effort forward, and he was ready to retire. My job was to come in and to take it into the modern day. I stayed there for eight years. I had a wonderful career with the Chamber of Commerce, and was not particularly interested in leaving the Chamber of Commerce. Though after eight years, I had recovered from the seven-year itch and had decided that no, this I like. I got the opportunity to travel all over the world. Winston was a leader at that time — in the '69 to'77 period of time. We propelled Winston-Salem into a leadership role in convention and visitor promotion. If you look at it from that basis, it was not a hard job. You had Reynolda House and Old Salem and Tanglewood and RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company and the SECCA (the Southeast Center for Contemporary Art). All of those wonderful things were there. You just needed to package them. Winston had that air of sophistication that visitors liked. Everything was credible. It wasn't make believe in the attractions area. We went all over the world promoting Winston-Salem. We certainly led the state and all of the growth. Winston built a magnificent convention center in the late '60s, early '70s. It's still there today, virtually unchanged. We were the only members of the International Association of Convention and Visitor's Bureaus in North or South Carolina.

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For a number of years. Winston had the kind of things I liked. It was forward thinking and I liked the Chamber of Commerce. A number of very fine business people contributed to my success. I felt very fortunate [about that]. [Despite] not being from there — being newly from North Carolina, from Tennessee — I felt accepted. I was fascinated by that city and my job.
Let me draw you out a little bit more on the networks of business leaders into which you were drawn in that role.
I have a degree in history. So, history—. There's a thread of it through everything that I do. Winston-Salem was one of the most fascinating towns because at the Chamber of Commerce you were able to sit at the arm of the power structure. You weren't part of it, but you were there to implement the wishes of the people who ran the town. Many of them were kin to each other. You had to understand the dynamics, or you couldn't survive. That served me well in the furniture industry, as well. I stick to these sort of nepotistic industries. There was no lack of money to do what we needed to do. If you needed a special project, either the tobacco company or the bank would provide the funding. Winston-Salem was very well placed in the state political arena. There was plenty of money for projects. Those big businesses were perhaps paternalistic, but that sure wasn't all bad because Winston excelled in the state. It had the first Arts Council in the nation. It has a long history of doing things. I was fascinated by it. I was fascinated by the genealogy. I was fascinated by the Moravian heritage — an old, old heritage. All of that played into the love of history that I have. It was wonderful to see enlightened people getting something done. Politics was civilized. You could see the

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private sector and the public sector working together to make Winston-Salem a better place. It really remains a better place for all of that.
You've anticipated another question, which is the extent to which you had contact with that realm of leadership, which is expressly political in those years. Were you drawn into political circles, working with government officials to a great extent and so forth?
The Chamber of Commerce works with all levels. It's a business organization, obviously, but business is there to use the government services or influence government services. In the tourism sector, that's what I did. I ran the Convention and Visitor's Bureau. We needed the help of the city. The city owned the Convention Center, so there was a built in partnership. Tax money had built that facility, so we were charged with promoting the city to bring the conventions in. The federal government had provided a variety of grants to help clear some land and build some hotels and things. So, we were dealing with the federal people. The mayor and the city manager — all of those people – we worked with very closely because we were bringing visitors to the city who needed to be served and protected. One of the things that we accomplished, very early on, was great alliances with the state of North Carolina. The state's Travel and Tourism Division, for whatever reason, had paid most of their promotional attention to the mountains and to the coast. This "heartland" is what they called where we are now — but it was the Piedmont — sort of got left out. They would say, "Well, you know, y'all are so strong, you don't need the promotion and it's not a recognizable—. It's not mountains and ocean." We said, "We're what keeps the mountains from falling in the ocean. You need to pay attention to the middle of the state." We fostered that relationship and

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traveled all over the world with the state of North Carolina promoting the state.
A facility that I still have is the ability to work with the elected officials regardless of the party affiliation. I was very close to all the administrations since '69. I've known every governor since 1969 and have traveled with a number of the governors. I was on a plane with Republican Governor Holshouser, our first Republican governor since Reconstruction. We crossed the Canadian border in the air, and Governor Holshouser said, "We have a Democrat on the plane, and I think we'll just throw him off the plane." You would need to know Governor Holshouser, to know that he had a good since of humor.
He participated in our politics series, so yeah—.
I was the Democrat on the plane. That taught me a good lesson, too. Don't think that they don't know what your party affiliation is. They always do. To that point, in the late '60s — in '69 — the advice from my mentor was, "You're going to work for the Chamber of Commerce. You're going to work for a state that has not had a Republican governor since Reconstruction. You need to be a registered Democrat in the state of North Carolina." He explained to me that a registered Democrat in the state of North Carolina is a person who votes Democratic on the local and state level and Republican on the federal level.
Even back then, that was his perspective?
Even back then, yeah. " Jim," he said, "If you're going to be appointed to boards and commissions on a local level or on a state level, you're going to have to be a registered Democrat." Of course, that was true until the Republicans came in, but there was an understanding even then that, I mean, everybody can't be a Republican all of a sudden. All of us who had been registered Democrats for all these years, had served the

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state and local area very well. I was appointed even by the Republican governor. That's a facility that I still maintain today. I do not participate in partisan politics. We work with whatever the voters give us to work with. It was very easy. The relationship with the state continues today. I serve on a variety of boards that I think are a part of my total professional personality. I separate some of those from my personal personality, but as I get nearer my retirement, I'm not sure you really can separate some of those things. I think what you do and the time you give away is all of who you are. Not just professional.
What led you down the road to High Point in 1977?
I was comfortable at the Convention and Visitor's Bureau. We were at the height of our influence. I was at the height of my influence in my career there. No other city in the state came near to what we were doing. In fact, we were running how-to sessions for Charlotte and Asheville and Greensboro, and everybody else that wanted to do what we were successfully doing. I told the executive vice president of the Chamber one day that, "We really ought to charge for some of this. It's wearing me out doing all these how-to's." He said, "No. This is kind of a part of what you do. You share with the other communities around." That was a good lesson for me to learn, too. We started an informal organization, which now has become the North Carolina Association of Convention and Visitor's Bureaus. I'm the founder of that organization and served as its first president. I served as its president for probably five or six years before we had any formal structure to it. I didn't really want any formal structure, but we finally put some structure to it. Well, I was at the height of my effectiveness and had real high recognition around the Triad because of what Winston was doing. I got a call from a man from the

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Lane Company, a Mr. Hampton Powell. Mr. Powell didn't tell me who he was. He just was from the Lane Company. Well in Winston-Salem, from '69 to '77, we didn't pay any attention to the Market because the Market was not open to any of us. I was the head of the Convention and Visitor's Bureau. We were providing all these rooms. Thousands of people were staying in Winston-Salem, and I'd never been to the Market. When people would call, it was always because something was wrong. We weren't doing something that they thought we should do. [They had] some problem in a hotel or something — some perceived slight or real slight that they had gotten in Winston-Salem. So, here comes this call from this Hampton Powell. I don't think I returned his call immediately. When I did return his call, I never could talk to him. He was the president and chairman of the board of the Lane Company. I came to have a great regard and high respect for Mr. Powell, but on the day that he called me, I wasn't impressed. He called me and said, "We want to talk to you. We have this—," and he just started and I thought, "I don't know what this man's talking about, and I don't know what he wants." As I got to know Mr. Powell over the next long period of time, I still never figured out some days what he wanted. Nobody else could either. He was one of those great thinkers, but he was way ahead of what he was telling you. He called and he said, "I would like for you to come over." I said, "Fine" and I went over to see him. This is '76. He said, "The Market wants to improve its image. We've got a real problem here. We've got some real problems, and we don't know how to handle them. We know how to make furniture. We want somebody that is from here, because we're not. We have these factories all over and we come in here. We've got a mess. People are mad at us, and we can't seem to get the landlords and people to do what we want them to do. We want somebody and your name

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keeps coming up. Would you like to talk to us about it?' I said, "Yes, sir. I would." Well, I don't think I talked to him anymore about that Market. Then, by October, I came back over. That was the second time I was ever at Market in my life. He offered me a job. He couldn't define the job. He could say what the problems were. He didn't know how to solve them. He didn't know what needed to be done. He said, "It's the same kind of work you're doing. We've got all of these people coming in. They've got to be taken care of. We have all these needs, and we can't take care of this. We just want to sell furniture. We don't want to bother with all this. We're really scared that this market's in trouble. We have this organization — it was then the Furniture Factories Marketing Association of the South, because we were the Southern Furniture Market. He said, "We have this organization. It's been here, but we've run it as officers. We've had an ad agency and a PR firm to help us out, but we really need somebody full-time to look after this for us. We want you to do it." He said, "You need to talk to three other people. We have a committee." I really had not grasped what Mr. Powell wanted. Even today, all of us call him Mr. Powell. He's dead now, but we all called him Mr. Powell. He never was the kind of person that you got familiar with. He was an older gentleman, by that time, and eccentric. We all called him Mr. Powell. He said, "You need to talk to these others." I went up to Martinsville, Virginia, and I had lunch with Richard Simmons, the president of American Lawrenceville and Clyde Hooker, the president of Hooker. It was a very cordial lunch. They were extremely nice folks. Both were Chief Executive Officers of their companies, and both were family companies. So, there's that kind of interest. "How's he kin to the Bassets? How's he kin to—?" That fascinates me. They began to say things like, "Well, you're going to talk to Bob Spilman at Bassett next and his wife's

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my cousin." I was kind of caught in that loop of, well I've been here and I know how important these relationships are, and I like this. I talked to those two gentlemen for a couple of hours. It was very nice, extremely nice. The highest level of good taste, good manners and good grammar, so I liked them. They said, "You need to go see Bob Spilman." So, I had an appointment to see Bob Spilman. I went into his office. I came to Market and came out to the showroom and one of his associates met me and took me back to his office. He said, "I've given him a cigar, so he'll be in a good mood." I got into his office, and he started a very clipped style of interviewing me, which was okay. He asked me a number of questions, and we got along very well. We established that we were both Episcopalians. I suspect he asked me some questions about my education. He asked me if I was married, and I said, "No." He said, "Have you ever been married?" [I said, "No."] He said, "Good. I like bachelors." He said, "I'd rather have a bachelor work for me any day, rather than a married man. I can send you anywhere in the world I want to, and there's nobody whining at home." I don't think that style works today, but it worked for Bob Spilman in those days. Then he said, "And you have the right accent. You're going to be representing the Southern Furniture Market, and you have the accent." So I thought, "Well, I'll try this. This is good." So, I came to work in '77 on a loosely formatted mandate, which I have, over the last twenty years, refined to their satisfaction. I talked to Bob Spilman last week. He's now retired. I told him when he retired that he had always set the standard for my performance, because I knew what he expected. I knew if I pleased him, the rest of them would be a piece of cake. So, I did. I used him as the benchmark of—. I always included him in decisions and still seek his counsel. So, I came to work in '77. I didn't know much about High Point. High Point, in that time, was

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insulated from Winston-Salem because it was insulated from everybody. The geography of the Triad then only included Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point. It didn't include Lexington and Thomasville and all these other things that have come along since and stretched the boundaries. We were the energy. There's historically this little friction between Greensboro and High Point. You don't have to scratch very deep to find some raw feelings about something. It's because they're both in the same county. Here's Winston-Salem with this slightly elevated elevation and attitude sitting over here on this little hill. Greensboro doesn't like that. There's always been this little friction. It's still there some. High Point and Winston got along very well, but we just didn't come over here. We didn't know High Point. Being in the industry that I was in, nobody ever invited us to Market. We did work with the Chamber of Commerce people over here, so I knew it, but I really didn't know the dynamics of the city. I decided to come in '77. I left my job in Winston at the peak of my influence and came over here. What I found was a community that understands how to identify problems, understands how to solve them, and doesn't have what I consider a real rough and tumble political style. I think Greensboro has that. Winston did not have that. It does [have] some now. So, I liked it. I had traveled in a circle, professionally, of top leaders. I had traveled in a group of people who could get things done because they had the resources and influence to get it done. I came right into a situation where that existed here. The furniture industry owns this event. It is for that group to deal with their buyers in a partnership with the community of High Point. They have it here. So, you had pretty much the same structure. All of a sudden you had this very well educated, highly influential, cultured group of manufacturers dealing with the same caliber of people in this community to get

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everything done that it takes to get this project done. The fit was very good. I was very comfortable. From '69 to '77, we learned how to do everything we needed to do in Winston-Salem. I brought a lot of that over. When you looked at the promotions that we've done — that we discussed earlier — you see vestiges of my relationships with Old Salem and Reynolda House and Blandwood and Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts. So, actually my career has not changed. I'm still doing tourist promotion. It's just it's for the largest event in North Carolina, and it's for the largest event of its type in the world. I don't sell furniture, but my love of history teaches me about furniture. I do marketing. I do administration. Part of my—. I have a double major in political science and history, and it was in administration, public, the public administration side. So, I got off to a very good start. But, after about two weeks, I had some real misgivings. Mr. Powell called me and said, "Rick, I want you to have breakfast with me. I'll be in High Point, and I want you to have breakfast with me at four a.m. I'll meet you on West Green Drive at a little restaurant called Carl's." He said, "It's open twenty-four hours a day." He said, "Four o'clock." I must've hesitated, and he said, "Is that too early?" Well, I have pretty good instincts. I knew that that wasn't too early if that's when he wanted to eat, so I met Mr. Powell at four a.m. All the way over here from Winston I thought, "I have given up a good job for this?" He met me at the door with the biggest, greasiest southern breakfast you've ever seen in your life at four a.m. We reached an accommodation that we would meet in the future at six o'clock. But Mr. Powell, that was a test. Mr. Powell was very eccentric. He went to bed at seven o'clock at night, got up at three in the morning, so his first appointment was at three. It was the middle of the morning for him. It taught me that I would be tested by a number of these manufacturers

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as they would probably test their own employees. Between Hampton Powell and Bob Spilman, I have obviously passed the test. Spilman will test you too. Spilman asked me to be in his office in Bassett one morning at seven o'clock. [There was] horrific snow. I heard the forecast. I drove to Martinsville and spent the night. I was there — didn't have to drive up there. There was a lot of snow. I got to his office at seven o'clock in the morning. Nobody was there. The building was open. Nobody was there. They had closed all the factories. The building was closed. About eight thirty he comes in, and I'm sitting there in the lobby waiting for him. He said, "What are you doing here?" I said, "We had an appointment at seven o'clock." He said, "I like that. I like that. Okay." So, we are all tested.
Difficult to sort out this committee form of boss, if you will?
No. No, not really. I think you have to have real sharp instincts. I think you have to know how to treat all of those people. You have to understand that they're very competitive, but they're also probably kin to each other and they're also friends. When they come together, you don't get caught in the middle of that business competitiveness. In any career that deals with very powerful people in a group, you have to learn, more often as not, not to ask permission but to ask forgiveness if it doesn't work out. I have a broad mandate that I check every once in a while with them. None of this work is done by a committee. That's what they wanted, and that suits my style. They want to manufacture furniture, bring it down here, and show it to their dealers. They don't want to be bothered about when are they going to close bridges and what's going on when we get there.

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Maybe we could turn to the history of the organization, which will bring the story up to the point—. I'm keenly interested in what you found when you drove down here to take that new job in '77. What were these problems that they wanted solved? Maybe you could reach back for a minute, if you think that's most convenient. Or, do you want to go another direction?
At some point — and this might be the best place to do it — I think we need to go all the way back to why this event's here and that would take us all the way back to the end of the American Civil War. So, let's do that and get us through that period of history and then get us to the World War Two era, which is the era that the organization and I both have served in.
North Carolina has a very rich heritage of cabinet making. If you look back at the history of the state and if you look all across the state from the coast to the mountains, you find excellent examples of fine cabinetry. In many instances it was copied from the pattern books of the great European cabinetmakers. Then it had some vernacular adaptations, and it became ours. You had the Swicegoods in Davidson County. You had the Moravians in both Salem and Bethabara. You had Thomas Day in Caswell County and then many others whose names are familiar in history, but those are some significant ones. What they made provided the basis for the skill. Why they made it was because we had the raw materials. We had the wonderful Appalachian hardwood forests running through this area. We still have it. At the end of the American Civil War, the railroad had been destroyed. The north [to] south railroad [system] had been destroyed. During Reconstruction — the early part of Reconstruction — it was fully

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understood that if we were going to get commerce moving again, we had to repair that railroad. "We" being the north and the south, because this was a combination of northern entrepreneurs who had come south and southern landowners, timber people, and enlightened citizens. What brought those northern entrepreneurs here in many instances was hunting. High Point was a mecca for bird hunters. They had the huge lodges—.
Quail hunters?
Quail hunters — dove and quail. So, there was an easy mixture between the north and the south at that point of Reconstruction. People like Colonel Francis Fries from Winston-Salem — who was a major industrial entrepreneur — and others came through. With the support of other people, we can get a railroad built. They went to Mr. Bassett. They went to Mr. Burnhart. They went to Mr. Broyhill, [and to] the Finches in Thomasville and others who owned timber and who were sawmillers. They said, "We want the sawmill. We want you to sawmill the crossties to build this railroad." So, they did that. That was wonderful work. We had the raw materials. When the railroad was finished, then lumber started being shipped out of here as the principal cash crop. In the 1870s and '80s that was about all we were doing here. As a cash crop, it didn't take the southern entrepreneurs and the northern entrepreneurs long to figure out that we ought not to be shipping lumber. We ought to be shipping furniture. So, in about 1880 — almost simultaneously in other parts of North Carolina — mass produced furniture started being made. I believe this city dates it [to] about 1888 as the beginning [the year] of mass produced furniture. So, in the '80s, it must have been a wonderful time in the south, particularly in this part of the south because—.



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A large idle workforce was put to work. The quality of life — the standard of living — immediately was ready to change because people had jobs. There was a focus on the future. It was natural that we were doing this because we had the basis for building the cabinetry. We had the heritage of the handmade [furniture], and now we would do machine made [furniture]. Well, we started off in that period of time making not the finest furniture. What the southern manufacturers wanted to make was furniture for everybody. We were scoffed [at] a little. Of course, we were scoffed at by Jamestown and Grand Rapids and Chicago and New York because we quit sending them the lumber. We, as upstarts, got into the furniture manufacturing business. Who did we think we were? Well, we actually knew who we were. We made furniture, and we shipped it north. We put it in these nice wooden crates called cases. Unfortunately for our furniture manufacturers, we didn't know this for a long time. The people on the other end didn't really care about the furniture. They wanted the cases because they had very fine lumber that they could then make furniture out of. That's where the word case goods comes from. It's wooden furniture. We learned quickly that we could build a finer product. Most factories built a single piece of furniture. They built a bed, and this factory would build a dresser. Through consolidation people bought factories, and that's how we ended up with bedroom suites in rooms. It was happenstance. Today many manufacturers of dining room furniture don't make their chairs. They make the table, but they don't make the chairs. So, there's still some of that going on. Here we were, [in the]1880s, making all this furniture [that was] on a railroad that was bringing northern

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retail furniture dealers through here. Maybe they stopped to hunt. Maybe they were on their way to Florida. It didn't matter. They were coming through. The southern manufacturers had not gotten a very warm reception in Grand Rapids and Chicago and Jamestown when they wanted to show in those furniture markets.
Because of perceived insufficient quality?
I think that was part of it. I think we had—.
The resentment?
There was probably a healing process that wasn't quite complete. We had, after all, stopped shipping them lumber. Here we were competing, and I could expect that the northerners felt towards the southerners what we in the United States sometimes feel about exports from other countries. This was stuff coming from virtually another country. They had never had this kind of competition in the north. The people in the south didn't really like the way they were being treated in the north. They realized that they were getting started, but they needed a way to market this product. There were several efforts in the late 1880s to bring buyers to this area. They weren't very well organized. They were sort of civic, sort of industrial, but not very well organized. They'd have them one year, and then they wouldn't have them. It would depend on this railroad traffic because in the 1880s, that's the only way you got down here. People in the community and in the industry decided that we need to do this a little differently. We know we have the product, and we know that people want this product. We just need to get it into the mass merchandising networks and not just carry this stuff around on wagons and try to sell it. That's how a lot of it was done. It was done by peddlers who just would come in and pick up the stuff. You can got to museums today and see the

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fine, nicely crafted little miniatures, and those were salesmen's samples. They would just take those with them. So groups of interested manufacturers and industrialists and civic leaders decided that they would put together an event that had home furnishings or furniture from all the southern states. So, in 1909 they held the first Southern Furniture Market. That's a big name. They had figured it out. They weren't going to be High Point. That meant it was just what was made here. They reached out and embraced thirteen southern states — the twelve other southern states — and said, "You don't like the way you're being treated in Chicago? Well, we're going to have this event in North Carolina." We were already making a lot of furniture. There wasn't anybody in the furniture industry that didn't know us. So, they decided, "Well, we'll have this event. We'll call it the Southern Furniture Market. We'll invite all the southern states to send products." We don't know, in 1909, who came. But, what a wonderful idea. What a wonderful foundation to build the world's largest market. I don't know, in 1909, who thought of the name. I don't know who decided, "That's going to last 80 years. That name's going to hold true. Eventually those people who have slighted us in Chicago and Jamestown and Grand Rapids are going to have to say "Southern Furniture Market." I don't know, if they thought that, if they lived to see it. The event lived to see it.
By 1913, the event was held twice a year, very successfully. Still, it was being held in small buildings, mostly in the upstairs of existing buildings in the uptown area. We don't know how many buyers came in 1909, but we do know in 1913 that the event used 30,000 square feet of space. It had space in eight different buildings here in High Point and Thomasville. There were a hundred furniture manufacturers, and four hundred qualified buyers came to that event in 1913. So in the few years, from 1909 to 1913, this

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event had gathered some stature. This city had a complement of good hotels. The train stopped right there at Main Street. The hotels were within walking distance, and the buildings that were used were within walking distance. The factory district in High Point and Thomasville was bustling. There was furniture being manufactured in Hickory and Lenoir and Morganton and Marion and Drexel — everywhere in North Carolina. It was the economic engine of the 1880s because of the raw material and the workforce.
From 1913 on the Market began to grow rather dramatically. In the late '20s, a group of investors built the Southern Furniture Exposition Building, which still stands today as one of the core buildings of the International Home Furnishings Center. I guess that building was probably about nine stories, maybe ten, when it was built. It was a very solid expression of confidence in the industry and in the event. You know, by that time the event was pretty well established. The quality of the furniture had greatly improved. The number of manufacturers had consolidated. They still were mostly kin to each other. The event was theirs. It was a business event for the purpose of getting buyers to come to see this product. I had a conversation several weeks ago with the recently deceased Herman Bernard. Herman was one of our carriers of history. Herman had been in the furniture industry in this city for many, many years and would sit and tell stories about the Market and could remember when the Southern Furniture Exposition Buildings was built. He said, "You know, it was just this massive open core — no partitions, no walls, and no curtains. You just went in on the floor and everything was just there. You were standing right next to your competitor looking at what they made, and they were looking at what you made." He said, "Then we finally put some curtains up because it was getting a little too close for comfort. We put some walls up."

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So the event has been one that has evolved. It has evolved at the same pace that this city has evolved. We've not outstretching its capacity. The event has been here so long, it is referred to as "Market" and that is a capital M. Nobody outside of this town misunderstands what you're talking about. You're going to Market. You're not going to the grocery store. It's with a capital M. That got the event well established. The buyers were coming down. They also didn't just come to High Point and Thomasville. They took these motor excursions and went to the factories in Lenoir and at Bassett. They were going around to those factories. First, they were going to buy closeouts. "What kind of deals you've got?" "Closeouts." "We're going to come down here." A lot of that was done in January and July — kind of look at that Florida schedule, too. How do we do business? Well, we do business sometimes because it's where we want to be. But then, as the Market grew, more and more exhibitors came down to Southern Furniture Exposition. That building from the late '20s to the '60s dominated the landscape without much competition from other real estate developments. There were a few. The '60s saw a great growth spurt in other kinds of showrooms.
During the First World War, everybody made war materials. We had a break there during the First World War. [During] the Second World War, there were no markets held. The whole industry was making war materials. The Southern Furniture Exposition Building was a record office for personnel records for the Armed Forces. All across the United States, the government took over various buildings. This was a perfect building to take over because it was empty. They stored personnel records there throughout the Second World War, which also attests to the national influence that this city had gained by that time. For people in Washington to identify a building in High

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Point, North Carolina as being suitable for this sort of activity. So, the stature of the city had increased as this event had increased. Obviously, there are other things that have caused its stature to increase including textiles, but furniture has been the partner that has driven this city to worldwide recognition. It still continues to do it today.
At the end of the Second World War, as anyone who was born near it or reads their history knows, that there was this great burst in the economy. All of the veterans were coming back. I remember as a kid just hundreds of houses under construction at one time. Every other one was different. They had three or four plans. As a kid, we'd go to these vast subdivisions and go and look in all the—. we'd never seen that many houses being built because right before the Second World War, there weren't that many houses being built. All of a sudden, you had this huge demand for home furnishings. Many of the leaders of the industry had come back. It was a time that the generations were changing in the factories. Sons were moving into ownership. Not many daughters. A few. I'll touch on that, but not many. It was the times. But, a lot of change in management and some of those people were the people that I encountered in the '70s and that now are nearing their retirement. So, I worked through all that.
The Market was growing overwhelmingly. In 1955 the manufacturers decided they needed to have a cohesive group. They founded an organization called the Furniture Factories Marketing Association of the South. It was the major case goods people. It was after all those people who had invested the time, the money, the energy, and their reputations in founding this market in 1909, so they wanted to see it continue. They had a vested interest. They had a paternalistic interest. They were going to control it. It served the industry and served them very well. So that the focus never got diverted from

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exactly what the event was supposed to be, they used Chicago and others as examples of landlord driven markets. You're not on the same page when the landlord is driving the market. They were determined that they would coordinate this event. They'd set its dates. They'd make all of its rules and rent the space from the landlords, but the landlords wouldn't run this market. That's one of the major reasons this market is so successful. It is controlled by the manufacturers and not the landlords. Now in some instances, the manufacturers have become landlords, but that's all right.
So the Market is here because of the raw material. It's here because of the heritage of cabinet making in North Carolina. It's here because the northern and the southern entrepreneurs joined together to make it be here. It's here because they want it here. North Carolina today produces thirty-five percent of the furniture made in the United States. Virginia produces twenty-five percent. So in a radius of about two hundred miles, from High Point and Thomasville, you'll find sixty percent of the furniture that's made in the nation being made. Point of production has always been where the market has taken place. When Grand Rapids was the manufacturing furniture capital of the world, the market was in Grand Rapids. The same thing [occurred] in Jamestown, Chicago, and New York. But [in] those cities, as we increased our influence, their influence declined. As theirs declined, we moved into the leading position. Very early — in the late '50s — we were the dominant market. Certainly by the early '70s, we were the largest home furnishings market in the world.
Even by the early '70s?
Yeah. When I got here in '77, we were the largest in the world. So [it happened] sometime in that period of the '70s. I think it had to do with that great

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economic growth after the Second World War. The demand for furnishings [stimulated it]. Look what it did to the automobiles industry and to the housing industry. The housing industry is one of those very needle sensitive things to this industry. If that needle on housing goes way up, we go with it. If it flattens out, we flatten out with it, in the domestic market. We can get to how we sharpened our talents to avoid those soft times. In 1955 they founded their organization. They elected officers. We have all of those records of that corporation. Well, it wasn't a corporation. It actually was just a little organization. Things, I guess, were perhaps simpler then. We didn't need all of that legality that we all have to have now. They passed the officership around to each other. [They] sent a box of stuff along as they went out of office. They produced some promotional material. They made a lot of rules. They managed their market.
No staff? This was the manufacturers doing this?
No staff.
On sort of a rotating basis? You do it this time [and] I'll do it next time.
Um hmm. There were generally four officers. For a while, they would serve a year term. Then they realized that they were running out of each other, so they'd better have two-year terms. They weren't really about letting too many other people in. They gave themselves two-year terms and sort of held out for generational change to bring in new officers.
Do you know if during some of those early promotional materials exist?
I have a few, [but] not many. The box that they sent around, I guess it would be thinned out by different officers. It had the legal records, the minutes and things, but it didn't have very much of the promotional materials because they farmed that out to an ad

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agency or a PR firm. They produced it and mailed it out and nobody saved. We've got a few pieces. They weren't bad. By the mid-'70s, Market was too big. It was just too complicated. They weren't ready to give up the control, but they did want someone to come in full-time. [They wanted] someone to take this responsibility off their hands. As they said, "We know how to make furniture. We know how to sell it. We're not down there. We don't know what's going on. We get to Market, and there's a problem we're supposed to solve. We want them all solved before we get there."
The Hampton Powell phone call that came in '76? I want to make sure I'm clear on this.
How long had problems been stewing before they then decided "We need to go out and take some action"? Were those problems essentially just the problems of too much success?
I can't answer that because they weren't talking to us in Winston-Salem. High Point was very parochial about this event and can be sometimes today very parochial about it. It's theirs. We didn't know anything about it in the Triad. We didn't exactly say, "Oh, Lord, who are all these people?" We knew when Market was going to take place and it was a good piece of business. You knew you were going to get full. But, we didn't really know what kind of problems they were having. They weren't telling us. These problems were accumulating. It was problems with transportation. It was problems with accommodations [and] problems with communications. This Market was stretched out across North Carolina for 150 miles. The interstate didn't even go all the way to Hickory in '77. You had people come down here, and they didn't know where to fly. Then they couldn't get a car. You had to have a car then. You had to move back and forth in a car. The east wasn't talking to the west because they were very competitive.

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You just didn't talk because there was no one carrying the message. The manufacturers [and] certainly the landlords weren't talking to each other because they're competitors.
So the Market had perhaps depended a little on the manufacturers, and they had found a very strong advocate in Robert Gruenburg. Bob Gruenburg, the late Robert Gruenburg, was the head of the Southern Furniture Market Center for many years and was in that position of leadership in '77 when I was hired. He was one of my supporters, one of the people who advanced my name. He was tough. He was fair. He ran a very tight ship, and his influence was broader than just his building. Yet, he wasn't the right one to do the job. He was a landlord. There were these other buildings growing up. And he realized it. Bob and I had not an uneasy relationship, but it took Bob a while to relinquish spokesperson roles and things of that nature that he had done because it had sort of been left to him to do it. He picked up the responsibility. Manufacturers weren't angry about him, but they didn't want him doing it. They didn't want the landlords doing it.
I don't know how long they were sitting over here wringing their hands. I don't know how long these problems were going on, but they were pretty serious by the time they got to me. Yet, they were very simple to solve. They simply needed day to day leadership — someone carrying the message back and forth and some entity that actually communicated with all the landlords, all the exhibitors, all the hotels, everybody that needed to be a part of this event. My style, my mandate was "You do this. We want you to straighten all this up." We talked about what was practical, what wasn't practical and kind of set the mandate. The mandate came together that we were to create and sustain a business climate where all of Market's participants can have a profitable, a pleasant, and a

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safe experience. Now, we've added safe later. In the late '70s, safety wasn't the concern we all have now. So, that's what we said. We want people to come down here. We want them to enjoy having them come down here. We want to be able to do business. We need to make some money while we're doing it. So, "That's your job. Get all this infrastructure put together. Get all these problems put together, so when we come down here, we can do business."
Now, the other day, Bob Spilman described my career as, "We told him to do all this. He's done it. Everything now runs real smoothly. "Now when we come down there," of course, he doesn't now, but, "When we come down there, he's who we can yell at if something goes wrong." That's Bob Spilman. The way to make all that happen was to bring forward my Convention and Visitor's Bureau career. This is just a bigger audience. They have to have a place to sleep. They need to move around. They need to eat, and all those things. We're going to push them into a box that's a private event. That's different. That's a little different because you're only promoting to a qualified group of people that can come. That's a little different. But, I had the visibility in the Triad to be able to work with all these communities. We had taught most of them what they were doing. We were not an adversary.
I did not live in High Point. I'm not from High Point. I have never lived in High Point. I don't live in High Point today. When I was hired, I remember I had this wonderful, deep fascination with Winston-Salem. Mr. Powell said, "You know we're going to hire you." I said, "Let me just ask you a couple of questions now. Does it mean I have to move twenty-five minutes away from where I live because—." I remember exactly how I did this. I asked the question. He said, "No. We'd really rather you didn't live in High Point."

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That you did not.
[That I] did not live in High Point. I said, "Well, good. I wouldn't be interested in the job if I had to move twenty minutes from where I live now." In '77, Market took place in two places. It took place in Statesville, Hickory and Lenoir. And it took place here in High Point and Thomasville. In '77 immediately I used my Chamber of Commerce background. I came over to High Point to my friends at the Chamber of Commerce. They knew I was being hired. They were some of my supporters as well. I said, "There is no more logical place to have an office, then than in your building. There is no more logical service for you to provide the Market, than to give us our office." I went to Hickory to my friends in Hickory and said the same thing. So in early '77, I started a migratory office routine of three days in High Point and two days in Hickory. Now remember, we all travel when we want to, where we want to. My office hours in Hickory were Friday and Monday. Mr. Powell asked me one time, "Why do you go up there on Friday and Monday?" I said, "Mr. Powell, I have a house in Blowing Rock." He said, "Oh." I said, "You don't have to pay a hotel room. If you send me up there two consecutive nights, you have to put me up in a hotel." Then he thought that was wonderful. I was just really sleeping at home every night and just went to my office on Fridays and Mondays. I did that for eight years. I was there from '77 to '85, and I'm the person that kind of turned the light out and brought the flag down. We stayed one market longer than we really needed to to close down all those operations up there.
But again, it was that same kind of style of working with them and being able to identify the public officials and leaders in the community and making them understand how important the event was. Through the Chamber of Commerce format, I found those

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same kind of people. We got together and got started. I've kind of named the style a "partnership style." It's kind of a name that's used around North Carolina a lot, now that we have all these regional partnerships. Well, we've been in the partnership business at the Market a long time with great intensity since 1977. I have my secretary, and we now have my successor in place beginning January 1st. We have an Executive Director, and I'm the Chief Executive Officer and I have a secretary. So, it was by design that the furniture manufacturers and I worked out this partnership style. They said, "We can come in here and throw all the money it takes against these problems and solve them, but unless the people who are involved and profiting from this event buy in, then we haven't solved the problems. We're just shellacking them every six months." So what we did was we went to the hotel community. These are people that I know. We went to the cities, [to the] people I knew. We went to business and industry — people that I had not known well, but certainly was able to communicate with in all of those cities. [These included] the transportation components [and] the restaurant communities. We began to put together these partnerships.
Now you had to have western partnerships and eastern partnerships. We pulled this event together and promoted it as one event. There was none of this east and west conflict anymore. It took someone carrying the message back and forth, three days [and] two days to make that happen. My schedules during Market during the '70s to '85 were absolutely horrendous. I remember the amount of driving I had to do. It was tough not to have a breakfast meeting in Hickory, a luncheon in High Point, an afternoon reception in Hickory and a dinner down here. It just was awful, but it was what it took to get it together.

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The Market all that time is growing. Its problems are decreasing because they're being managed properly. They're also decreasing because the area is growing, so you're having more hotels built. That's all a result of being good stewards of the economy around here. The tourist industry was a big participant in building a lot of these hotels. As we managed the problems, they were solving themselves as we grew. Well, not always solved because they're always ready to have a problem, but they're managed.
Then the idea [arose] that the Market ought not to be separated as widely. People, who came to this Market, traveled it and worked it and liked it, but that generation was changing. The next generation hadn't remembered when you had to go to the factories all over. The new generation didn't care particularly that you could go have dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Burnhart. [They didn't care that] they'd take you home with them or Mr. and Mrs. Broyhill. That didn't mean anything to them. The early part of the southern manufacturing climate was [based on] personal relationships, a lot of that. It still is today, but it's a little different the way we do business today. The western part of the state was more relaxed. We had a million square of space up there. We had never more than four hundred exhibitors. In the '70s we had probably 1300 exhibitors. There were still parties at Mr. Burnhart's house. There were still parties at the Broyhill's. But, times were changing. The buyers weren't interested in making those long journeys. People were telling those people up there it was too far to go. "We can't go up there." They also were finding that they had about a two-day Market up there. Big dealers would come up there and stay a couple of days, and then they would come down here and they wouldn't see them again.

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There was an emotionally wrenching decision that many of those manufacturers had to make. Did they give up these wonderful factory showrooms, that they owned, that were across the street from their offices? They always could sleep in their own bed at night during Market. Did they give those up to come down to High Point or Thomasville? Where strategically could they find themselves located? Location [was] important. Many of the manufacturers were stockholders in the infrastructure. They owned hotels. They owned portions of stock held buildings in Hickory. I don't remember exactly who precipitated it, but I think it was probably a number of decisions that happened very quickly when Broyhill announced they were leaving. The Lane Company closed all of its divisions up there, Century, then Burnhart.
This part of the Market — the eastern part of the Market — was fully aware of the thought process that was going on in the west because those big exhibitors were chatting with landlords and developers down here. Bob Gruenburg, brilliant businessman that he was, decided he would build the Design Center. It's not the last building that's been built in that complement, but it was built to accommodate this demand that was coming from the west. All of those western exhibitors didn't choose to go in that building. Market Square was being developed at the same time. Market Square was a little before its time.
We had all been to Ghirardelli. We all knew what an old factory could look like if it were rehabilitated. We'd been to San Francisco, again, because you travel where you want to go. We'd been to San Francisco, and we'd seen how that can work. We didn't know that it could work here. The visionaries that were going to make that work, hoped it would. In the South, there weren't many of these factory redos. There were plenty of factories that could be redone, but there hadn't been any major ones. This city had no

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reason that was economically feasible to rehabilitate 500,000 square feet of factory in their central business district. It took the Market being here to provide the validity for the project. Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Durham, all of those cities have sat with vacant factories in their central business district for years when some industry changes the way it does business. This city has this wonderful event. The Market Square concept was being put together. Some rehabilitation was being done, but I think a lot of people were looking at it like, "I don't know about that now.'
[Was it] too big of a bite?
Yeah. Bob Gruenburg was over here, busy building the Design Center to take the sting out of Market Square. These landlords are big competitors. When Century signed as an anchor tenant for Market Square, and Market Square had been open—. Century didn't come down here and open with them. Century Furniture Company came down and said, "This will be where our showroom will be." Century is as sophisticated, as design conscious, as image conscious as any company you'll find. They're going to go on the top floor of an old factory building [in which] the roof leaks and all the water pipes and all the utilities are hanging up there in the ceiling, and the floors squeak. It's not this House and Garden sterile showroom environment they've had and that everybody else had. That's when Market Square caught on. Now the owners may differ with that perspective. When Century came, that's when—. If you talk to Jake, I think Jake will agree that Century then put that stamp of credibility [on Market Square]. "We can handle the environment. It's not the way we've done business in the past. It's not the way this Market has done business in the past. It's probably not the way the south had done business in the past. But we're going to try it." They tapped in again to that history that

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interests me and had that building complex put on the National Registry of Historic Places. They went through the Tax Act program. It, I'm sure, remains the largest Tax Act project in North Carolina and maybe in parts of the south.
I'm sorry. I don't understand those implications. [Tell me about] the Tax Act.
The federal government will give you tax credits — real tax dollar credits — if you will rehabilitate for adaptive use a National Register of Historic Places building. They have oversight through the state Historic Preservation Offices as to how its done, what has to be saved, how it's looked after, all those things. Then you get twenty percent.
Jake did it under twenty-five percent.
Twenty-five percent.
They got about a two and a half million dollar tax credit for an eleven million dollar project reducing the overall cost from eleven by two and a half million.
It's taken off the tax by the dollar.
Dollar by dollar. It's a federal income tax credit.
[It encourages] historic preservation. The reason there's historic preservation is because it's economically feasible to save the building and because there is a use. Now the building complexes have all just been sold to the Chicago Merchandise Mart. Isn't that ironic?
I'm sorry.
Isn't that ironic? You want to take a break?
Let's take a little break. [break]

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In the consolidation of Market from west to east, it is very important that it be noted that the move from Hickory and Lenoir was not based on anything those communities did wrong. They had served this event well, but at a point, the distance between the west and the east was no longer the way the event could do business. Those people for whom the event is held — the manufacturers and the buyers — made the decision that the Market would no longer be held in the west. Almost immediately, at the end of 1985, no wholesale showrooms were located outside the immediate High Point-Thomasville area. There were some in Lexington. There is one in Asheboro. But when it closed in Hickory-Lenoir, it closed. All the big energy came down here. There was a million square feet of space built for that transition, and almost immediately another million square feet was constructed in the 1986-87 era. We found ourselves consolidated. The record keeping that I inherited in '77 — because of the sort of the looseness of the Association and the relationships — wasn't very good. The real statistics that this Market works from—. We work from the 1913 statistics that we can document. Then we benchmark '77 as the year, remembering that the event is a private function. It wasn't seen as a major North Carolina event — a major Triad event. They didn't keep big attendance figures. They just said, "Yeah it was good. We had a lot of people here." Nobody was benchmarking—.
Well, it sounds like they didn't really have the apparatus to do that sort of statistics accumulation.
Yeah. [They] didn't have it. They had gotten pretty much into the hyping business. Whatever figure—. It was astonishing, some of the figures. I once told a very credible participant in this Market that, "If you're not careful, every man, woman and

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child in the United States is going to have to be here pretty soon. You can't just keep jumping these figures." To the sales types, [I said,] "Oh God, y'all have got to slow down here. One thing that I'm going to bring to you is some organizational skills. I'm going to give you some idea of the statistics that you need to build with. They need to be believable because they're not going to be used if they're not believable." In 1977 we benchmarked a figure of 35,000 total attendees. When I look at this event, we don't separate buyers and manufacturers and media and all of those. This is the event. We take it in its broadest possible terms.



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This is the second cassette in the Thursday, January 28, 1999 interview with Mr. Richard Barentine in High Point North Carolina. This is cassette 1.28.99-RB.2 for the Southern Oral History Program's series North Carolina Business History. We are continuing our general discussion on the Furniture Market and the evolution of the Association in High Point. We are here with — in addition to myself, Joe Mosnier of the Southern Oral History Program — Dr. Dorothy Darr of the Center for the Study of the American South and a colleague and ally with the Southern Oral History Program. Let me have you recapitulate a touch because we might have missed a little bit right at the end of that cassette.
Any event has to have a body of statistics. You have to be able to define the event. It's the way everybody does business. Well, until 1977 because it was a private event, they didn't have a lot of external communication. It was all pretty much internal. In '77 one of the jobs I had to do was [to] benchmark some figures, so that we could move forward. We benchmarked 35,000 attendees at the Market and because the event needs to be seen in its largest terms — not cut up into little pieces — we don't separate out buyers and things like that. It was 35,000 people and we had a 1000 international people in 1977 from thirty countries. That's an extraordinary number of international people coming to the interior of North Carolina for an industry event — a private event.
[That was] more than twenty years ago.
[Yes,] more than twenty years ago. We had 1,300 exhibitors. We were using ninety buildings at that point. The Market had grown so dramatically after the Second World War — particularly in the '60s and early '70s — that we were actually using

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ninety separate buildings and the International Home Furnishings Center is considered one building. Not all of its components were counted separately, but as one building. We were using five million square feet of space. We were not vaguely interested in how many square meters that was in the '70s. We certainly know what our square footage in meters is today. We had an annual economic impact, in tourism revenue, of forty million dollars. That was one of the revelations that the furniture manufacturing community — the leadership of the Furniture Factories Marketing Association — came to through this work on my part. [We found] that, "Gosh, we are a lot more important than we thought we were. We need to use that on the local level and the state level to promote the partnerships we have with these events." Forty million dollars is a lot of money in 1977. It was the largest piece of hotel business and the largest piece of restaurant business. It was the largest piece of airport business that anybody was having. Yet, we weren't telling them that we were doing all this. As Mr. Hampton Powell said, "If you want to get somebody's attention, touch them in the pocketbook nerve. Tell them what it's worth to them, not what it's going to cost them if they lose it. Tell them what it's worth for this to be a productive partnership." By 1985 we had seen the Market attendance increase to 43,500. We had 1,800 international people coming. We had fifty countries. We had 1500 exhibitors [and] 120 buildings. Our [economic] impact was up to ninety-seven million dollars. You know, until we consolidated Hickory and High Point, we were looking at an event that was spread out. It was hard to get your arms around. It was experiencing wonderful growth. In '84, '85, Market Square and the Design Center were being developed [along with] other buildings to make a million, and then a new million. We replaced the million in Hickory and added a million. All of a sudden it was all down

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here, and it was huge. People would say, "I didn't know it was this is big." They had never been able to put it all together visually — not only the manufacturers, but the buyers who came to the Market and the exhibitors. Then we started having that sustained growth that we've had all along. From 1985 to 1989, we were moving along fine. We were all here in High Point and Thomasville. I need to say that part of my legacy at this event — to the disdain of some and the forever gratitude of others — is that I never refer to this event as taking place in High Point. This event takes place in High Point and Thomasville, and in many of our publications it is [described as taking] place in North Carolina because we have a broad audience. Thomasville brings a large complement of showroom facilities to the table. That's part of my legacy that it's always listed as showrooms in High Point and Thomasville. The documentary photography on this year's promotion from 1909 is from both High Point and Thomasville. Not being from here and understanding that this is a large picture, I'm comfortable thinking in those kinds terms. It's my job to make sure that everybody remembers that we only view this in its largest terms. Well, by 1989 we had been the world's largest home furnishings market for years. Some had decided that our name was confusing. We were the Southern Furniture Market. We knew how to say it. We said it like no one else could, but west of the Mississippi River it was a little confusing because we had markets in Atlanta, Dallas and San Francisco, and they were regional markets that combined weren't as large as this market. There was confusion the part of the retail community and the nation, "Well, do I need to go to the Southern Furniture Market, or do I need to go to Dallas and Atlanta?" We looked around, already the largest in the world and we thought, "What name can we choose? This one has lasted eighty years." We came up with the International Home

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Furnishings Market. There are some fundamental and philosophical changes in that name from our previous one. We've changed the geography. We looked at [words like] "universal" and we just thought, "We'll take 'international.' That's about as big as we need to be." We looked at furniture, and we realized that the Market had other components of home furnishings: accessories, lighting, bedding, rugs. It wasn't fair to call it all furniture. Many people had moved to furnishings, "We're in the home furnishings industry." We changed "Southern" to "International," "Furniture" to "Home Furnishings." We kept "Market" because that's what we are. All of a sudden, with the consolidation in'85, the growth to '89, we were ready for this new name. It was not without sorrow. It was not without a reflection by generations that had known this event as the Southern Furniture Market. But it was embraced by the manufacturers as the appropriate name because it defined the geography and defined the product. We wrote some copy in 1989 and it's the best copy I've ever written. In the beginning, it was called the Southern Furniture Market. That was a big name for a bold new venture. But now the Market is bigger and bolder than its name. "It's time for a new name for our old friend. In 1989, we have changed the name of the Market from Southern Furniture Market to International Home Furnishings Market. We said goodbye to our old name. It was not without some pull at the strings of a lot of hearts because we were very, very proud from 1909 to 1989 to have identified ourselves as the Southern Furniture Market."
Let me jump in with a quick question [about] he issue of your working relationships with manufacturers. Let's pick the time when the name had changed to illustrate the character of those relationships. Can you talk a little bit about what sorts of steps were necessary to bring everybody over to the decision to make the name change?

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Well, as we've discussed earlier, the Furniture Factories Marketing Association was a close knit group of southern case good manufacturers who could make these decisions along family lines and along industry lines. We weren't talking about a lot of people. They were like thinkers. They knew the importance of the event. They understood what noblisse oblige means. They'd put up the money. They had hired the staff. They were running the world's largest home furnishings market as an organization, but not asking everyone to participate in that cost. Certainly they were not giving everyone a decision. So it didn't take long. It was not a hard sell. It was an evolution. We were going to be the leader. We needed to name the Market. We owned the name of the Market. We owned the other name. It was by consensus, not by conflict, that they put this name change in place. It just happened quickly. We made the decision. We picked the name. We changed promotions. We changed everything we did to the new name. We have a few references to the old name, just as history. We, at the same time, changed the name of the marketing association to the International Home Furnishings Marketing Association. We probably should have reflected a little more carefully on that name. It probably should be the International Home Furnishings Market Association. Sometimes we get calls that are of a marketing nature, but we only do this event. Maybe some day, that might be changed. We own the worldwide trademark to the new name of the Market. It's important to the sponsor on that. We name it. We nurture it. We set its dates. Consensus was always easy to get on well thought out projects. My style has always been that I am not one of them. I work for them. Major decisions like that come from the leadership. I am here to implement their mandate. I didn't change this market's

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name. They changed their market's name. I have survived in what could be a very volatile situation for twenty-some years by never forgetting that I am not one of them.
I'd like to make sure we get a good sense, in some good detail, of the actual detail of the work that you did. How you spent your time. If we're focussing on this period — sort of post-'89 – [and its] tremendous growth, new challenges, internationalization, technology, the need to be certain that the infrastructure that supports the Market keeps up with the rate of growth, [I'd be] interested to have you talk about those things. Also, talk about any changes that you've seen in the size of the group that directs the Association [and] the nature of the membership perhaps, if it's essentially you see continuity without much change around the edges. Or perhaps there are some new types of faces who are participating? I don't know.
Our mandate separates our responsibility into four main categories of activity. I think to answer those questions, I'm going to answer them kind of separately. Let's look at those. They are promotion, coordination, communication and administration. When you look at those four as a body of responsibility, then you must also look at those as having an internal audience that's within the home furnishings industry and this event. Then a vast external audience of these partners we have in the hospitality industry, in government, in local community organizations and those things. If I look back to 1977, that's where their problems were. They hadn't identified those four categories. They weren't communicating both internally to all of the players, and they certainly weren't communicating to the external audience. If we kind of take those, we'll just take them one at a time. The sponsor defines the event. The manufacturers are the owners of the event. It's here on behalf of their buyers. You need to promote the

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event. I told you the event is in a box because it can only be promoted to qualified retail home furnishings professionals. It's a wholesale market. It's never open to the public. You're looking to promote the stature of the Market to potential exhibitors. You're looking to promote the Market to qualified retail furniture dealers, interior designers, and architects who can come to this event. You're here not to promote any one person's product, but you're here to promote the experience. What we have to do is manage access to the infrastructure. Our promotions cover discount airline arrangements. We started the Market's discount airline arrangements in the early '80s with Eastern Airlines as our first partner. It was our only partner. Then [we had] USAir. Remember, no airplane flies empty into North Carolina during Market. No airplane flies out of North Carolina empty during this market. To convince the airline industry that they should offer discounts during captive audience business periods — peak business periods — was a challenge. Eastern Airlines was willing to do it. Like many things, others followed, and now we have a full complement with the exception of United. United still feels, "Why should we discount it?" They don't have the market share that they used to have. They are not one of our discount partners.
We have to have access to accommodations. We pioneered the use of WATTS line services. The Chamber of Commerce here in High Point has run a private home housing service for nobody knows how long. Just forever. Probably, for fifty years. It wasn't modernized. It wasn't mechanized. It was still kind of hometown. It was done on index cards. We wanted, in this effort, to tie the east and the west together to give people access to accommodations, so we instituted — with the help of the Furniture Market Development committee, which is one of our partners — putting those WATTs lines

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service in place and promoting those. We then assisted in the establishment of a hotel housing service. Where did I go to find out how to do that? [I went] right back over to Winston-Salem. [I] took a group of folks over. This is what we need to do. The International Home Furnishings Center ran the service until this Convention Bureau was formed. Then we moved it here because they get the room tax. That's what they're supported by. We promote access to hotel accommodations. [We tell folks] how to get the Market passes. We do it in the single voice of the sponsor. We provide the information to all of the publications that need it [and to] all the buildings that want to do promotions. It's consistent. You don't promote the Market without our information. You don't make up your own [promotions] because then people get confused.
Critical to the success of the partnership style of business is your ability identify the concern. That's not always a problem, but it can be a concern. Then finding the logical agency to do that project, to pay for that project, and [to] convince them that it's their responsibility. That goes back to what I said about the manufacturers – [they they] didn't want simply to come in here and throw all the money that it would take to shellac these problems. They actually wanted these people to buy in. That's where we are in partnerships and that's how we use an external/internal audience. We will mail about 39,000 of these Friday.
Just for the tape, you're holding up the major new Market promotional.
We have a very precise schedule [with] repetitive behavior every six months. April Markets are promoted beginning the first of February. October Markets are promoted beginning the first of August. We all know when our deadlines are. All of this material is going to a vast external audience, as well with a letter that is called a Market

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Partner letter. That letter explains where we sent the promotion, who's getting it, why they're getting it, and it brings together all of our partners. Here we go. We're ready for the April Market. On this particular poster, we're spotlighting the dates to 2020. What a wonderful way to get our dates out into the corporate community. We're promoting internally and externally. We do it with a variety of publications, all having specific audiences. We track Market's economic impact. We set its dates and publicize that. We do a sheet of facts about the Market. [It lists] everything that we've talked about this morning [and] will fit on an eight and a half by eleven sheet of paper. We distribute thousands of these with updated information every year to the internal and external audience. We have created a language. These people talk like I do when they say what they read off of here because I wrote all of this. It's important that the participants at the Market talk about it in current terms. They get this in a variety of ways, not all subtle. We don't think they'll just read all of these posters. We send them a fact sheet. When they're talking about the Market, "You know, we've got people coming from 105 nations." We even teach them that there are 192 in the world, so we know how far we are from being at the top. That's just good marketing. So promotion and communication, two of those four fit together. You're promoting the event for people who can come. You're promoting the event to people who can't come, but have a part to play and some point of pride in the fact that it's held in this area. They either earn a significant part of their income from the event or some part of their income from the event. We communicate. That language was what was missing in 1977. Nobody was saying the Southern Furniture Market. From Burlington to Lenoir, nobody said that. Now remember, I have said that we often do not say where the Market is held. That's the first

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thing we did in '77 was delete the names Hickory and High Point. They were flash points. They were contentious because they weren't exactly getting along with each other. We just stretched on down the road and adopted Burlington because people were staying in Burlington. We knew that Broyhill and Burnhart and Fairfield and others were showing in Lenoir. We just said, "Take the name out." So [it became] the Southern Furniture Market from Burlington in the east to Lenoir in the west. It worked. It diffused, dampened that contentiousness between High Point and Hickory. Then when that closed down, we started introducing the name of Thomasville more into it. I used to spell them all off from Burlington to Lenoir with showrooms in High Point, Lexington, Thomasville, Hickory, Lenoir, and Statesville. We did it. We'd write it all out because the key to the partnerships was that everyone felt that they were being represented equitably. If that's a part of my legacy, it is that I have dealt with the event and its components all in an equitable way. I'm a very strong believer in integrity. I treat them all the same no matter how large the buildings are. They all get the same information. I don't believe in any kind of convoluted layered system because it will bite you. That's promotion [and] coordination. Our material now is produced is eleven different languages.
When did you first have to do that? Do you remember?
We started with three languages in about 1979. We've always used our government partners to help us determine which languages we should use. We've used the US Department of Commerce, and we've used the North Carolina Department of Commerce. I suspect those first three languages were Italian, Spanish, and probably German. Now we're up to—. Let's see if we can name eleven: English, French, German,

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Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic. Where's one more? One more. Our government partners have told us that the languages need to embrace America's trading partners. Obviously our promotions are designed to go to our trading partners who can come here and buy American products, though the Market's exhibitor base now has ten percent of its exhibitor base as international. It's hard to tell what an international exhibitor is now because Natuzzi — a major manufacturer of leather furniture, in Italy — has an American division. Almost every domestic manufacturer has imported goods in their lines. It gets kind of hard. In communication, we maintain about one hundred specific communication pieces that are designed for targeted distribution, internal/external. They have to do with just all kinds of things. We do about thirty-six mailings a year of targeted material from mailings of as many as 50,000 pieces down to mailings of several hundred. In 1997 — we haven't done our annual report for '98 — we distributed about 200,000 pieces of printed material from our office. Then all of this is reproduced. It's just exponential how many times it gets reproduced. We provide it in disk form, negative form, whatever [form] anybody wants. It's in all the trade publications, but we ourselves distribute about 200,000 pieces. As the Market sponsor, we define the event. We do its statistics. We establish its impact. We do its official closing day statements. [That way] we are portraying the event in its largest terms.
Coordination is one of the most important of the four mandate points. Promotion, coordination, communication, administration. There isn't anything that happens in the Market area—. Again, we're not going to the grocery store, we're going to the capital M Market. We need to know what road construction is going to take place in the Greater Triad area. We need to know if airports are going to be having additional or fewer

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flights. [We need to know about] runway problems because the people who come to this market are coming here as industry professionals. This is learned behavior. They will come their entire career if they stay in the home furnishings industry in a position that requires that they do this. There are many people who have been to a hundred markets. A hundred April and October Markets. These are seasoned veterans who have been coming a long, long time. We have to be sure that their behavior matches the growth here at Market, so that things still are reasonably familiar. We don't change a lot of things. We manage the partnerships to avoid change [and] so that we can refine those things that are going well. We can add things, but we don't make major shifts in coordination, in logistics. The event is so large now that our airline discount arrangements cover flights to Charlotte-Douglas, Raleigh-Durham, Piedmont Triad International, [and] Smith-Reynolds in Winston and Hickory. We're no longer an event that can be handled simply by the infrastructure in the Greater Triad. We need to know on the state level, on the county level, on the city level, on the hotel industry level, [and] the restaurant level what's going on. We need the people that come to Market to have the maximum number of choices in familiar settings, to have this event take place.
When bridges need to be closed, they don't need to be closed during Market. We are on the corporate calendars across North Carolina alerting these people across the state and the nation and the industries when this event's going to take place. You asked me earlier [about] 2020. That's a long way out. We're the largest event in North Carolina, so we are the largest in the Triad. We don't need to share the infrastructure with events that can have their dates whenever they choose. [Here is] a wonderful example of how this partnership works. A number of years ago, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company was ready to

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dedicate its world headquarters. Remember where I came from. I heard and it was going to be right in the middle of Market. I contacted the person at the tobacco company that made that decision, [someone] very high ranking. [His name was] Mr. Charles Wade, the late Mr. Charles Wade. I said, "Mr. Wade, do you know that—." I'm talking to a senior level Reynolds executive, knowing that I want him to change his date but not knowing whether the importance of the Furniture Market has gotten to that level. Mr. Wade said, "What are your dates?" I told him and he said, "Market's too important. We can't conflict with y'all." He said, "I don't know what we were thinking about. Obviously we weren't thinking." He said, "I'll take care of it." We knew that if Reynolds wanted every hotel room in Winston-Salem for the dedication of that world headquarters they could have them. Therein was the partnership, the communication to that external audience and then the coordination. With minor exceptions, this event operates alone during that space of time.
We have taught the federal government, the state government, and the railroads that you can replace railroad overpass bridges in this city. Now we need to say that the importance of the railroad is why this city has its name High Point. It was the highest point on a stretch of the railroad. It ran through on a north-south access for many years, grade level. Then at some point, the city fathers and the community decided, I guess, that they'd stopped for all the trains they were going to stop for. They dug a below grade ditch, which the Darr's see because their wonderful historic house is at the beginning of the railroad's decline into the ditch. There's just bridges all through the town. They were in bad shape and had to be replaced and what do we do? They are the principal areas that we do business. We live through a couple of them, and we managed to move around.

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Then the Main Street one was the next ones and we said, "Nope. You've got to build this bridge between Markets." The city manager, Lewis Price, former city manager, committed his career from that point forward to getting that bridge built. They started tearing that bridge down the Saturday after a Market, and they opened that bridge something close to a Saturday before the next Market, and everybody said it couldn't be done. There is the power of the partnerships with the railroad; the state; with the federal highway; with the city. Now we are actually included in the negotiations for the Department of Transportation's road projects that impact this area. [There is a] very large project going on at Business 85 and NC 68, which would have bottlenecked entry into Thomasville. [Their] contract says they can't work for a week before Market until the week after Market. Just can't do it.
It's the power of the coordination. Everything from fire, traffic, the removal of litter, the removal of recyclable cardboard — hundreds of tons during a Market not going into the landfill – [and] bus transportation. Everything that you can think of that's important to making this event a work, we carry on our shoulders during this event. It's all here. It's a big engine. It's humming. We can hear it and we know it's there. We know when the hum gets louder that we're getting close to pre-Market, which is a month before Market. Then we're close to Market. We carry the weight of all of that. So, part of the Marketing Association's job is to be involved directly in decisions that impact the event.
The coordination depends on a shared vision that we have with the cities. The shared vision that this event is a business event. These people are all dressed up. They're here on business. This is not a carnival atmosphere. It is not a convention that has

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leisure time hooked in it. This is not an event that is a fundraising opportunity for anybody that wants to show up. It's a private event. The shared vision with the municipalities carries the responsibility that we identify, as partners, of how this event is going to look. They pass the laws that enforce it. We were just at city council the other afternoon. We asked for some new laws. We asked for the interpretation of some current laws that were challenging the shared vision of this event.
Can you illustrate, please?
Street food sales. We don't want entrepreneurial street food sales. We don't want entrepreneurial retail sales — people who show up in panel trucks and sell neckties. We don't want that. We do not want recreational vehicles to take up our courtesy parking spaces and use them as overnight accommodations. We had six of them at the last Market. A smart crowd comes to Market. They figure out—. It's just kind of hard to stay ahead of them. We [don't want] mobile showrooms. Market is a combination of a hundred and sixty buildings. The product is in leased space or owned space. We don't want someone coming through town pulling a trailer with iron gates. That [happened at] the last one that came through. They're getting around the system. There's no disciplining it. There's no revenue stream coming into this community because of that. So [we have to deal with] those things.
We only appear before city councils when laws have to be enacted or changed. We always work with the elected officials, with the staffs to make this shared vision take place. Rarely are we in the public forum. I believe in Jeffersonian democracy. I believe that democracy is best handled by a few enlightened people. The way we handle this event, is we have a shared vision. We don't have a big debate. [There are] no big

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committees. We just get it done. The event looks like all of us want it to look like. Dorothy knows from having been here that this event is a very dignified, very professional event. No carnival atmosphere.
Coordination also now includes safety. North Carolina, like any other area, has safety concerns. We are in the central business district. We are the principal tenants of the central business district. These are great, huge, tall buildings — most of which don't have windows. We're very concerned with lighting. If you fly over this city at night, with our city partner, all of the lightbulbs in the central business district — and that's the Market area — now are [lit by] those high sodium peach colored [bulbs that] spread the light out. [This is] probably the best lit city in the state. It's so [well lit] that when we're here doing business [at night], there are no dark spots.
You want folks to move around very comfortably.
No. We don't want to be the victim of opportunistic crime. We don't want to learn how Florida got German tourists to come back. If we have any serious crime at this Market, it can affect our attendance. It can change our reputation, just like that. So, we meet. We have police officers assigned to us at Market. We are listening to the way they direct the tactical plan for this Market. We have officers on the buildings that are armed [and have] radios. We have foot patrol, bicycle patrol, dog patrol, motorcycle patrol, plain clothed officers and uniformed [officers] everywhere, so that we have a safe environment.
The coordination spreads not only into Greater High Point, but it goes over to Greensboro, because people are moving back and forth. They are staying in 15,000 hotel rooms from Burlington to Clemmons – from Burlington west to Clemmons, which takes

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in all of the principal Triad cities on I-40 and 85 back down through Salisbury, Lexington, Thomasville, [and] Asheboro. That's where it spreads. People do stay in Charlotte and Raleigh, but it's generally because they have some personal relationship — free rooms usually are what that is. They move back in on somebody they know. We want everybody to be safe in all of those environments. We have liaison programs with all levels of law enforcement, so that we do not hear [about problems] second and third hand. We can go directly to that law enforcement agency. A law enforcement officer here will be talking to a law enforcement officer there and translating all that to us. The network is very deep. It is all decentralized and we've used that term earlier. It's decentralized, but this partnership thing runs right down a straight line. It doesn't vary. We add partners as personalities change or as our needs change, but we have this consistent policy of having partnerships.
I told you earlier that prior to 1977 I'd never been to Market and I ran the state's largest Convention and Visitor's Bureau that provided, at that time, the principal number of rooms for this event. To make sure the partners understand what we're asking them to do, every Market we have a partnership luncheon every day. We will have up to twelve of our partners come over for lunch. We divide it generally by a category, either Winston—. I find that they way partnerships work is you let your partner identify the power structure. I'll use Winston as an example. The Winston-Salem Convention and Visitor's Bureau is in charge of tourism in that city. We are their principal customer because we're bringing this big event to Triad North Carolina and it's in Winston as well. We will have a day where the Winston-Salem Convention and Visitor's Bureau selects eleven or so people. We see mayors, chairs of county commissioners, chairs of tourism

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development authority, presidents of chambers of commerce, presidents of banks, and the hotel community. You pick eleven or twelve of those people and bring them over. The first thing we'll give you is a parking place, which is probably worth more to them than the lunch is, and a pass to Market. We bring them in. We take them over to the String and Splinter Club, a private club here in the city where we're going to have lunch today. They sit and have a wonderful lunch in a private room, and they hear the partnership story. They hear a brief Market description story. They hear why—.



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This is side B of the second cassette in the Richard Barentine interview, January 28, 1999.
We take our guests on a brief tour of the Market, to one showroom, and we walk them through some of the temporary space. It's access to the Magic Kingdom that those people won't get otherwise. It's in a comfortable environment because they don't know how to get around the event. We take them through. It's a leisurely walk on a set route. We know exactly what we want to show them. We walk from our offices to Market Square. We have several routes we could take. Because we coordinate everything, we rarely have a rain date that we have to encounter, but it humbles us when we do. But, we know how to manage that. We have these eleven or twelve people all of the principal days at Market. We're bringing one hundred to a hundred and ten, fifteen people into the Market. They then understand the importance of the partnership. They are flattered that they have been asked. We've let our partner invite them on our behalf. That makes our partner important in their local communities eyes because they have that discretion as to who they're going to bring. We've had the opportunity to have in a closed room [and] to talk to them about their participation in our event as a city or whatever agency we're dealing with. Then we take them on a tour. It's a multiplier effect.
We do that every Market. We have Winston; we have Thomasville; we have Greensboro. We have all the sheriffs. We have all the fire chiefs. We just have a long list. We ask our partners, "We'd like for you to bring a group." We put together ten or eleven. We're finding now that it's to our advantage some days to mix two partners and have them bring five or six and five or six. Then we can have a dialogue between two

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partners. So, we do that. It's one of the most important things that we do with our partners at Market. It keeps us from having to say, "I'm sorry, you can't come. You know this is a private event." If they are of influence, they need to get hold of a person who we've assigned to make the invitations. They need to convince them. The pass is good for the rest of Market too. It is a pass to Market Square. I suspect that a lot of people do double back on us and come and we don't mind that. I remember from '77 thinking, why in this world have we never been invited? We are a principal player and now you're in trouble, and the reason you're in trouble is because you never saw the need or didn't have the facility. They saw the need. They didn't have the facility to do it. Well, you asked me that. I think that covers promotion and coordination and communication and there's some mix over between that.
Administration—. We have all the legal terms that you need to run a North Carolina corporation. We are a non-profit organization. We own the worldwide trademark of the name. We are the structured sponsor of the Market and not just a philosophical sponsor as we probably started out being. All of that legal structure has been added since 1977. Obviously, we've changed the name, so we've had to change some of that. We have seen the membership of the marketing association increase over the years because the industry has changed. There was still an interest that the group be kept small, so that it could make policy decisions. The Marketing Association members were never going to make a decision that was going to harm the event. They were the principal players. All the smaller players were the beneficiaries of noblisse oblige. We understood that you can't make decisions in large groups and then be satisfied with the

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decision that you made. We did see the complexion and configuration of the Marketing Association membership change because the industry changed.
We then realized that it was time for us to look at the possibility of a merger with the American Furniture Manufacturer's Association. The American Furniture Manufacturer's Association is the successor to the Southern Furniture Manufacturer's Association. That same group of people that founded the Southern Furniture Market founded the Furniture Factories Marketing Association. It's all the same group of people. We shared most of the same leadership members. We tried to be careful that we didn't have the same president at the same time, though we did a couple of times. It was okay, but it was too much work to ask somebody to do. But, I had made a career decision early in my life that age fifty-five, I would retire. It didn't matter if I was having a good time. I would retire. In February of 1999, I will be fifty-five years old. My plans for retirement have been in place for a long time. The officers of the Marketing Association have known about my intent to retire for more than five years — possibly longer than that. The goal was to let the Market know that I was going to be leaving, so that all that we had accomplished together could have a long transition and that any changes that those leaders felt should be made, we could plan for.
As we got closer, we then started looking at the feasibility of merging with the American Furniture Manufacturer's Association. We bring a large volume of extremely valuable intellectual property to the table. We own the name of this event. We bring in our by-laws the ability to have members from all over the world. The American Furniture Manufacturer's Association is limited to America, not Canada, not Mexico—
The States.

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Just the States. We bring the ability to have members from accessories, lighting, bedding and rugs. They can only have furniture manufacturers. What we're looking at is two industry groups. One [is] the industry trade association [which is a] broad umbrella that deals with them on all of those things. It also deals with the sponsor of their market and deals only with their Market and bringing those together in a wholly owned subsidiary situation where we stand alone. An example would be La-Z-Boy owns Kincaid, but Kincaid operates as an independent company. AFMA on January 1st of '99, owns the Marketing Association. We're a stand alone, wholly owned subsidiary. We own our own intellectual property, and we conduct business as we have in the past. It is not necessarily because I'm retiring, but it is certainly a good time to make those kind of decisions.
I'm sorry what was the effective date?
January 1st of '99, it is effective. It has been my style to leave at the peak of my influence. I left Winston. I'm very much in control of my life. So, at age fifty-five, the transition is in place. My successor was named six months ago. Nancy High will succeed me. She is now our executive director, a title we created so she could have a title. The letter that's with the poster has all of the new board [members] and her name. On July 31, I will retire. She will immediately become the chief executive officer. She will be, as I am now, a corporate vice president of the American Furniture Manufacturer's Association and chief executive officer of the Marketing Association. She will also carry those two titles when I retire. So, that answers your question about how our complexion has changed the number of people we represent.

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Remember that noblisse oblige, on the part of the people who started this Market and who sustained it and controlled it, has always been that it is for the greater good of all who participate at the event. Our non-profit IRS status—. We are probably a perfect model for a non-profit organization because in all of our promotion, you don't see the names of the members. You see the names of our officers and boards. [During] our previous life before AFMA, we had all of our members down the side of the corporate stationary. That's the only place you see it. We have always taken the high road. [We've] seen [the Market] in the big picture and promoted for the greater good. The merger is a comfortable relationship. It's important that it's being done while I'm here so that people who can't write our job description, don't write it. I had a wonderful conversation with my friend and former boss and mentor, Bob Spilman, the other day. He's retired from Bassett now. He said, " I Thought you'd retired." "No sir. I'm not retired until July 31st." "Why'd you announce it so early?" "I announced it so early so that when I leave, they can't say "Did they finally fire him or did he leave on his own?" He said, "You know, you don't miss a thing do you?" "No I don't."
Let me asked you to reach back for some real simple information. What is your recollection of the operating budget to do the work you had to do in '77? How [did] that number moved up through [to] the present? I'm trying to get a handle on, frankly, how you managed to get all this work done. I still don't quite myself have a good feel for, or just even handling [of], for example, one of these mailings. How do you pull that off and how much money is involved?
The first budget in '77, as I recall, was $50,000.
Do your members contribute in proportion to revenues or something?

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The manufacturing members [contribute] on a dues basis [based] on sales volume. The real estate developments — only the principal multi-tenant buildings — [contribute based] on square footage. We then have gone back to our partners who get the room tax — Burlington, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Thomasville, High Point. [We have gone back] to their grants program and said, "Okay. Anything bigger in your town than us? We need some help. Don't think that just because we are so big, you don't need to invest in our success." So, we receive a number of grants. Our budget for '98 — just finished '98 — was probably around $275,000, which isn't anything. It is not a big budget. I am influenced by Depression era parents. I came through the time at the Chamber of Commerce in Winston-Salem before room tax where we had to be terribly creative. We had to make every bit of the little bit of money we could get our hands on do the job. That's what they wanted when they hired me here at Market. We certainly look like a much larger organization than we are. We certainly have a printed image, a body of work, that is far exceeds what you would think a small staff could generate. It is because I can do these things. These poster promotions fall out of my head. They fall out of my head when I'm riding some place. These are easy for me to do.
Let me just say for the tape, we're in the boardroom where the posters covering many years of the Association's work are on the walls.
Because of partnerships, we can pull from our partners the visual images that we need to promote this event. Being in a box, you know you're going to promote to a certain crowd, but you also know you can't use the products that are currently shown at the Market. Knowing that, you just go beyond that. I will admit that some of them are a little more sophisticated than some of the people who get them. Some of them aren't well

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understood. The stretch might be a little far for some of them. I have had some of the exhibitors at Market suggest that their product should be on these posters or at the very least, one of their tractor-trailers with their name on it. That's just not quite my shared vision of the event. Fortunately, the combination of interests and perhaps talents that I bring to this job include the ability to produce this material [and] to wear a wide variety of hats from official spokesperson of the Market, [to] statistician, [to] historian. All of these things fit comfortably on my shoulders. When I announced that I was leaving, the question that those that were going to make decisions was, "You have to pick out the strengths that you think you bring to this job and that we identified that you bring to this job. We've got to find that kind of person." We have. But yes, they've gotten a bargain. They've gotten a real bargain in twenty-two years. They look good. I've made them look good. They're a good product. They're honorable. They're honorable people, and the event is easy to promote, but they've had a bargain.
I've got to ask you another question. Did I cut you off on what you'd like to add? I'm very much interested in learning about—. Think back across this span of time now and trace out the most interesting parts of the story of how more and more parts of the world are a part of this experience here at Market.
Well, as we mentioned earlier, in '77 we had a thousand international visitors from 30 countries. If we look back, the majority of those people would've been from Canada. Still, [we had] thirty countries. Last year we had 10,300, I believe, international people from 105 nations of the worlds — 192 nations.
I note that from the '87 to '97 figures, it's not quite half but it's almost half the growth in the last decade of attendance. I guess [that] suggests that you pretty much had

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everybody coming domestically. Those industries have expanded. They send slightly larger staffs, but now you're really reaching out to the world.
That's where they're coming from. It's coming from our trading partners. The furniture is produced in ninety of the one hundred counties in North Carolina. That statistic comes to us from North Carolina State [University] – [from] their furniture manufacturing curriculum, [headed by] Dr. Tom Culbreth. I didn't realize that we had so much furniture manufactured in the state. Because of that, we've been able to attract so many people. The growth in international—. We've branched out our partnerships to include the North Carolina Department of Commerce. Most of the colleges and universities now have some sort of international something that we're involved in. We've asked our government partners to get busy on our behalf. All of our eleven language brochures are in all of the embassies of the United States. All of our information is in the offices of the state of North Carolina in Dubai, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Mexico City, and Toronto. The North Carolina Furniture Export office is located here. It's a branch of state government. It's because of Market's influence and the furniture industry's influence in the ninety counties, that the state has [been] identified.
I met yesterday with the new director of the international division. We talked about this as a win-win for us and for government. We're going to have this event. We're going to have 105 nations here. We're going to have 10,000 plus people from outside the country. What you need to do, is you need to have the managers of the offices soliciting qualified attendants, bringing groups over, [and] answering questions about the event. Anywhere there's a furniture fair in the world — Cologne, Tokyo, Guadalajara, Milan — you ought to have a pavilion there spotlighting furniture made from the United States.

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Then when prospective qualified buyers see this tiny increment, you need to say, "Every April [and] every October, you can see 720,000 square meters of that furniture." It's a no-brainer. It makes us all look good. It works beautifully.
We had the foundation because we had partnerships with the state government and with the US Department of Commerce. We have had cooperative projects since '77 with those branches of government. Again, I brought that with me from my background because I already knew what those people did. We provide the air tickets for the managers of the offices of the state of North Carolina to come to this market every six months. We earn certificates good for travel because of the airline discount program we have. As our partner, we have told the North Carolina Department of Commerce [that] we'll bring the managers of all those officers to this event. We want them here not later than Wednesday, before it opens, and they cannot go home before [the] Wednesday of the next week. We want them here working. We want them to bring people. We want to be able to tell people from Argentina that there is a trade specialist from the state of North Carolina that's here that covers Argentina. Here's where you find them. Or, that that person has already been contacted by a group of buyers and they've said, "We're going to North Carolina. I'm going to be there. I'll meet you. In fact, tell me what kind of product you want and we'll set your appointments for you." So, we've taken the sting out of the long trip and taken the mystery out. That works very well.
We will continue to grow [internationally, but the Market's backbone is its domestic attendants. Take 10,300 out of 71 and you've got the majority of the people coming to this event are from the United States. This Market's promotion continues a trend of domestic promotion as well as international promotion. We know who's

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qualified to come, so we're going to send information to those people. We have vast databases that can tell us who's been here and who needs to be here. They all get this material. For this Market, we're sending about 6,000 of our poster promotion pieces to qualified buying groups in Georgia, Maryland, North and South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. What we're trying to do is strengthen the attendance from those nearby states. We have plenty of attendants, but there are a lot of prospects from up there — new businesses that have opened that need to come. We also sent prospects. We sent a thousand of these posters to new prospects in Canada, Mexico, Asia, the Near East, Europe, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, South America, and Central America. Now remember, our list across the world is smaller than our list in the United States, so a thousand is a significant number of prospects. We mail many thousands — I guess probably about 10,000 — to the participants that already come.
With our partners in North Carolina having six or seven offices, they're our offices. Those people work for us. We fly them over here. We fly them in the big seats, too. You know they're rested when they get here. They know they're going to fly first class when they go back. The state doesn't fly them first class, but we do. They work hard while they're here, and it's an easy win because we've got the audience. We've got the product. We've got the event. All they have to do is kind of work a little. Makes them look real good. The embassies around the world are hungry for this information, and the fact that it's in eleven language thrills the people in the world that they can pick up a brochure and be greeted in their language. Not [just] "hello," but a description of the event in five or six sentences. Then we switch to English, because English is the language of business in the world.

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We're going to grow internationally. We're going to continue to grow domestically. Our categories continue to add strength. [We have] more rugs, more bedding, more lighting, and more accessories. Case goods and upholstery are still the backbone of the Market. That's what started it. That's what carries it. I'm always asked, "Is the Market going to go away?" This Market is not going anywhere else as an event in the world. We're larger than the next four largest markets — Cologne, Tokyo, Milan and Guadalajara. All combined, we're larger than those. There is no venue in the world that can hold this market. We use 160 buildings. What can happen to the Market is that it can no longer fill all of the needs that justify its expense.
Market has a tremendous number of functions. It's product presentation. It is staff training. All of the sales representatives have to come to this market so they get sales training every six months. It's sales and promotion. It's photography. After the showrooms close, the photography studios sweep in and start photographing the product and take it to their photography studios, maybe, and photograph all night so that the catalogue pages, the slicks, the covers for magazines are all there. It's a time when 600 editors come to Market and work on editorial coverage. It's not by coincidence that you pick up a magazine and somebody's new line of furniture is being talked about. That's a lot of that work's done here at Market. The photography on the covers and on the insides of many of the magazines, that photography is taken in these showrooms. It's important to note that the showrooms are fully accessorized. Every detail [is included]. It's like the most beautiful room you would ever want to live in. Depending on the price of the furniture, the presentations change. The value added has to allow for the elaborateness of the presentation. It's not just stacked up. It's just gorgeous. It's circuitous, so you'll slow

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down and look at the product. All of that is all designed so that the buyer and the manufacturer have this profitable and pleasant relationship. As long as all of those functions take place, then we think Market's root system is strong enough to sustain it.
Now, [here's] another example of a function at Market that you wouldn't even think about. Market's stature made the locating of the major industry trade associations into this area imperative. Now all the trade associations that serve this industry in a principal way — sales representatives, manufacturing, interior design, furniture designers, retailers — they're all located here. Twice a year their members and officers are at this event, so they can maximize that experience and have small meetings. [This is] not their fun meeting, where they go off to Bermuda or some place. [These are] business meetings, board meetings, executive committee meetings, seminars. That can all be done here, so retailers are thinking, "I'm a member of the National Home Furnishings Association, so I'll go to Las Vegas, but we can do this in April. We can do the seminar. I'm going to be there anyway." We have helped to create the root system. The cities, particularly High Point and Thomasville—. The cities and the county economic development entities very much want us as a partner because they want us to help them identify the next corporate headquarters that can locate here. They don't have to be in High Point. Sealy just came down from Cleveland, Ohio to Randolph County. Klaussner is in Asheboro. If we can get a number of corporate headquarters located here, then there is no more important place in the furniture industry than North Carolina. Their corporate headquarters is here. Their Market showroom is here. Their manufacturing can be any place in the world they want it to be. That [is what] we think is going to make Market remain strong. It's all up to the manufacturers and the buyers.

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Are we challenged by electronics? Are we challenged by new technology? I would suspect in 1909 we were challenged by technology. We certainly have adopted and adapted to telephones and airplanes and everything that has come along. The new technology is just a new way for us to do business, but maybe not a thereat. We don't see it as a threat. We've embraced the technology. The industry itself is often not on the cutting edge of technology. A lot of companies still are not operating with email and websites. It'll come along, but the whole world is not on the cutting edge. I think that they'll celebrate their hundredth anniversary, and then I think they'll have to set some more dates because they've just got them set through 2020.
Let me take note of the fact, of course as you've mentioned, the Southern Furniture Market name gave way in '89. That seems [like] an extra reminder to ask a question that I'd like to pose. You've been here a good long span of time. You're a native of Memphis. What's your sense of the persistence or not of a regional distinctiveness, here in North Carolina in a business sense — in a business environment?
I think that last week's US News and World Report had an article on the resurgence of regional excellence. I think that we probably moved away from seeing ourselves as so different from other regions of the nation. Actually, all we do is speak the language a little differently. We don't really necessarily think in business terms that differently. I think the Market with 2400 exhibitors from around the world is a very diverse group, but they're all business people. We have some different people, so we have some different kind of accents. I don't think we see ourselves regionally any more. It's kind of hard to be the largest in the world and think regionally. I will agree that the old name regionalized us. We needed to change it. I don't think that as much global

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business as we're doing, as much as we touch, we have participants from each of the fifty states. I don't think that because we stay in the big picture and on the high road or becaues we're from here or near here and might have a different accent, that we're seen as any different. I think that maybe the nation's outgrown that. I have a dead ringer southern accent. It has served me well. I wouldn't change it. It didn't matter what they changed the name to, I was going to describe it with a southern accent.
But you think it probably won't matter so much to Nancy High or Nancy High's successor at some long point down the road?
No. We've really don't think of it. I'm trying to think of some of the principles. Well, here's the best example: Merchandise Mart Properties of Chicago, a diverse group of entrepreneurs purchasing a million plus square feet of the Market's eight million. Ownership is no longer local in this Market. The International Home Furnishing Center is a stock held corporation owned by Bassett, Lane, Jefferson Standard and some other principal stockowners. They bring diversity to it. They bring industry ownership. Other buildings are not owned locally. I think that raises the event away from thinking of itself as local. It will never take away the parochial feeling that the community must have. It must have it. If it ever does away with its part of the ownership, we can't survive because we're bringing seventy-one plus thousand into a city of 77,000. We increase the size of the city. We double it twice a year. We do it with great ease, great charm and great dignity because we do it every six months. We do it with these communities as well.
There's one thing we haven't said about my life. I would be remiss if I didn't say that I have had the opportunity to own one of North Carolina's significant historic homes.

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It is in Lexington, North Carolina. It is on the National Register of Historic Places under protection by the covenants of the Preservation Foundation of North Carolina. Its name is the Homestead. It was built in 1834. It's a spectacular Greek revival home. I have lived in the house—. I bought it from the great granddaughter of the man who built it. It had been the principal residence of the Holts, the Hunts, the Mountcastles, and the McKays. I have fully restored it. It's been a dream come true for me, as a student of history, to own an antebellum house. I lived in a house in Winston-Salem that was built in 1929. I thought that was old, but 1834 is quite old. But, in my reinvented self at fifty-five, I am leaving the Homestead and moving to Blowing Rock. I have a home in Blowing Rock. As Mr. Jefferson — that's not the first time you've heard me talk about Mr. Jefferson — said, "My friends, my family, my books and my farm will sustain me the rest of my life." So, last year I bought my farm in Ashe County. I expect for my family, my friends, my books and my farm to sustain me beyond July 31st, 1999.
I want to really thank you for devoting so much of your time and your attention to this, so we could get such a fine and serious contribution to the archives. Thank you.
For those who will hear this in the future, those of us who are here have had a good life. North Carolina has been good to us. This Market has been good. It has no hidden agenda. It is a good news story. You may think that we stumbled, but we held onto a long tradition that the event, being ninety years old, has. If you listen to this and the event's still here, it will only have survived if you held onto the same traditions.
Any last thoughts, Dorothy?

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I think building upon assets, like you were talking about. Thank you so much. It's been a fascinating story. I've enjoyed listening to it.
Thank you.