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Economic history : Going to market



Economic History: Going to Market- Region Focus, Summer 2007 34 R e g i o n F o c u s • S u m m e r 2 0 0 7 ECONOMICHISTORY PH OT OG RA PH Y: H IG H PO IN T M AR KE T AU TH OR IT Y F urnitureland, U.S.A.” isn’t atheme park, though within itsconfines you can find “the world’s largest chair” and two larger- than-life dressers, each built onto the edifice of a building. Rather, it’s a region in the Piedmont of North Carolina and Virginia that once produced more than half of the nation’s wooden bedroom and dining room furniture. Using a series of interconnected highways roughly shaped like a figure eight, a retailer looking for the latest home furnishings could visit dozens of North Carolina manufacturers in small towns whose names are synony- mous with high-quality furniture — Lexington, Thomasville, Hickory, Drexel, Lenoir, and High Point, where a trade show has been held since 1909. The High Point Market transforms every nook and cranny of the city for one week every spring and fall. Furniture makers exhibit their latest offerings in 12 million square feet of showrooms scattered throughout downtown. Last March, an estimated 85,700 buyers and sellers from around the world came to High Point, almost doubling the city’s estimated popula- tion of about 97,800. The High Point Market also brings money — an estimated $1 billion — into the regional economy annually. About two-thirds of that money is spent on the construction, renova- tion, and decoration of furniture showrooms. The remainder goes to local restaurants, hotels, retailers, and transportation providers. Why do so many people cram into this small city twice a year? When Southern manufacturers became prominent players in the furniture industry after World War II, their regional market was located in High Point because it provided a central place for buyers right in their backyard. “It was a market of conven- ience for manufacturers,” says Wallace “Jerry” Epperson Jr., furniture analyst

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