12 year-old Tu Sen arrived in America from a Thailand refugee camp in 1986, clutching her treasured possessions wrapped in a cardboard box. Eventually settling in High Point, North Carolina, Tu worked in her family’s restaurant for 19 years before opening her own eatery, 98 Asian Bistro, five years ago. Correspondent Tom Wilmer visits with Tu Sen and meets with Patrick Chapin, CEO of High Point Chamber of Commerce, about the reinvention of downtown High Point.
At one time, 60% of all furniture made in America was produced within a 150-mile-radius of High Point. Even though most manufacturers are now based overseas, the town remains an international center, where designers from around the globe come together for the twice-annual High Point Furniture Market, attracting more than 75,000 visitors with an economic impact of $6 billion per year, according to the Chamber. High-end designers have purchased virtually all of the buildings in the heart of downtown for use as designer showcase venues.
Even the old post office has been converted to a showroom. The downside of the designers’ presence is that High Point’s downtown buildings are shuttered for eleven-and-a-half-months of the year. But High Point does remain very much as the Furniture Capital of America with more than 50 showrooms, anchored by Furniture Land South--with 1.3 million Square-feet of showroom space open to the public.
Town elders are presently in the midst of reinventing the heart of downtown High Point through urban renewal and redevelopment projects that include new restaurants, bars, shops, and incubator start-ups throughout the urban core fringes.
You are invited to subscribe to the Lowell Thomas Award-winning travel show podcast, Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, featured on the NPR Podcast Directory, Apple Podcast, the NPR One App & Stitcher.com. Twitter: TomCWilmer. Instagram: Thomas.Wilmer. Member of the National Press Club in Washington D.C. Underwriting support provided by the Society of St. Vincent De Paul.