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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Richard Barentine, January 28, 1999. Interview I-0068. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Eroding regional identity, but still some left

Barrentine believes that the Market does not have a regional identity, and that changing the Market's name may have erased what little identity it had left by the 1980s. But the event must respect the "parochial feeling" of the community where it takes place.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Richard Barentine, January 28, 1999. Interview I-0068. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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JM: 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? RB: 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 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. JM: 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? RB: 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.