Happy birthday, Big Chair

Happy birthday, Big Chair

The big chair in Thomasville is a replica of a Duncan Phyfe chair. Photo: Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images

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Today in 1951: Workers placed the cornerstone of the 30-foot tall “World’s Largest Chair” in Thomasville, about an hour north of Charlotte.

Why it matters: It’s a really big chair. “Fit for Paul Bunyan,” actually.

  • Oh, you want more? It’s a symbol of one of North Carolina’s vital 20th century industries, which in its heyday employed about 90,000 people here.
  • And the industry’s actually rebounded some during the pandemic.

Driving the news: N.C. furniture manufacturers have seen orders roll in over the past two years as people stuck at home upgraded their furniture, then supply chain issues caused delays on imports from China and Southeast Asia.

  • The price of living room, kitchen and dining room furniture shot up 14.1% from November 2020 to November 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The big picture: Some old-timers might see it as poetic justice — North Carolina lost much of its manufacturing in the 1990s and 2000s to the same areas of the world that struggle to ship goods here now.

  • Before that, about 60% of the furniture made in the U.S. was produced within 200 miles of High Point and Thomasville.

Yes, but: Manufacturers see the resurgence as temporary, the New York Times reported recently. (Check out the terrific photos from Charlotte-based photographer Travis Dove.)

  • Most don’t want to staff up too much, for fear that the orders will just go overseas again.

If you’re hunting N.C. furniture, here are some options: Lexington Home Brands, Jessica Charles, Century Furniture, Hancock & Moore, Highland House, Taylor King, Hickory Chair, Maitland Smith. You can find many of these at Furnitureland South in High Point.

Back to the big chair: It’s not made of wood, sorry. It has a steel frame that’s covered in cement and granite, built to withstand the weather and, it turns out, global economic winds.

Location: Main Street and Highway 109 in Thomasville.

The bottom line: N.C. = blessed with big furniture.

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