Plans are shaping up for the much-needed industry event
The furniture industry “needs a market, and our city needs a market,” Tammy Nagem said during a webinar Aug. 26.
Making that happen safely as soon as October certainly poses challenges. It will depend on state and local cooperation, webinar panelists agreed.
Nagem is chief operating officer for the High Point Market Authority. Its plans include health screenings, social distancing, masks, less food and beverage service and more cleaning, among many other precautions against coronavirus transmission. But, because participants will seek more entertainment and hospitality options outside the market, area businesses also must do their part.
The webinar was presented by High Point Discovered, which convened representatives of the medical, hospitality and business communities.
Nagem outlined the previously announced market schedule: nine days – Oct. 13-21 – instead of the usual five. It will be broken into three, three-day segments. Buyers should attend one, based on their location. This will significantly reduce the number of people at market each day. In addition, there won’t be international attendees.
Most passes will be mailed ahead of time
Market passes will be mailed to as many attendees as possible in advance. No large gatherings will take place at market. (The Home Furnishings Association won’t hold seminars in its Resource Center.) The Authority encourages exhibitors to see customers by appointment only. Numbers of people inside each showroom should be limited appropriately, following state and federal guidelines.
Local hospital staff will conduct health screenings and temperature checks at the entrances to the major showroom buildings. Individuals who clear the health checks will be issued wristbands. These will come in a different color each day and will allow the wearer to skip the health check at the next building he or she enters. Individuals who exhibit symptoms will be advised to self-quarantine or seek medical care.
Masks will be required in the market area, outdoors as well as inside all buildings. Buses and vans will operate at reduced capacity. Riders will be required to wear masks. There will be frequent cleaning. Although catering and indoor food service will be limited, there will be food trucks for outdoor dining.
“I’m impressed with the plans put forward so far,” said Dr. James Hoekstra, president of the High Point Medical Center. Those plans await approval from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, however.
‘Make guests feel welcome and safe’
The greater concern, Hoekstra said, will be whether visitors see and adhere to safe practices in the private homes and hotels that house them, restaurants where they eat or pick up food and other places where they might gather.
David Nicoletta, owner of Giannos, a popular Italian restaurant, said the October market will resemble those of 10 or more years ago – before food was served everywhere at the market. Local eateries hope for a windfall. But there’s a caveat.
“Hospitality is about how we make our guests feel,” Nicoletta said. “Above all else, let’s exhibit our Southern hospitality and make them feel welcome and safe when they come to High Point.”
Melody Burnett, president of Visit High Point, touted a state initiative called Count on Me NC. Businesses complete a course to earn a certificate attesting to their safe practices.
“I highly, highly recommend it,” Nicoletta said. “Not just for restaurants but for all businesses.”
Private homes must play an important role
Residents who rent their homes to market guests have the same obligations, said Patti Holtzman, owner of Holtzman Market Rentals. “The homeowner situation is going to be very good,” Holtzman said, indicating that most who have rented their homes in the past are continuing – and more are interested.
Deep, thorough cleaning is necessary before guests move in and again before residents return, Holtzman said. She recommends no personal contact between owners and guests, and no cleaning during guests’ stays so that no one but the guests enter the home.
Patrick Chapin, president and CEO of Business High Point, added perspective to the problem of bringing thousands of visitors to a small city for a nine-day business event. With the market’s 12 million square feet of showroom space spread across 180 buildings, “that’s actually less people per square foot than are at Home Depot right now,” he said.
“We’ve got plenty of room,” Nagem added.
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