HIGH POINT — Paul Hunt Broyhill grew the company his father and uncle started into one of the largest furniture companies in the world, but he was best known within the industry for his innovations — covering such diverse areas as executive training, customer relations and marketing via TV game shows.
And he was revered in his hometown of Lenoir for his treatment of employees.
Broyhill, 97, past chairman of Broyhill Furniture Industries, passed away Tuesday night after a period of declining health. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.
Broyhill was the son of J.E. Broyhill, who with his brother T.H. Broyhill started what became Broyhill Furniture. At its peak in the 1970s, under Paul Broyhill’s leadership, the company had 20 factories and employed about 7,500 people.
Many who knew Broyhill describe him as a visionary, but few felt it as tangibly as Steve Pond, the founding publisher of Furniture Today, a publication dedicated to the furniture industry. Pond went to see Broyhill in Lenoir in 1976 to talk about Pond’s idea for starting Furniture Today. Pond, who had yet to quit his job to even begin work to begin the publication, was blown away by Broyhill’s response.
“Paul immediately grasped the idea,” told Pond the industry needed it and offered on the spot to buy subscriptions for all 2,000 of his company’s customers, Pond said. “I got handed a check for $12,000 for an idea.”
Broyhill also was a driving force for the industry — consisting of hundreds of mostly small companies but collectively as large as a major corporation — establishing a permanent presence in Washington, D.C., to protect against legislation that could harm it.
“Everything prior to that had been sort of episodic,” Pond said.
And Broyhill regarded the retailers who were his customers as important partners to be listened to and treated well, a view not broadly held at the time, said Alan Cole, who started with the company as a young executive and rose to become a vice president and the general manager of the upholstery division before moving to Hooker Furniture, where he retired as president.
“I was amazed at how much money he was willing to invest in customer service,” Cole said. “One of the quickest ways to raise his ire” was to treat one of those retailers poorly.
Paul Broyhill told the Lenoir News-Topic in a 2018 interview that the point was to build relationships with buyers. He would hire people and train them extensively in how to grow relationships.
“Furniture is about people,” he said. “My dad and I both believed in hiring and training — that was big for us, training people.”
The company’s internal “Broyhill University” trained dozens of executives who went on to become leaders not only within Broyhill Furniture but throughout the industry, Cole said.
“Broyhill was a unique company largely because of Paul’s influence. They were big believers in hiring the best people they could, training them” and letting them do their jobs, he said. “Not only did you learn what to do but why to do it.”
Jerry Epperson, a leading furniture expert and managing director of the Mann, Armistead & Epperson Ltd. investment bank, said Broyhill’s desire to surround himself with strong executives was unusual.
“A lot of companies of that time had one strong individual” who made the decisions independently, he said. “Paul wanted everyone to give their input.”
The American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame announced in May that it had renamed its annual awards for emerging leaders for Paul Broyhill in part because of his history of nurturing the industry’s new leaders.
The Broyhill family sold the company in 1980 to Interco. Paul Broyhill stayed on as CEO for five years, stepping down in 1985 after Interco started making cuts he didn’t agree with, he told the News-Topic in 2018.
“They looked at it and figured out how to make more of a profit by cutting costs, ... including cutting management,” Broyhill said.
As he watched the company devolve, Broyhill tried to advise the new leaders that management was key, and cuts wouldn’t always work, but no one listened, he said.
Interco entered bankruptcy protection in the early 1990s to fend off a takeover and emerged as Furniture Brands International. Furniture Brands declared bankruptcy in 2013 and its assets were bought by a private-equity firm, which organized them as Heritage Home Group, which itself declared bankruptcy five years later. The only part of Broyhill Furniture that found a buyer in the court auction was the name itself, which wound up in the possession of Big Lots.
Broyhill said in the 2018 interview that what remained of the company to him was exemplified by what he encountered on everyday trips out to lunch or the grocery store. Everywhere, he still constantly heard stories of the influence the company had on thousands of local families.
That is the legacy he wanted Broyhill Furniture to be remembered for.
“We had good people and were good to people,” he said. ”That combination made the company stand out.”
HIGH POINT — High Point University is moving its annual Veterans Day Celebration to its new arena, where plans call for the event to have a new feature: a bald eagle soaring above the crowd.
The eagle also will be available for veterans to have their pictures taken with it, a university press release said.
The 11th annual Veterans Day Celebration is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 11, in the newly opened Nido and Mariana Qubein Arena and Conference Center at the corner of University Parkway and Lexington Avenue.
The event is open to all veterans and community members. To preregister, visit www.highpoint.edu/veteransday or call Campus Concierge at 336-841-4636.
The program will include a complimentary breakfast and a patriotic salute and will recognize students leading initiatives to support veterans. The N.C. Brass Band and the HPU Chamber Singers will provide patriotic music. HPU students will honor veterans with a celebratory welcome and a special gift.
As is tradition at the annual event, HPU will continue to donate about 100 American flags to local nonprofits, schools and government buildings.
Retired Col. Vance Cryer, the senior manager for Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, will speak. During Cryer’s 27 years of service in the Marine Corps, he deployed to the Arabian Gulf on six rotations and was a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, 2004 and 2005. Col. Cryer was announced as the 2019 Horatio Alger Award recipient, recognizing his patriotism, positive influence and care for others.
THOMASVILLE — Voters will have the chance to meet and hear from candidates for mayor and Thomasville City Council during an event next week organized by the Thomasville Area Chamber of Commerce.
The campaign meet-and-greet will take place at 6 p.m. Oct. 14 at the Ball Park Community Center at 7003 Ball Park Road.
There are 16 candidates running for mayor and council in the Nov. 2 general election, among the largest number of incumbents and challengers to seek office in one year in Thomasville’s history.
Councilman Joe Leonard is running against Mayor Raleigh York Jr. in a two-man race for Thomasville’s top elected post.
Three incumbents and 11 challengers are running for the seven council seats. The Thomasville City Council candidates are incumbents Ronald S. Bratton, Wendy Bryant Sellars and D. Hunter Thrift. The challengers are Ronald W. Fowler, Randy Hersom, Doug Hunt, JacQuez Johnson, Eric Kuppel, Katrina Milburn, Lisa Shell, Jeannette Shepherd, Dee Stokes, Payton Williams and Johnny West.
Council members Jane Murphy, Neal Grimes and Scott Styers aren’t seeking reelection.
Thomasville Area Chamber of Commerce President Keith Tobin said the large number of candidates seeking local office spurred the group to organize the event.
“We felt like because we had so many candidates out there we needed to get people in front of them,” Tobin said.
The format for the event will involve each candidate giving a four-minute presentation to the audience. After all candidates have spoken, they will be available for one-on-one questions and conversations with voters.
“We want to give the candidates a chance to share their vision for our community,” Tobin told The High Point Enterprise. “It’s a presentation by our candidates, and a meet-and-greet afterwards.”
Tobin said he hopes the campaign event will allow Thomasville voters to gather information and impressions before going to the polls.
“I hope they are educated on who the candidates are,” he said. “You see candidate signs out there and think, ‘Who is that person?’ Hopefully, through the candidate meet-and-greet, people will learn what the candidates stand for and make an educated vote when they go out to the polls.”
For more information call the Thomasville Area Chamber of Commerce at 336-475-6134.
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