Seventy-five thousand attendees. Two thousand exhibitors. More than 12 million square feet of show space. To state the obvious: High Point Market is big. In recent years, the biannual trade show has only gotten bigger as its audience has swelled beyond furniture industry pros to include thousands of interior designers. For the most part, brands are trying to get in, not out. This spring, however, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams is doing just that. For the first time since launching three decades ago, the home furnishings brand won’t be showing its new pieces in North Carolina.
Which is not to say it won’t be showing at all. Instead, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams will welcome visitors to an immersive three-day pop-up in Brooklyn’s Industry City in early April, just weeks before High Point Spring Market.
The move is part of a larger plan that has been in the works for a while, says CEO Allison O’Connor, who joined the company in June 2019. “We started thinking about this last summer as we were approaching Market in October—thinking about different ways to present the brand,” she tells Business of Home. “We decided to take this opportunity forward in a very exciting new way.”
Why Brooklyn? The location is the nexus of the many stakeholders the brand hopes to attract to view its new collection, including press, retail partners, contract and hospitality firms, and residential design firms that may not include High Point in their yearly calendar of design destinations.
“It’s also the heartland of what’s happening in design, and is a beautiful environment where we can show our collection as people look out over the water at the Statue of Liberty,” says O’Connor. “We wanted to focus on the different channels of business we have and speak to them on a personal level. The genesis of this [shift] was that we felt we weren’t including as many partners as we could. This allows us to not only continue our partnerships with existing folks, but to open up for a much larger audience.”
In addition to showcasing its latest collection, the company will also partner with a local environmental project in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. “We are and have long been committed to sustainability,” says O’Connor. “We’ll be doing a lot of different activations and content related to that throughout the month, and wanted to clearly state our belief in the importance of sustainability.”
It’s worth noting that a major brand leaving High Point is an extremely rare occurrence—especially one with such a deep history with the Market. Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams debuted DesignLine, their inaugural collection of upholstered dining chairs, many in bold floral prints, at High Point’s Spring Market in 1989. The line would eventually become their eponymous design company.
Since 1994, the company has shown its lines at Market in a whitewashed former paddleball manufacturing facility on East Grimes Avenue in High Point. But come April, the showroom will be dark—or, even more likely, visitors will find a new brand inside.
The company is looking for a new tenant to fill the Grimes showroom space. “The dynamics of business have changed and we no longer need that kind of space in High Point,” says Gold. “If or when we do come back to Market, it will be in a different way. We used to sell to virtually everybody [in High Point], but with our own retail stores, that has changed. [New York] becomes a new hub for us to reach out to our customers.”
Notably, the company’s High Point showroom was only open by appointment, which meant that most designers had never stepped foot inside; the brand’s contract business has also grown—in part thanks to a partnership with office furniture giant Steelcase—but Gold says that most of their biggest contract clients weren’t coming down to High Point to visit the showroom either. In New York, they will invite both groups to attend and preview the new collection.
“When Bob and I started [our company], there were seven entrepreneurs [debuting lines] at the Spring 1989 Market, and we’re the only ones that survived,” says Gold. “We’re super excited about what Allison and Kimberly [Barta, the company’s CMO, who also joined the business last June] have come up with to show our product. It’s time to change it up.”