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Starting small to boost big business in High Point

HIGH POINT, N.C. -- Storefronts that sit empty all year in downtown High Point are starting to fill up with furniture. It's why many locals call High Point a "pop-up" city, where business only booms during the Furniture Market.

Locals and city leaders want to change that and turn High Point into a "year-round" market.

Jimmy's Pizza House sits sandwiched between shops selling furniture in High Point. The restaurant's survived the past 45 years on Main Street, but other businesses that don't cater to the furniture industry have gone under.

"I've been told stories of the people that have been here since the 50s, how we used to thrive," said Mandi Van Whitzenburgh, who's from High Point. "There were department stores, there were pool halls, a few bars. I would love to see that come back."

Most people in High Point have the same vision: to see downtown thriving again.

"I have never, since I've been here, seen High Point more unified than they are in this moment," said Tim Mabe, the president and CEO of High Point Convention and Visitor's Bureau.

The problem, many locals and city leaders have different ideas for how to get there.

The city council and CVB are focusing on building a massive multi-use stadium downtown, combined with the traffic brought in by High Point University, and on attracting high-end designers and retailers to the Furniture Market.

People FOX8 talked to are concerned city leaders are putting too many eggs in one basket.

"They need to start building it up more," Van Whitzenburgh said. "Instead of concentrating on one thing, I think the businesses need to come together and start building it back up together."

Van Whitzenburgh's spent most of her life in High Point.

"I just want to see High Point thrive," she said. "It's a beautiful city and I love it. It's home."

She understand the furniture industry's value.

"We are grateful for the furniture market and the university and everything," Van Whitzenburgh said. "I would just like to see more going on downtown."

She wants to see more restaurants, shopping and fun things to do, things she says make up the heart of High Point.

"I think leadership along with, I hate to say it, the little people that are working to try to keep it going, I think if everybody works together it would be much different and much better," she said.