At High Country Furniture, more is more
Doug Worrell never expected to join his parents Anne and Chuck in running the family’s well-loved, local home-décor institution, High Country Furniture & Design. “My father, who passed away earlier this year, thought he’d retire quietly many years ago, from a career in the [Northeastern] automotive industry,” says Worrell.
“But my mother had other ideas. She is nothing if not a doer and risk taker. No way was she going to live a life of leisure. She has too much energy for that — even still, at 81.”
Anne Worrell did many things before setting her sights on opening High Country, including working as a registered nurse and attending seminary to earn her counseling degree. In 1996, the Worrells initially founded a store called Cabin Fever, High Country’s precursor, with a focus on rustic interiors. “But from the beginning, whether it was Cabin Fever or High Country, it was always ‘Anne’s store,’” says Worrell. “My dad supported her in all ways, but she was the star of the show.”
Worrell made High Country even more of a family business when he realized that his busy career as an executive with Mercedes-Benz, traveling overseas frequently, meant he was missing many of his children’s milestones back home in New Jersey.
After soul searching and much discussion, he moved his family to the mountains in 2005 and started serving as High Country’s president — a good fit for all.
“My mother never particularly enjoyed the business side of this,” he admits. “She just loved the customers and design work — that’s what inspired her. I’ve never regretted our decision for a minute.
From the beginning, Worrell declares, his parents journeyed to upscale furniture destination High Point, in NC’s Piedmont, to buy inventory, even though they had no experience. “They were fearless,” says their son.
Anne and Chuck started out in a 1,200-square-foot building on Dellwood Road in Waynesville, eventually replaced by their current spacious store. Then there’s High Country West on Waynesville’s Main Street, a three-level store in Hendersonville, and Anne’s Attic, their consignment store, also housed on Dellwood Road.
The companion businesses operate in a kind of furniture life cycle. “Our customers love that we’ll pick up their old furniture while we deliver the new, and take the used pieces back to sell at Anne’s Attic,” Worrell explains. “They don’t want to fool with reselling items on eBay or Craigslist, so we make things easier.” When Anne sees a need, she meets it, he says. But he also credits High Country’s sales and design teams for the business’ long-term success.
As High Country grew, Anne manifested a true one-stop shop selling furniture by well-respected brands — from Bassett to Rowe — plus mattresses, Hunter Douglas window treatments, custom-made furniture, and bedding, draperies, and pillows crafted by artisans and handwork masters in an on-site workroom.
“My mother wants to accommodate customers in all ways,” says Worrell, mentioning High Country’s white-glove delivery service and the store’s interior design and space planning, customized for everything from “one bedroom to a 5,000-square-foot home.”
Anne’s Christian faith informs how she treats her customers, according to her son. “If a customer isn’t happy with something, we don’t explain policy — we fix it.”
It’s all about abundance, including “endless upholstery options.” Worrell promises, “[When] our designers fill up a van with furniture, textiles, and accessories, they’ll bring it all to your house, and bring it inside to experiment and see what works — and they’re just as attentive when you’re looking at items in the store.”
The pandemic shifted sales trends in a big way, too. “People moving here from large cities want their homes to accommodate large-scale staycations and grandchildren, so we’ve been selling dining tables that seat 10 instead of six, large sectionals, and billiard tables and shuffleboards,” Worrell says, “as well as more desks and home-office pieces for the many who now work from home.”
He adds that the typical High Country customer prefers to feel fabrics and see how pieces look next to each other in real time, rather than shop online.
“Because of Mom, customers visit us from all over the country and say, “‘We were told we just had to come here.’”
Worrell is certain that the business keeps his mother energized, concluding that ultimately, High Country’s success is all about relationships — many decades old, and 100% of them nurtured by his mother.
“Our customers are the most loyal you’ll ever meet,” says Worrell. “My mother’s calling has been — and still is — helping people turn their houses into homes.”
High Country Furniture & Design, 3232 Dellwood Road (828-926-1722) and 112 North Main St. (828-454-0846), both in Waynesville; Anne’s Attic, 3254 Dellwood Road (828-926-4486, Waynesville); and High Country Furniture, 342 North Main St. (828-698-2555), Hendersonville. For more information, see highcountry.com.