NC shop sells wares using racial harmony

The catchy jingle for The Red House Furniture Store says it all, but doesn’t totally do it justice: “Where black people and white people buy furniture.”

It’s helped make The Red House an Internet sensation thanks to a campy YouTube ad that’s gotten nearly a million views by using racial harmony to sell sectional sofas and grandfather clocks.

The commercial is so low-budget and off-beat that some people can’t believe it’s real.

“For a while, we couldn’t do anything but answer the phone. ‘Yes, we’re a real store. Yes, that’s a real ad,'” said vice president and manager Steve Patalano.

In case you’re wondering, Johnny “Ten-Gauge” Hill (he likes to hunt) and Richard “Big Head” Pina (well, he’s just got a big head) really work for the store in High Point, in central North Carolina. And the store’s racially inclusive ? if ham-handed ? sentiments are real.

The ad, which debuted April 20 and is only available online, has the grainy feel of a homemade late-night TV spot. Employees and customers haltingly read lines off cue cards, occasionally attempting to gesture as they talk.

“Look at this sofa. It’s perfect for a black person or a white person,” says Pina, who is black, as he dives onto a couch.

Hill stares into the camera and says, “I’m Johnny, aka Ten-Gauge. I work at The Red House and I’m white. I like deer hunting and bass fishing and extending credit to all people.”

Every so often, the ad cuts to two singers wearing white pants, colored shirts and bad ties harmonizing the jingle, “At The Rrrreeeddd House … where black people and white people buy furniture.”

“And Hispanic people, too,” Pina says at the end.

“And all people,” Hill says, as the two men shake hands.

The ad is the work of the singers, Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal, best friends since first grade who own a video production company and share an obsession with late-night local ads made by seemingly unhinged small business owners.

The Red House, in business for about 50 years, hooked up with the duo after a company it uses to extend credit to customers offered to pay for a free Internet ad. Patalano accepted and Neal and McLaughlin showed up.

“We thought the idea was hilarious to use race and racial reconciliation as a marketing angle,” Neal said Monday. “We also knew it would raise eyebrows and spark discussion.”

The way the creators explain it, every edit was made and every line written with the intent of making the ad popular online.

Hill and Pina ? who have been asked for their autographs ? say the theme didn’t pose a problem.

“The way we did it, it didn’t seem like nothing bad,” said Hill, 43. “We’re just like family around here. And the customers are like family to us. I just didn’t see anything wrong with it.”

Patalano says complaints have been few and far between, and the ad has brought more than page views. A couple from Georgia who bought furniture at the store Saturday told workers they were there because of the ad. Patalano has received e-mails from people as far away as Australia. One woman from Tennessee wrote to say she was thankful once-divisive race relations now can be treated in a lighthearted way.

Pina, 50, said he likes the ad because he “knew it was real.”

“We deal with all characters, a mixture of people,” he said. “We are blessed to have this customer base because some stores are shutting down.”

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.