By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – V.M. Cleveland, the chairman and owner of the Tupelo Furniture Market, is a man of few words.
But as speakers rained accolades on the market’s silver anniversary celebration on Thursday, Cleveland said he was aiming higher.
“The Olympics just finished, and here we are marking our 25th anniversary – the silver,” he said. “I’m going after the gold.”
Among the dignitaries joining Cleveland at the special ceremony were TFM founder Ed Meek and Community Development Foundation President Emeritus Harry Martin. It was Meek and Martin who helped turn the market dream into reality, and the men were recognized – along with Cleveland – for their work.
Also present were family members of the late Lynn Davis, who joined forces with Cleveland in 1993. The men had separate furniture market complexes and were competitors, but merged their operations.
“There were a lot of special people involved in helping this market grow,” Cleveland said. “And even though we were rivals and very competitive with each other, we became lifelong friends.”
Hundreds of market attendees, along with local and state officials, joined in the celebration Thursday. U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker presented the National Buyer Appreciation Award.
Martin said the growth of the market and its impact on the Northeast Mississippi economy has been staggering.
“Back when I started at the CDF in 1948, we were in the agricultural era, and there were just 2,000 off-the-farm jobs,” he said. “The furniture industry alone now has 18,000 workers.”
The Tupelo Furniture Market, which helped connect hundreds of upholstered furniture manufacturers with buyers and retailers across the country, was the result of hard work and dedication of many, Martin said.
“It took more than one person to do it,” he said. “It was a community effort.”
As for the next 25 years, Martin sees a resurgence for the industry and for the market.
“In my opinion, there’s a definite upswing in upholstered furniture, and we’re going to see more manufacturing done in America and here in Northeast Mississippi,” he said.