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Commercial makes Red House Furniture a YouTube sensation


If you channel-surf during the late night hours, you'll find a number of low-budget, semi-professional commercials of auto dealers, law firms and any other local companies. Now a YouTube ad of a High Point furniture store is taking this art to another level. WFAE's Simone Orendain has more. People around the world know about the Red House Furniture Store in High Point all because of this: "Can't we all just get along?" ask Red House employees of different races, as they sit on a sofa. "At the Red House Furniture, we can!" A month after its YouTube debut, this ad had more than a million hits. In the online video world, that's huge. Red House Vice President Steve Patalano and the staff just didn't see it coming. "Within 24 hours after it came out on their website our phone started ringing off the hook," he says. "Then within three days the radio and TV stations started calling and doing interviews. Really it hasn't stopped here it is a month and it just seems to be getting bigger and bigger and bigger!" The commercial aims to sell furniture based on a hot button topic: Race. Images of black people and white people shaking hands flash across the screen. First, curious viewers from all over wanted to know if the store really exists. And whether the message of racial harmony is for real. Patalano answers, "From the customers to the employees, we're all a big family up here. We didn't see anything wrong with saying, well I'm black and I love the Red House or I work at the Red House." The Red House is a relatively small family-owned business approaching its 50th anniversary. It's off High Point's Main Street. Inside the store, workers have a new uniform, it's a red tee-shirt bearing the images of Richard "Big Head" Pina and Johnny "10-gauge" Hill with the phrase, "The Red House where all people buy furniture." The shirts are selling too. Patalano says within the week mugs and koozies should be coming in. Pina's real life job is sales manager. "For us it was a general commercial. We looked at our customer base and we decided we were comfortable with it. In terms of how the general public views it, everyone has a different eye." The commercial was made by the Fayetteville-area video production and entertainment duo "Rhett and Link" -- Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal. You can see and hear them singing in the ad. "Yeah, it was risky. I thought people would react and call it racist or something like that, which happened," says Link Neal. He says it didn't take long to receive messages that asked if the commercial is racist. "So within those first few hours we wrote up this kind of manifesto response we turned on the webcam and Rhett just read it," Neal says. Here's a portion of what Rhet McLaughlin read for a YouTube response to critics of the commercial: "It doesn't promote hatred or intolerance, rather it's the very opposite. This commercial promotes inclusion and reconciliation, if not in a comical way. And to point out the obvious the irony in this video is that it's completely ridiculous for people to relate furniture to their race. People of all colors are welcome at the red house, which is something we take for granted in the year 2009. but there was a time in the not so distant past during which things as simple as a water fountain were not for everybody." McLaughlin says when they first got to the Red House they saw a pretty ordinary furniture store and no off-the-wall characters. But they found a running theme as they brainstormed with employees. "Richard 'Big Head' -- the black guy from the commercial, (said) 'You know, we're kind of like the Rainbow Coalition here. We're black and white and we serve black and white people.' And we were like, 'Well, let's run with that!'" Credit manager Johnny "10-gauge" Hill says the ad really depicts what the store is about. He says the day they shot the commercial was pretty typical. "You could see the people who came in that day. Black, Hispanic, Asian. We had all them people come in that day," says Hill. The ad didn't cost the Red House anything. It was a thank you gift from the store's credit and fraud check company. So as far as manager Steve Patalano is concerned, it's an unexpected windfall.