Are We Having Fun Yeti?
Putting Greensboro’s biggest foot forward
By Maria Johnson
Hanging out in the baggage claim area at Piedmont Triad International Airport, waiting for my son, I had the feeling that I was being watched, not an altogether unjustified feeling in an airport. Bully for keen security. But the surveillance felt immediate, as if someone were staring at me from close range, so I turned around and . . .
It was Bigfoot, hulking beside the escalator. I’d heard reports of Sasquatch sightings in the area over the years, mostly in the Uwharrie Mountains south of Greensboro.
But I never expected to see the big guy at the airport, much less at baggage claim, even though airports are great melting pots. He was a hirsute chap — about 7 feet tall — with sympathetic eyes and a friendly, bemused expression. Not at all what I expected.
“Yeah, I fly only when I have to,” he seemed to say.
Honestly, I was charmed by this fiberglass fellow, but I was puzzled by his presence at the airport, especially when I realized he was part of an advertisement for a furniture showroom, International Manufacturers Showroom in High Point.
Presumably Biggie was one of many, um, home accessories available in the showroom; he was accompanied by a giant mirrored bass fiddle, a metal sculpture of two wading birds taking flight and a live-edge bar table with leather-topped stools. Standing in a slight crouch, Biggie appeared to be resting one cheek on a barstool.
In a way, he fit right in. I mean, hairy dudes on barstools aren’t exactly rare in airports, and neither is eye-catching art. Airports use all kinds of mosaics, fountains, mobiles, sculptures, and light-and-sound effects to entertain travelers and dress up the fact that they’re basically camping around a big driveway.
Advertisers — especially furniture manufacturers — get into the eyeball game, too, often putting their edgiest pieces on concourses. Around here, you can bet those displays are aimed at retailers, who stride by on their way to High Point Market, a twice-a-year event that’s rolling out the spring offerings this month.
Was I missing a Sasquatch trend for home and garden?
For answers, I turned to Ikea — and by that I mean a woman named Ikea, who works in the American Airlines baggage claim office, with a clear view to Biggie. She didn’t want to tell me her last name, but she didn’t mind sharing that, yes, she was there when the showroom installed Biggie about a year and a half ago.
“I was like, ‘Well . . . OK,” she says.
Since then, Biggie has become the star of baggage claim.
“People take pictures of it all the time, every day. They love that Sasquatch,” she says.
Some people take selfies with the beast, but more often, they snap group pics. People love to mug with Biggie.
“They’ll hug it or put their finger in its belly button — it’s an innie — or they’ll touch its nipples,” reports Ikea. “It’s got nipples.”
Indeed it does. And Ikea is not being disrespectful by referring to Biggie as “it.” Thanks to careful sculpting, Biggie’s gender is not clear.
Still, the creature exudes an undeniable animal magnetism, which is why, Ikea guesses, the showroom set up a velvet rope around Biggie not long ago — to cut down on intimate encounters.
Bingo, says George Eouse, the CEO of International Manufacturers Showroom.
“The airport was concerned we were getting a little too much interaction with our stuff,” says Eouse, who brainstormed with his team to create attention-getting displays at PTI.
That’s when they settled on “the Yeti,” as Eouse calls it.
An Australian artist carved the original, he says. Weatherproof reproductions, like the one at the airport, are fabricated in the Philippines and imported by another of Eouse’s companies, one of more than 30 manufacturers represented in IMS showroom, across the road from Furnitureland South.
During furniture market, IMS is closed to the public. But outside of market dates, the public is welcome to buy market samples of exotic furniture, rugs and trophy pieces similar to Biggie.
“It’s actually a very popular item,” Eouse says, guessing that he has sold about 100 Biggies, at a wholesale price of $750 each, mostly to retailers. Who ends up owning them? You name it: Bigfoot groupies, clubs, people with a quirky sense of humor.
“We see people put them out in the tree lines,” Eouse says. “It’s not for everybody, but for someone with a unique sense of fun . . . I’ve had people to go berserk when they find out they’re able to own one.”
So don’t be surprised if you hear more reports of Biggie sightings, never mind a shrinking natural habitat. Whether in the flesh or in fiberglass, it seems, the legend has legs.
“He sells enough that he’s going to be around,” says Eouse. “He’s going to survive.” OH
Maria Johnson is a contributing editor of O.Henry magazine. Contact her at email@example.com.