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Eyes on the prize 

On the surface, Raleigh might appear to be a place of little passion and no shared objectives larger than, say, Chuck Amato's chest. Wrong.

There is, clearly, one matter, one ambition, that can stir the city's collective soul and bring the people into the streets in a great movement. I'm talking, of course, about furniture.

Could such furniture be had at a favorable price? The prospect was presented last week when the Jones Brothers Furniture Co. announced the important news--nay, the history-making event--that it was closing its Raleigh store. After 36 years, the Jones family signed their sad farewell in a full-page newspaper ad that also mentioned "sacrificed prices" while adding, graciously, that the "sad day .. in no way will effect our other store in Smithfield".

"Sacrificed prices?" I thought I would drop around the first morning, not at 10 sharp--no, let the first rush go by--but around 11 seemed propitious. Four or five thousand of my neighbors had the same idea. When I arrived, they'd filled the store's ample parking lot and were parking their Lexus SUVs and Grand Cherokees up Duraleigh Road, all over the lawn. I got my place when a Cadillac backed over the curb onto Glenwood Avenue in front of me while I kept the traffic at bay.

Illegal, perhaps, but the presence of a Raleigh cop at the door signaled that, for this massive undertaking, the usual rules of automobile decorum could not be applied. "What a mess," he said, smiling. I smiled back. We were the only ones smiling, I soon realized.

Just as when Amato's Wolfpack gridders take the field, furniture shoppers must block out the exhilaration of the crowd and the hunger for victory and focus on one play, one sofa-chair ensemble or corner curio at a time. Never mind the unhappy children, the squealing cell phones, the recalcitrant spouses. "Your father will kill me," one shopper confided to her stroller-bound son as she stuffed her phone back into her handbag, her eye fixed on the faux-Chinois tray-table offered for the "sacrificed" sum of $1,600. Focus.

Through the throng, I saw my catch across the field, er, room. Chairs. Beautiful, elegant but not showy. Just the thing to lift my spirits, my civic pride, not to mention my bottom. Raleigh would be a better place if I took possession of them before Jones Bros. was gone forever. I slipped and dodged my way around the ladies, past the senior citizens, over the small fry and up to the wall where they stood. Eight chairs. "Sacrificed" for a four-place figure that stopped me for a loss. The first number was a seven; it jarred me so badly, I blanked on the rest.

Had been 15-something. I did make out that much before going down. In this game, you have to be willing to pay the price.

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