“Among all the non-profit organizations serving the area, the High Point Community Foundation is the best equipped for re-tooling High Point for a brighter future,” says Gary Simon.

“Among all the non-profit organizations serving the area, the High Point Community Foundation is the best equipped for re-tooling High Point for a brighter future,” says Gary Simon.

He has been a High Point Community Foundation board member since 2011, but he came to this conclusion before joining us.

It was a Rotary presentation by High Point Community Foundation president Paul Lessard in 2000 that first grabbed Simon’s attention.

“After years of volunteer service with the High Point-Thomasville Chapter of the Red Cross, the High Point Regional Hospital Endowment Board, and Rotary, I was aware of the High Point Community Foundation,” says Simon. “But, Paul was able—in a 20 minute talk—to show how the Foundation had a firm grasp on our community, from identifying critical needs to addressing those concerns with meaningful support that created permanent, positive change.

“I was captivated with the Foundation’s efficiency and its depth of compassion for our citizens. So, years later, when I was asked to serve on the board, I quickly accepted the honor.”

Simon was born in Norfolk, VA, into a family of retail merchants and jewelers. He started college at Old Dominion University, but transferred to University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where he received a BA in film and communication with a minor in art.

Simon’s first jobs out of college were in television. He ran cameras and teleprompters, and quickly worked his way up to producing and directing programs at WPTF, the former NBC affiliate in Raleigh.

However, station cutbacks, not uncommon at the time, paved the way for his return into the jewelry business with his father in Virginia Beach, VA, in the early 1980s.

In 1984, Simon joined his brother in a wholesale venture, traveling 23 states performing special one-day restyling and custom repair events for retailers. Years of being on the road for months at a time only fueled his desire to put down roots and test his entrepreneurial ideas in High Point.

Why High Point?

Simon and his new bride enjoyed the renowned NC Shakespeare Festival, the jazz at J. Basul Noble’s, sunfish sailing on Oak Hollow Lake, and the friendly welcoming nature of High Point residents. They were intrigued by the energy surrounding Furniture Market and the creativity of the various designers, craftspeople, retailers, and wholesalers who called High Point home.

So, in 1988, the Simons moved to High Point and opened a retail jewelry store.

An integral part of Simon Jewelers’ business model is in being a true partner in improving High Point. Whether it’s donating an item for a non-profit auction or devoting volunteer hours or mentoring young people, Simon and his wife and staff believe in giving back to our community.

As a lifelong patron of the arts, Simon is quick to advocate for more of it in High Point. After all, it’s what brought him and his business to town, and it can enrich the lives of all citizens. As a past board member and still staunch supporter of the Theatre Art Galleries, he wants to see greater exposure and access to creativity and art in the community. He reserves space in his jewelry store to display art and sculpture work of local residents, including his own paintings. He is thrilled that supporters of the High Point Community Foundation recognize quality-of-life components.

In addition to the arts, Simon’s 4-year appointment to the City Project Board in the mid-2000s sparked his dedication to improving the downtown corridor and each of its 5 core regions. “It’s more than promotion for downtown businesses; it’s about elevating all the areas surrounding the core city — physically, economically, emotionally.”

Simon is also is impressed by the dramatic transformation and contributions of High Point University. Working with the university’s innovative entrepreneurial program, Simon helped establish a Business Accelerator Fund in 2007 to provide awards to entrepreneurial students. They hold an annual Elevator Pitch competition, similar to the TV show Shark Tank.

“I am delighted to be associated with this group. It is our goal to capture some of their enthusiasm and raw talent and funnel that right in to our city,” says Simon.

Simon has a “glass half full” outlook for High Point’s future. Despite economic setbacks of the past decades, Simon is encouraged by the dedication of the community’s leadership and knows that the High Point Community Foundation is in the best position to “fill the glass.”

“You don’t have to be affluent to get involved with the Foundation,” says Simon. “Philanthropy is not just for the wealthy. It takes many forms and many hands. Volunteerism is the key.”

For this reason, Simon is supportive of the Foundation’s efforts to invite more of the community to join the cause, to broaden its reach and address the problems that have kept the community’s glass half empty.

Simon sees forward-thinking leadership in education as fundamental to High Point’s future.

“As funding for our students becomes more uncertain and oversight becomes more chaotic, the more you need entities like the Community Foundation to—in a highly organized and accountable way—invest in programs that concretely affect change for our youth, our future leaders,” says Simon. “The current success of the ‘Say Yes’ initiative is just one example of the Foundation’s reach. We have to retool our citizens’ skill sets to have a prepared workforce available for growth to occur.

“Fortunately for our community, the Foundation is willing to make this happen—ready to keep pouring hope into High Point’s glass!”

PHOTO CREDIT: High Point University. Natalie Haire, community relations manager at High Point University presents  Simon Jewelers with its Social Media award for consistently posting, tweeting and engaging with HPU social media pages.