Have you ever eaten lunch under a disco ball, next to a Lionel Richie record with a southwest saloon and a knight in shining armor nearby?
Probably not, right? Well, we here at WRAL do it every day. The brightly decorated WRAL break room is unlike anything I have ever seen. I remember walking in there my first day of work, my mouth opening wide and thinking “What is this place?”
Paul Pope knows all about it. He has been with Capitol Broadcasting Company, which owns WRAL, for 42 years. He is vice president of Capitol Broadcasting and general manager of the American Tobacco Campus.
About seven or eight years ago, Paul got a call from Capitol Broadcasting CEO Jim Goodmon who wanted him to work on a very special project – redecorate the WRAL break room.
“I was in my office minding my own business and Jim Goodmon said he wanted me to do the break room. I said, ‘What do you want to do?’ He said, ‘Come up with something,’” Paul recalled. “(Jim Goodmon) has always wanted a really nice break room for the employees. They needed a nice place to eat.”
With a two-month time frame and a limited budget, Paul was determined to turn the bland room into a retro-inspired eatery. He also wanted to incorporate WRAL history and some popular old TV shows into the theme, including M*A*S*H, Beverly Hillbillies and Gunsmoke.
The WRAL art department, a local designer and a props guy from a local theater all pitched in to help create Paul’s masterpiece. Some high school art students also painted a Mayberry scene on one of the walls. The one thing they could not create was furniture.
Paul was sitting in a Rockola Café one day when he got an idea for the break room’s tables and chairs.
“I was like, ‘Where am I going to get furniture?’ I was sitting at Rockola and thought, ‘I would like to have furniture like this,’” Paul recalled.
He talked to the restaurant’s manager who said that a Rockola in Greensboro planned to auction their tables and chairs to make way for new ones. Paul went to Greensboro and bid on as many items as he could.
“I remember bringing it back on the highway all strapped down,” Paul said.
In the end, he bought enough furniture to furnish three break rooms, so he decided to donate some of it. With all the furniture in place, Paul went to nearby thrift shops to find some accessories.
“I bought the (music) records from a thrift store. I was like, ‘I hit the jackpot!’” Paul said. “I think I went to every little store around and found little trinkets.”
When the project was over, WRAL held a grand opening for the employees.
“We brought in lights and a caterer. I mean, it was a show, man. It was grand,” Paul said. “It was a fun project, plus I did it under budget. I did it waaay under budget … All it took was a little bit of imagination and time and we got there.”
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