Foreign business owners take whirlwind tour of High Country
With the breakup of the Soviet Union and the demise of communism in that part of the world, however, new businesses have been sprouting up everywhere during the past quarter century.
Eager to see how some old pros in the capitalist game do it, a lot of new business owners in Russia travel to the United States to tour factories, retail outlets and other businesses.
One such group visited Blowing Rock last weekend. Ten Russians from western Russia stopped by Gaines Kiker Studio and Gallery to see how Gaines and his wife, Susan, run their jewelry making and selling business.
“Even though this is an area that thrives on tourism, we try to get as much local and repeat business as possible,” said Gaines Kiker to the group. “There is nothing for sale in this store that I didn’t make with my own hands, so I have a lot invested in this business.”
This is the third year in a row that business owners from Russia have visited Kiker’s jewelry store. They said that Kiker’s studio is a very family-oriented business, with Susan showing jewelry to customers and taking custom orders, while a big black-and-white photo portrait of the Kikers and their two daughters adorns one wall of the jewelry showroom.
The business group from Russia is led by an organization called Troika International. The groups stay in Winston-Salem, attend seminars and workshops and take day trips to businesses in the Triad, the Research Triangle and Charlotte.
On Saturday, the group visited Appalachian State University, Grandfather Mountain and downtown Blowing Rock.
Former ASU student Perry Hudpeth and Dennis Lennon served as guides while the group was in the High Country.
Among those visitors learning about business practices at the Gaines Kiker Studio and Gallery were chamber of commerce and industry representative Liudmila Grigoryeva, language school owner and interpreter Alexandra “Sasha” Philippova, industrial lamp maker Roman Federov, Internet technician services expert Nikolay Pavlov, high voltage electric switchboards researcher Alexander Pipin, construction business owner Liudmila Maximova, protective clothing salesman Anton Dubrov, playground equipment manufacturer Mikhail Petrov, protective clothing salesman Andrey Fedotov, construction roof manufacturer Viacheslav Naumov and low voltage electric switchboards researcher and manufacturer Andrey Philippov.
The group lives in a city called Cheboksary, an area with a population of about half a million that lies in a province where they speak a mixture of Russian and a Turkish variant of Russian.