José F. OlivaManager, Public Affairs Replacements, Ltd.
From Guatemala to Greensboro
José F. Oliva grew up in Guatemala and moved to the NC Triad in 2011. Today, José works for Replacements, Ltd., the world’s largest retailer of vintage and new tableware, silver, estate jewelry and watches. The company, which was founded in Greensboro, NC in 1981, maintains the largest inventory of china, crystal, silver and collectibles in the world. Replacements employs nearly 400 people from 37 countries around the world – from Southeast Asia and Latin America to Europe and the former Soviet Union.
In José’s role, he leads all public policy and governmental engagements on behalf of the company – including operation of the company’s Political Action Committee (PAC). “Replacements has a strong track record of advocating for equal rights for all people, including members of the LGBTQ community, low-income people and immigrants,” said José.
“This isn’t your typical company,” he continued. “When we advocate for laws and regulations, it’s not to increase our profits; it’s to support equal rights for all people including our employees. Greensboro as a whole has been a beacon of freedom for many years – dating back to the underground railroad. The Triad is a place where people who have been oppressed have found a way to fight for their freedom. There are also amazing allies here.”
José currently serves on the board of the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro and North Carolina Conservation Network. In 2017, Governor Roy Cooper appointed him to serve on the North Carolina Governor’s Advisory Council on Hispanic/Latino Affairs.
As an immigrant myself, I think Greensboro is one of those special cities in the South helping build a more tolerant and accepting world.
Manager, Public Affairs | Replacements, Ltd.
From José’s perspective, three things set the Triad apart for other places he has lived, worked and visited. First, is education. Coming from schools in Guatemala that often did not have enough desks for students, José entered Guilford County Schools when he came to the Triad. At the time, he didn’t speak any English, but later went on to graduate at the top of his high school class. “I felt very blessed,” José said. “I had teachers who really went that extra mile.”
“We have some of the best higher education institutions in the country here in North Carolina,” he continued. José went on to attend, Guilford College, where he received a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Economics.
The second defining factor for José, is the “sense of giving back” that flows throughout the Triad. As a Bonner Scholar at Guilford College through the Bonner Foundation, José was involved in community service to address issues like housing, homelessness and affordable healthcare. Through this work, he met people of all ages, races and religions who volunteered with him. “What I saw was a community that came together, despite their differences, to help each other,” he said. “That sense of community is rare, especially as cities grow. However, Greensboro has been able to build a unique culture among its residents which contributes to a sense of belonging.”
The third thing that sets the Triad apart for José? “The diversity of the region,” he said. “According to the Center for New North Carolinians at UNCG, there are over 121 languages and 140 countries of origin represented in the Guilford County Schools alone. This has helped us become more understanding of other people’s cultures and religions. It has also helped us become more inclusive and respectful of each other. As an immigrant myself, I think Greensboro is one of those special cities in the South helping build a more tolerant and accepting world.”
When José is not working or volunteering, he tries to spend as much time outside as possible, whether it’s kayaking or taking his dog on a walk. In the summer, he and his partner enjoy free concerts in Greensboro, like the popular Music for a Sunday Evening in the Park (MUSEP) series, and visit local restaurants and breweries. José is also involved in a local kickball league. “It is a great way to stay active and meet young professionals in the area,” he said.