A Lesson in Hipster History

Woven chats with William Clayton about his role with downtown shop Hudson’s Hill.

Woven: How did you and Evan start Hudson’s Hill?
William Clayton: We started respectively as Civic Threads and Gate City Dry Goods. Civic Threads was here, in this location. We started in 2011, and then in early 2012, Evan started at Gate City Dry Goods, which he ran out of Design Archives. Evan and I got to know each other and realized that we both had a similar desire to carry items that were kind of complementary, if you want to call it that.

W: How’d you come up with the name Hudson’s Hill?
C: We didn’t actually come up with it, which was insane. We were looking around the old Greensboro archives. It’s crazy; there’s so much interesting stuff.

W: Like at the library?
C: They have the database online, so you can sift through things and look at old pictures and interesting stuff from days gone by, and we found this name of Hudson’s Hill, which was actually a geographical name. In the mid-1800s—so the story goes—there was a grocery store called The Hudson Grocery. It was in the same spot where Vivid is currently. They were a prominent fixture downtown. They did deliveries and were just a good grocery store and at that point, downtown was the epicenter of everything. And so if you go out on Elm Street here, you’ll realize it’s more or less the top of a crest, or a small hill, like you can see down in both directions on Elm Street.

W: I never realized that.
C: It’s kind of weird. That area right here is the only elevated part of Elm Street. The rest is pretty flat… Well not as you keep on going, but downtown. So we just thought that was the perfect name because it just kind of encompassed the whole heritage-historical thing that was going on: where we are, literally, and also that whole concept that has bled over into the rest of the store, which is a historical nod to the history of Greensboro in general, from a textile perspective, and any other history that we find.

W: My favorite part of working with your store was feeling like I really got to customize what I was doing. Can you tell me some more about that?
C: We want people to have a great experience with it and really feel connected to us as a local business and know that we care about what they want and we care about their desires as far as the products that they carry. It’s like another level of mindful purchasing. And it’s something that you don’t really get the option to do anymore. You don’t have very many times where you go in and say, I want this leather bag and I want it with this strap and this leather and make these little nuances that turn it into your own thing, even if it’s just simple little changes, and that’s something that’s really neat to be able to offer.

W: What’s your favorite part of the job?
C: Meeting people. Hearing their stories and having the ability to tap into the community is great. It’s really exciting to learn what people are doing- especially if they’re making something or if they have something that they do, that’s just so cool to me, so inspiring.

W: What is your advice to someone considering an out-of-the-box career like this?
C: Just do it. I know that that sounds really simple, but there are so many people that talk about things, and they’ve got these grand plans, and they want this to happen, and they want that to happen, and they’re gonna do this and they’re gonna do that, but it just doesn’t turn into action. It doesn’t turn into doing it. That would be my encouragement to people who want to—whether it’s start a store or be an entrepreneur or make something—is to start. Just get it going. You’ll have to fine-tune the process no matter what. Nothing’s perfect by any means, ever, so just do it.

W: How would you describe the vibe of Hudson’s Hill?
C: It’s very vintage. It’s very nostalgic. It’s very historically minded. Also, I think the vibe that I hope gets portrayed is one of quality, well-made items. There’s quality about the vintage items that makes you stop and look and think about it. And then there’s quality about the new things that’s just different, but still harkens back to that.

W: Are you from GSO?
C: Born and raised.

W: What do you want to see for the future of downtown?
C: I wish people would give a damn. I wish that people who have the power to do so would stop standing in the way and start pushing forward. I guess what I would say is that there’s so much potential in downtown Greensboro. There are wonderful storefronts. There are plenty of opportunities for new business and new growth, and I would love to see more stores that are small retail shops like us to open up and thrive and help each other with just by bringing people down here and having interesting things. I think that could all happen.

W: What do you love most about Greensboro?
C: The food! And I think we’re full of a bunch of really great people. It’s a good size, as well. When you’re starting a business, it’s not like you’re just a nobody, like you would be in NYC or Atlanta, or some huge location, but it’s not too small that you know everybody in town.

W: What does it mean to you to be a young entrepreneur here?
C: I think it takes a lot more effort than I initially realized it would, or probably more than other people realize, because there is always something to do, there’s always a new challenge you’re presented with, or just a situation that you haven’t encountered before that you’ve got to figure out in the small business world, so it takes a lot of hustle and it doesn’t ever really stop. In some way, shape, or form, you have it on your mind, or you have something to do that’s related to the business, and it’s not like an annoyance by any means, it’s just part of that hustle, part of that daily grind. When it comes to Greensboro in particular, I think that it’s having a pulse on what the people here want and like and are looking for, and also learning how to tell the stories of whatever it is you are selling.

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