Civic Threads and Gate City Dry Goods merge
Owners William Clayton and Evan Morrison invited me into their store to chat before it opened for the day. When Clayton arrived, Morrison told him that they need to get their hours posted because he’d turned several potential customers away already. Several more people try to enter as we chat. An hour later, a construction worker, fixing the sidewalk outside the store, wanders in to take a look around and shop for a leather wallet. Morrison takes a look at his current wallet and assures him that if he wants a replica, he can do it. These are the guys to call for custom-leather work, or denim.
That’s the business they are in “” promoting craftsmanship. Both entrepreneurs have owned business on South Elm for a few years. Clayton and his dad, Tinker, who is still a business partner, have owned Civic Threads since 2011, and Morrison owned Gate City Dry Goods since 2012.
The two realized that one day they might end up being competitors, so they decided to merge, and called the new business Hudson’s Hill. The business remains committed to making and selling quality goods and consciously made products.
More than just selling goods, they want to help people rethink their lifestyle. They say many people get lost in the convenience of going to a department store and purchasing cheap clothes. When the shirt rips, it’s no big deal to go buy another. This is what they would call unconscious buying, and they want people to have intention. Their products might cost more for the quality, but their denim is guaranteed for life. You can also bring your favorite pair of old blue jeans to them and they will fix those, too.
Both men are committed to taking pride in their hometown, Greensboro.
Morrison said so many people his age left for bigger cities, burned out or just aren’t prideful of their city. Clayton agreed. This is why their secondary goal is to rebrand the South Elm Street area. They want their store to be a destination, not just a shop. “We want to rebrand the south side of the railroad track,” Morrison said.
They want Hudson’s Hill to be the destination brick-and-mortar store. They have been to several stores with similar missions such as Unionmade in San Francisco and Hickoree’s in Williamsburg, but those stores do most of their business online. They were excited to visit these stores that boast 60 or more brands but were let down with the lackluster shopping experience.
If Clayton had his druthers, he’d want people to love hanging out in the area so much that they give it a nickname. He explained that the area once had a nickname, which is also one reason the store’s new name is fitting. The area used to have the Hudson Grocery Store and people that went there started calling it “Hudson’s Hill” “” the namesake of the post-merger store. But instead of attracting people out of a need for groceries, they have created an environment that is inviting, with a living room set-up in the middle of the store where they usually play movies. Historical books stashed all around the store scream, “Pick me up and read me.” They participate in First Fridays and are thinking about starting a pipe club. They say they have many more ideas up their sleeve, but they aren’t sharing yet.
In 1897, on the same street, C.C. Hudson, no relation to the grocers, moved from Tennessee to sew buttons on overalls for a quarter a day, but in 1904 the company closed. Hudson opened his own company, The Hudson Overall Company. As Morrison tells the story, a train pulled right up to the factory with workers in need of new uniforms. Hudson fitted them all with new overalls, but the men had no money to pay, so they gave the train’s bell as a form of payment. That bell sat on Hudson’s desk, but over time, the bell collected denim and indigo fibers turning it blue. It only made sense that when Hudson rebranded two years later, Blue Bell would be the new name. After several mergers and designs by Rodeo Ben, the company became the well-known Wrangler Jeans.
The third reason isn’t historical, but it works. Clayton’s middle name is Hudson, his mother’s maiden name. He isn’t sure whether he is related to any of the famous Hudsons, but he is definitely making a name for himself.
Toward the end of our conversation the owners of Gibb’s Hundred Brewery ventured in to talk to Clayton. They are putting up a map of Greensboro and inviting local businesses to mark their spot on the map any way they choose. It’ll probably be there for a long time because as Morrison said, “We’re in Greensboro and were here to stay.”