Born in Detroit, Reborn in Austin
Hiller Dry Goods was founded in Detroit in 1904 by my great-great-grandfather Walter J. Hiller, a 23-year-old German immigrant with expertise in textiles and men's clothing.
Photo: Hiller Dry Goods store circa 1904.
For over 100 years, each new generation of the Hiller family inherited the business and forged their own path, using their individual skills and vision to weather the ups and downs of an eventful century. This is how we came to be in Texas.
Photo: Hiller Dry Goods store in 1949.
By the time my father, Jeff, inherited the store in the 1990s, the business had relocated to Dallas and focused on textiles and furniture. Dad ran the store for a little over 10 years, steering it through two recessions.
In the late 2000s, not long after I departed for film school in New York, my father decided the business was not for him and sold it to a group of investors. That store is still around, though operating under a different name.
I didn't think much of the sale at the time. I had worked for my father in the store for most of my childhood and was not particularly interested in returning to retail after college. For the next few years I pursued a different career path, first in film and then in import beer.
But while I enjoyed producing films and marketing beer, I had a nagging sense that I might have a different calling. I craved something more meaningful.
After a two-year period of soul-searching, I came to the realization that perhaps what I was looking for might be somehow encoded in my DNA. I've always liked the process of creation and throughout the years I've dabbled in interior design and furniture building.
Today I'm rebuilding the original business. I've gone back to the original name and refocused the store on goods for the home. I've also made some changes that reflect today's marketplace and my personal tastes. When W.J. started the store he lived above it; today the store lives online.
The first incarnation of Hiller Dry Goods lasted 102 years and spanned 5 generations of Hillers. My hope is that this second incarnation will be around just as long.