Emporium brings the world to Hillsboro
Jack and Kim Wells have traveled most of the earth, collecting wares from 69 countries with a goal of having a shop “some day” to introduce all of us to the products and lifestyles of people around the globe. Now in their 70s, they’ve done it, with the Center Square Emporium in Hillsboro.
“When we traveled, Kim shopped and I was the curmudgeon,” Jack said.
Jack spent 20 years with the U.S. Air Force, then retired to join ARINC, which developed cruise missiles, among other tools, for the Air Force. Both careers involved travel, and Kim often went along.
In 1998, the Wells bought the building their store is in on Hillsboro’s Main Street. It was built in 1861 as a school building. It has seen several other businesses come and go over the years. German John’s Bakery is still in the building.
After massive remodeling by their son Paris Wells, the Emporium opened for business in 2006 in what Kim calls “the new section” of the building. She escorted me into the store past a dressmaker’s mold, dressed in a spectacular red and gold dress from China.
In the store proper, visitors will find handmade jackets from India, toys from Russia, Polish pottery, French dish towels, hand-painted Christmas tree ornaments from Uzbekistan, jewelry, textiles, felted bags, tea sets from China, lamps and rugs plus wares from Romania, Bulgaria, Bali, Korea, Kuala Lumpur, Australia, New Zealand, Cambodia, Armenia and the United States. Asian rugs warmed the floors where we sat to visit, awaiting buyers.
A perfect place for gift shopping, prices range from $1 to a $12,000 string of pearls. Rugs cost anywhere from $100 to $1,200. Kim likes to feel that anyone can afford to buy even a small treasure from the Emporium. She deals internationally with fair trade people and is thoughtful with her pricing. While I was there, a neighbor came in with a box of Christmas cards to sell in the store, the profits all going to local charities. When you go, plan on browsing time and a return visit as you’ll never be able to see everything in one trip.
My mind was saturated with gift ideas when Kim said, “You must see upstairs. We have great plans for the upstairs.”
We exited the shop and walked by a walled garden (also the work of Paris Wells) to climb what felt like 99 steps to a huge room furnished with round tables covered in white damask tablecloths. Crystal chandeliers hung over each table. Silk flowers were centerpieces. The room was originally the local Grange hall. It’s now used for small receptions, parties and meetings. A group of Hillsboro ladies recently used it for a farewell tea for a friend who was moving away.
Of course the stairs limit the use of the room right now, but plans for an elevator are afoot.
While Kim manages the store, Jack is a busy community volunteer, offering his time to Hillsboro Pride, the Oversight Committee and Economic Development. He also taught math at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Kim invited me, her son and his wife to have lunch in the new Mediterranean Restaurant nearby on Main Street. We enjoyed red lentil soup, spinach soup, Babaganoush and Lavash bread, then returned to the Emporium so that I could buy three hand-painted Uzbekian bells for my daughters’ Christmas trees and say farewell to shih tzu Oscar, who sits in the window wagging his tail and barking loudly to greet visitors.