April 12, 2006
Hildreth's Moves Ahead, Keeping Past In Mind
At Hildreth's Department store, customer tastes have changed over the years: out are harpoons and buffalo robes and in are teak furniture and outdoor art.
A recognition that tastes are "always evolving and changing" has allowed Hildreth's to transform itself from the general store it was in 1842 to its current incarnation as a home furnishing store with three branches that cater to a variety of tastes, said the store's current president, Henry H. Hildreth, III. This Saturday the roots put in place by the little general store will reach a little further, when the newest foray into furnishing, Hildreth's Patio, opens on 15 West Main Street in Southampton, behind its flagship store.
While few similarities remain between the Hildreth's of old and the 100-employee strong store of today, the attention to the needs of the customer has remained. "It was handed down to me that customer service is important," said Hildreth, who began doing "menial jobs" at the store as a small child.
Hildreth's great-great grandfather Lewis Hildreth opened the store on October 28, 1842. Goods were brought into the booming port in Sag Harbor and shipped to Southampton via horse and wagon. Today, a variety of experienced buyers bring in unusual and interesting goods that satisfy the stores' "Good, Better, Best" motto. "We stand behind, in front of, and alongside our goods," Hildreth said.
The Hildreth family first came to Southampton 265 years ago, and Henry Hildreth maintains an interest in working on behalf of the community that his been his family's home for so many years. At the opening of Hildreth's Patio, $5 raffle tickets will be sold to benefit Chicks with Sticks, an organization associated with the South Fork Breast Coalition that knits prayer shawls for women with breast cancer. The group meets to knit at Hildreth's on Saturdays.
"Since we've been here since 1641, we take great pride in the East End," Hildreth said. "We're part of the earth of the community."