Meet Hillary Bilheimer. She owns the hotel Casa El Pio in Isla Mujeres Mexico with her husband Chris and has been a close friend and part of the HELM family for years. Back in 2013 when the store opened on East 6th St, she had a great Q & A about the aesthetic of the new space, brand collaborations and the experience of opening during SXSW.
Your new space has been home to boots and brand education; how have you educated visitors so that they can feel the essence of HELM amongst the SXSW chaos?
We have set the store up in a way that conveys the brand’s visual elements: a minimalist combo of vintage, found and handmade items. We also have printed materials that help tell the HELM story. The most important element of our brand is old-fashioned face-to-face conversation so we have mostly been giving visitors the oral history and background of HELM. It helps that we have Handsome Coffee popped up in the space for the week. People have been enjoying talking to Tyler about his coffee and then talking to us about our boots while sipping an espresso. It is a perfect combination and quite a different, more relaxed experience than the madness out on the street.
HELM is an advocate of Made in the USA and local brands— what lines are you most excited about sharing with HELM-enthusiasts?
We are super excited about all of the other brands we will be carrying at the HELM store when we open next month. It was a fun project to source everything we will be starting out with as they will all be similar to HELM in their company organization and size. We had so much fun conversing with other business owners who were as passionate about what they do as we are and who were in similar places with their brand history. Stash Co. Bags make their leather goods in an old mattress factory in Sealy, TX. Cheryl Schulke, their founder, designer, and head crafter, is a wonderful woman to spend a morning with. She has endless creativity and talent and her designs are timeless and durable. Edwood Studios is woodworker Michael Brozgul and he makes the most beautiful Danish and Japanese-inspired bowls, trays and cheeseboards out of Texas hardwoods and other beautiful woods here in Austin. We can’t wait to showcase what they both create along with the dozen or so other brands we’ll have.
How would you describe your overall experience in the new space thus far? What have been the pros and cons of opening it up to the SXSW public?
Our overall experience has been only positive. We’ve been winning over some new customers and meeting some really cool people. There hasn’t been a single con. Pros have been unbelievable foot traffic, people-watching and getting a chance to expose Austin visitors to HELM.