Hinton, W.Va. (May 9, 2023) – Hinton Outfitters, a souvenir and gift shop is having its grand opening from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, May 12, at its new storefront operation in Hinton at 221 Temple Street, Suite 1. Sisters and co-owners Lee Ann Goins and Kathy (Goins) Mills will cut a celebratory ribbon at 11 a.m. and offer food, beverages, and 10 percent off sales during the special event.
Goins and Mills admit it is hard to believe how far they have come in the one year since they started producing collectors’ items that featured their hometown of Hinton and surrounding areas in Summers County. “We created a vintage travel poster featuring the Hinton train station,” said Goins. “We thought it would be a fun item for collectors, since there are a lot of train enthusiasts in the area. We did not expect to make a lot of money, just enough to cover our costs and maybe a little extra. It started as an interesting side project that would allow us to show our pride in our hometown.”
Mills said things changed when their artwork became a huge hit with people who grew up in Summers County and then moved on to other places. “We realized that all of these people had such great memories of Hinton that they were eager to have something that reminded them of home,” she added. “Local folks loved it as well, and many of them sent us pictures of the framed poster hanging in their homes.”
The sisters sold their initial travel poster (their only product) from a pop-up tent at local festivals and events starting in May of 2022. Later that summer, City National Bank on Stokes Drive in Hinton selected Hinton Outfitters as their “Spotlight Business of the Month.” Goins and Mills continued to sell their poster, along with custom postcards, magnets, and stickers–all original designs.
“We were very interested in a retro feel,” said Goins. “We aimed for an adaptation of the ‘Greetings from’ postcards that you used to see in the 1950s and 1960s. We wanted to capture that feeling of nostalgia with a card designed especially for Hinton. We also used that image on our magnets.”
Mills said sales were so strong we were asked to stay at the bank for two more months. That led Goins and Mills to add custom t-shirts to their collection. She said Hinton Outfitters really hit its stride when they operated a booth at Railroad Days in the fall of 2022. They had a limited run of 250 custom Christmas ornaments, etched in brass and layered for a 3-D effect, that sold out instantly. They also sold an impressive number of t-shirts, sweatshirts, and print materials.
“Our success at Railroad Days helped us decide it was time to kick things up a notch,” said Mills. “Selling through the pop-up format sounds good at first. You can set your own hours, you don’t have the fixed costs you would have with a permanent location, and you can move to where the customers are. Also, we were still working at our own full-time jobs, so we thought that Hinton Outfitters was something that we could do on the side.”
However, Goins said running a small business in addition to balancing the demands of a day job quickly became a problem. “We had to have a serious discussion and determine if we were willing to sacrifice security to follow our dream,” she said. “Honestly, we had a few sleepless nights thinking it over, but we both came to the same conclusion — Hinton Outfitters needed our full attention and we were excited to see how far we could take it.”
A March 30 presentation by Goins and Mills on Hinton Outfitters at the Southern West Virginia Business Idea Pitch Competition earned them a first place finish and a $2,250 reward.
WV Hive senior business advisor Peni Adams said, “Kathy and Lee Ann create a dynamic team. When I first met them in January 2022, I could feel their excitement for this ‘side hustle.’ Their journey has been an exciting one, and the Hive has been honored to help them along the way.”
After its grand opening, Hinton Outfitters will be open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays year-round. The owners anticipate gradually expanding the store’s hours of operation to accommodate more visitors.
About the West Virginia Hive Network
The WV Hive is the entrepreneurship program of the NRGRDA and the administrator of the Country Roads Angel Network. More information about the WV Hive can be found at https://wvhive.com/.