By Courtney Phillips
Kellie Clelland has deeper roots in downtown Fayetteville than the welcoming shade trees that line Hay Street. So when she moved her women’s clothing shop from Haymount to Hay Street last July, it was like coming home – especially because she moved with it. She and her two children, Tamer and Holden, now live in a charming apartment above Top of the Hill Boutique with its friendly bright-aqua scalloped awning at 118 Hay Street.
“My childhood was spent on Hay Street, so why not move here?” Kellie said, as she recounted her earliest memories of downtown Fayetteville. Her grandmother, Ozeda Clelland, was a pharmacist who worked at Horne’s Drug Store, MacKethan’s Pharmacy and Highsmith Hospital, all in and around downtown Fayetteville, before she founded Bordeaux Drug Company with Kellie’s grandfather, Alec, who had worked at Fayetteville Drug on Gillespie Street. Kellie’s Uncle Wally worked downtown, too, before opening Hinkamp Jewelers in McPherson Square.
She began her business on Fort Bragg Road, naming the shop for its location at the top of Haymount Hill. Then, in April 2016, a neighboring business – the iconic Haymont Grill & Steak House – was gutted by fire. Top of the Hill wasn’t damaged – at least, not physically. But “people thought we were closed, too,” Kellie said. “We hardly had any business.” She knew she had to take a leap of faith.
Driving along Hay Street one rainy day, she spotted a vacant building that looked like a good place to relocate the boutique. She left a phone message for the property manager who didn’t bother to call back by phone. Instead, John Malzone called on her in person.
“He just showed up with the biggest smile on his face,” Kellie recalled. “He was so nice and generous. We talked. He showed me the place. He said, ‘Kellie, if you take the bottom, you have to take the top.’ I said, ‘That’s just perfect, John. I’ll live up there.’”
Within seven days, she had signed a lease on the historic building. After many coats of Kilz primer, “maybe twenty coats,” laughed Kellie, to cover bright red walls in the shop, the boutique moved from Fort Bragg Road into the first floor of the Hay Street building and the family moved from Ellington Street into the apartment on the second floor.
“Moving downtown was a big choice for us, but the chance to live upstairs has always been a dream of mine,” said Kellie. Luckily, the loft above the shop was move-in ready. While the floor of the shop is a well-preserved terrazzo, the original hardwood upstairs adds a rustic warmth to the living area. Kellie said she loves the flooring, the exposed brick walls and the unpainted trim that come along with living in a building constructed in 1917. The building’s many prior tenants have included Edmund Jennings’ shoe store, Philip Hoffer jewelry store and McFadyen Music.
Kellie said her home is a representation of what she values most – her family. “You’ll find a hodgepodge. It’s not a fancy house, but it means so much to me,” she said. An expert curator of memories, Kellie displays her late father’s pharmacy degree from UNC-Chapel Hill and his antique medicine cabinet. He died in 2000. “It’s a treasured piece,” she said.
Her grandmother’s secretary holds family pictures and mementos. The hutch houses her parents’ fine china. In the spring, Kellie’s dining table is set with her grandmother’s delicate Tiara pink glassware and, for whimsy, her handmade crocheted chickens.
The open floor plan provides an ideal space for entertaining family and friends. “We have a lot of family get-togethers here, just because the loft is so big and open,” she said. The living area, kitchen and dining area of the apartment mirror the dimensions of the shop below, with a bedroom tucked away for the children and a loft bedroom above the living space for Kellie. “It’s not Ellington Street,” she said with a smile, “but it has its own charm.”
Sturdy construction affords a surprisingly quiet living space, though Kellie loves to watch the bustling goings-on below. “Skyview on Hay is directly across from me. On Friday and Saturday nights, if they have a party, I’ll sit here on my windowsill and watch the party and listen to the music,” Kellie said.
During her busiest months, revelers won’t find her tucked beneath the classic black and white striped awning that covers the windows of her living space.
“I need to live above my work,” Kellie said. “At Christmastime, if my kids are sleeping, I can come downstairs and get some monogramming done. In the years prior, I was taking my machines home every night. They’re 75 pounds and I had to have help.”
Of juggling the logistics of family life downtown, Kellie laughed. “We stay on Hay Street!” Conveniently, her daughter, Tamer, attends Capital Encore Academy just two doors down. “I have two vehicles and never leave. Maybe I should have a more simplistic life, sell my vehicles and just ride my bike,” Kellie said. It wouldn’t be a stretch. When she lived on Ellington Street, she could often be spotted riding her bicycle between home and the shop on Fort Bragg Road.
Kellie is still discovering the joys of living downtown. “To look down from my window and see a parade and the people at Fourth Friday, it’s just fun,” she said. Her favorite downtown season is winter, kicked off by A Dickens Holiday, a tradition that has only gained popularity in the last 18 years. “I’ve lived in Fayetteville all of my life and I had never come downtown for Fourth Friday or Dickens,” she said. “I’ve gotten to experience all that.”
It’s been good for business, too. “Dickens is one of our best days in sales,” she said. Last year, it fell on Black Friday. We had sales all morning, Dickens at night, and Shop Small Saturday the next day. Everyone works together in promoting Shop Small. We have a great turnout down here.”
Now that Kellie is living and working downtown, she often thinks of her grandfather (“Pop”), her grandmother (“Mimi”) and her dad, who helped pave the way for her in business and in life. “They made me who I am and I think they’d be so proud,” said Kellie.
Pop saw her entrepreneurial vision come to life in Haymount. Mimi, who was one of the first female pharmacists in North Carolina, if not the first, died just prior to the boutique’s opening in 2015. Kellie said she feels she’s carrying on a family tradition by running her own business.
“The people that were my family’s customers, I’m now helping their grandchildren. They’re my customers. I might not know them personally, but I’ve heard their names all my life,” she said.
And by moving downtown to work and live, she feels she’s carrying on another tradition, one she wishes she could share: “If I could only have my dad and grandparents back for one day (I’d love) to show them how beautiful it is to be down here.”