In 1893, with an eye to the new century, young entrepreneur Samuel Young Wilson opened his eponymous shop in the heart of Arlington. S.Y. Wilson & Co. entered the world as a general store, and for more than a century, the family-owned shop anchored the business district that’s now called Depot Square, serving as a center for the town’s commercial and social life.
That hasn’t changed.
What has changed is the store’s product mix and focus, and that’s because four generations later, a new family bought the iconic shop and breathed new life into the three-story landmark. Today, S.Y. Wilson & Co. sells upscale activewear and Western wear for hunters, fishermen, equestrians, runners and more.
When Kim Winstead approached former owner Susan Wilson Hoggard about purchasing the store in November 2014, she did it with an eye on reinvention — both of the shop and of her own career. For 25 years, Kim owned and ran Stockyard Horticultural Supply on U.S. Highway 70 alongside her husband, Robert, and their kids. After selling the nursery to John Deere in September 2014, Kim decided it was time to follow a new dream.
“I stayed retired for about two months and I was bored,” she says with a laugh. “I’ve always wanted to do a retail clothing store.”
When the Winsteads came into the picture, S.Y. Wilson had moved on from its days of selling groceries, dry goods and later feed, seed and garden supplies, and for two decades under Susan’s ownership, it stocked and sold antiques. Kim’s vision was to turn the store into a place that served a vital retail need for Arlington residents, much like S.Y. Wilson’s own vision in the late 19th century.
“Our scheme of this whole thing was to restore this building and bring it back,” Kim says. “It’s a beautiful store. It’s been a general merchandise store since 1893, and the logo used to be ‘cradle to the grave.’ So we kind of played on that — it’s ‘the general store for the active life.’”
Since assuming ownership of the store in May 2015 and reopening in August, the Winsteads have curated a product mix that appeals to three different lifestyles, Kim says. “My daughter and I barrel race, so we put Western in — jeans and boots,” she says. “Then there’s leisure, which is my husband — the Mountain Khakis, the cool Mojo stuff you can go hunting and fishing in, and maybe wash it and go to dinner. And my son works out a lot, so we also have workout apparel. We got all three lifestyles in, and we all got involved in it.”
Other lines available at the new S.Y. Wilson include YETI, American West, Cowgirl Tuff, Gypsy Soule, Life Is Good, Nocona Belt Co., Costa and more. “Lines we’re familiar with and like, we added those to the store,” Kim says.
Kim runs S.Y. Wilson & Co. alongside her son and store manager, Robert (Bobby) Winstead III, daughter Shelby Winstead and niece Alaina Joyner. Husband Robert is more of a silent partner, he says, though you’ll find him hanging out with the family in the shop on a random afternoon. Another constant presence in the store is Raylan Winstead, the family dog. “The kids worked with me at the nursery, and they couldn’t work there anymore,” Kim says. “So I wanted something we could all do as a family.”
Along with changing up the store’s focus, the Winstead family changed and restored the historic building. That’s one reason negotiations for the sale took a while, and it’s also a reason Susan decided to sell. “The building needed some work,” Kim explains. “We had to update the electrical, the heating and air conditioning. It needed some structural repair. And Susan knew that. It had just gotten to the point that she didn’t know if she could invest in it. We did it, and did we ever do it. I think it turned out really, really good.”
The Winsteads brought in a consultant from a similar outdoors-focused store in Oregon to, in Kim’s words, “help us make the store wow.” They revamped the logo, had the store’s racks custom-made and installed dropped lighting to show off the original ceiling. “We wanted continuity throughout the store, and we tried to keep everything true,” Kim says. A row of kayaks draws the eye up to the structure’s mezzanine level, which right now is off limits to customers, but might one day get a revamp that turns it into usable space.
Along with all the physical changes, the Winsteads have pushed S.Y. Wilson & Co. forward in another big way — they’re adding an online shopping component that should be up and running this month or next on the store’s website, sywilson.com.
After decades of running a nursery, Winstead likes that her new job is contained within four solid, century-old walls. “I had 60 acres and people running everywhere, and this is more controlled,” she says. “It’s neat seeing all the new lines, and I listen to the young people — they’re what drive everything … the trends. We’ve got a lot of young, good kids that work here, and we’re just trying to blend all those lifestyles. The challenge is getting that right product mix.”
S.Y. Wilson & Co. is located at 12020 Walker St. in Arlington. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Call (901) 867-2226 or visit sywilson.com to learn more.
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