We’ve got another project in the works!
The Industry Hill neighborhood of downtown Winston-Salem looks a lot different than what it did when Will founded JKS Incorporated in 1984. Since then, and especially over the past 10 years, we’re seen so much growth in this corner of Camel City and it’s continuing to become more diverse with new apartments and businesses opening around us.
Even with all of this new development, Will and I still felt like something was missing from Industry Hill. Enter our soon-to-open multi-purpose event space and Airbnb, Robert Hall.
What’s in a Name? Giving New Life To “Robert Hall”
If you’re a Baby Boomer or grew up as a part of Gen X the name “Robert Hall” might sound a little familiar.
Robert Hall Clothing (or “Robert Hall” for short) was an American retailer that flourished in more than 30 states between the 1930s and 1970s. Known for pioneering the “big-box store” merchandising technique, Robert Hall made means by combining inexpensively made clothing with lots of television commercials and catchy radio jingles. Robert Hall ultimately met its end in 1977 after United Merchants and Manufacturers, the store’s parent company, filed for bankruptcy after citing losses from the chain.
So why did we choose Robert Hall as our name? The answer is two-fold.
The joint buildings that JKS Incorporated and Robert Hall occupy now used to be owned by Coe & Hartman Signs, once the largest sign company in the southeast. When we originally purchased the property in the 1980s we knew that a few signs had been left in the basement, but it wasn’t until we started our most recent renovation that we realized just how many there were. Stowed away and forgotten, the neon sign that once belonged to the Robert Hall store that sat along Highway 52 in Winston-Salem throughout the 1950s and 60s was ours to find.
In addition to having access to such an amazing piece of our community’s history, we ultimately decided to refurbish the Robert Hall sign and adopt the name as a homage to our late friend, Bob McCormick.
Bob owned and operated his business, Bob’s Machine and Metal Fabricator, out of the very building that Robert Hall sits in now. We used to say that Bob was like a real-life Popeye. He raced sprint cars and motorcycles for more than three decades, but, above all, he was a true friend and mentor throughout the years.
While the renovation of Robert Hall is still in full swing, we’re looking forward to bringing new life to the name. We’ve been playing around with a few floor plans and love the idea of seeing the downstairs space transformed into a high-end commissary kitchen that could host restaurant pop-ups, visiting chefs, and large gatherings. The very top floor of the space is home to our “Al Capone” bar (a vintage bar top we’ve held onto for many years that’s rumored to have been used by Capone himself). It isn’t hard to imagine that space as a speakeasy-style bar encompassed in luxury.
Nestled inside Robert Hall between the bar and multi-purpose space is the portion of this project that we are probably most excited about—Huntley House.
The Huntley House: A Family Affair
The third and final piece of Robert Hall will be a collective of five Airbnb rooms we’ve decided to name in honor of Benjamin Franklin Huntley Sr.
Mr. Huntley was one of a few successful businessmen in the Twin City whose fortune wasn’t directly linked to textiles or tobacco. In its heyday, Mr. Huntley’s business, B.F. Huntley Furniture Co., was one of the biggest furniture companies in the South and had the largest bedroom and dining room divisions in the United States. In addition to founding his furniture company (which was operational from 1906 to 1961 when it was bought out by Thomasville Furniture Industries) Mr. Huntley is also Will’s great-grandfather.
Mr. Huntley’s backstory is anything but dull. At the age of 19, his left arm was violently severed from his body in a cotton gin accident. Unable to continue working on his father’s farm in South Carolina, Mr. Huntley moved north and started working as a traveling salesman for a High-Point furniture company. From here, Mr. Huntley’s interest in the furniture industry flourished. In the words of his daughter (and Will’s grandmother), Kathleen Huntley Spencer, Mr. Huntley was a self-made man with a self-trained mind.
“The discipline of [losing his arm] became to him a triumph more than a defeat. His strong right arm acquired the strength and skill of two. What is of vastly greater importance is that it awoke his greatest powers to the task of mastering other difficulties and leaping clear of the stumbling stones which beset others. He had confidence in his own ability, but he also had confidence in the organization which he had created.”
Each of the five rooms that make up Huntley House will be named after members of Will’s family to honor the Huntley heritage and Winston-Salem’s history. We love the idea of offering a boutique hotel experience and we want our guests to feel like they’ve come to visit an interesting friend with a love of history and an eclectic sense of style.
We are in the final stages of renovation of Huntley House and hope to open in early 2022! For more images from inside Robert Hall and Huntley House, be sure to follow our progress on Instagram and Facebook.
Industry Hill, Winston-Salem: Honoring the Past, Building the Future
Robert Hall, Huntley House, and JKS’s home office are all lucky to call the Industry Hill neighborhood home. Encompassing the northern edge of downtown Winston-Salem, the neighborhood was once home to furniture factories, tobacco warehouses, packaging industries, and produce dealers. Today, Industry Hill boasts some of the city’s best breweries, bustling restaurants, and lively businesses.
In July of this year, Forbes published an article that highlighted the rich history of our little community and commented on how “Today’s Industry Hill has evolved into a burgeoning epicenter for makers, creatives and anyone displaying entrepreneurial spirit…”
Needless to say, we’re happy to call this place home and we hope that Robert Hall and Huntley House will continue fostering Industry Hill’s spirit and add an extra unique layer to what the neighborhood already has to offer.