They did things a little backwards, so to speak. Brothers Emil and Sandy Corsillo launched their brick and mortar shop after they saw the success of their e-commerce destination, creating a central hub for guys who care about craftsmanship and looking polished. The Corsillo duo launched Hickoree’s, and whatever they’re doing, they are doing it right. Here, Life+Times had a sit down with the budding entrepreneurs and as they broke down the strategy and mindset behind their sartorial vision.
Life+Times: Let’s get things straight from the get go. Break it down for us – what differentiates The Hill-Side brand from Hickoree’s?
Emil and Sandy Corsillo: We own both brands and started them at the same time. The Hill-Side is our accessories brand (we currently make ties, handkerchiefs, and scarves), and Hickoree’s is our retail store. We sell The Hill-Side at Hickoree’s, and we also wholesale The Hill-Side products to approximately 100 shops internationally. The two are separate and distinct, but they also have a symbiotic relationship and help each other constantly.
L+T: Give us some biographical information – who you are – your past work experiences?
E&S: We are brothers, Emil and Sandy Corsillo. We grew up in Connecticut, and have lived in Brooklyn for seven and 10 years, respectively. Emil’s background is in graphic design and art direction. He worked for Puma and Tretorn at their headquarters in Boston for two years and then as a retainer-based art director for Tretorn for several years, overlapping with the beginnings of The Hill-Side and Hickoree’s. Sandy worked at a private financial firm for three-plus years leading into starting the business. Starting in 2007 he worked nights and weekends building the website and formulating the business plan for what would become Hickoree’s and The Hill-Side.
L+T: What’s behind both names? The Hill-Side and Hickoree’s Hard Goods?
E&S: The Hill-Side is named for Hillside Avenue, the street we grew up on. We wanted to name the brand after something personal and nostalgic. We added the “The” and the hyphen between “Hill” and “Side” to make it more of a “proper noun” and also to mimic the oddly placed articles, hyphens, and conjoined words you often find in old American workwear brand names. Hickoree’s comes from free-associating with the word hickory, which shows up in “hickory stripe” work clothing and in hickory wood which is known as one of the hardest, toughest woods and used to be used for baseball bats and is still frequently used for tool handles. Again, we changed the spelling to make it sound like a proper name, as if a fictional person named Mr. Hickoree owned the shop.
L+T: From an online shop to a brick and mortar location – what propelled you to go, in some ways, the other way around?
E&S: We started with an online shop because it was both more interesting and more practical for us than opening a physical shop. The two of us have always been really interested in the ingredients of an online store, from computer programming to graphic design to photography. So building an online store from scratch and all the problem solving and challenges that came with it were more up our alley than the things that come with building a physical shop. Additionally we were both working full-time jobs when we started the store, so building something online allowed us to dictate the pace of development and allowed us to mitigate the startup costs and risks associated with it, at least in the beginning. It didn’t take long for us to realize that the online store we’d built felt very much like it deserved, or needed, a physical presence too. Every time we’d do a pop-up or temporary shop somewhere, it just felt right. We’ve had our physical location, “Hickoree’s Floor Two,” now for nine months, and we’re now hooked on the “bricks n’ mortar” thing.
L+T: When it comes to men’s fashion – what are your dos and don’ts?
E&S: Do try hard to look good, but don’t try too hard. We think it’s awesome that more and more guys these days are caring a lot and working hard at looking good and developing a sense of personal style. In the end, the most stylish men are the ones who look great but appear to do so effortlessly.
L+T: When it comes to selecting items to sell online – what do you look for?
E&S: We often talk about how the ultimate criteria for a Hickoree’s product is if it makes you smile. It sounds like a sentimental or “uncool” thing to say, but really it applies to everything in our shop, from Astronaut Ice Cream and Slinky’s to the coolest indigo patchwork hunting jacket from Waste(Twice) that you can’t find anywhere else outside of Japan. Talking about “things that make you smile” also helps us avoid taking ourselves, or this business, too seriously. There’s nothing more annoying than shops or brands that think what they do is the most important shit out there. If we work really hard at staying positive and unpretentious, then those qualities will filter through into everything we do, including the products we choose to sell in our store, and that will hopefully make our customers happy.
L+T: What is next for you two? What can we expect next from your future endeavors?
E&S: We’re working on several new projects at the moment, but in our experience these things are unpredictable and can change or get delayed unexpectedly, so we’d prefer not to get too specific. There might be a new brand or two on the horizon, and possibly a significant expansion of The Hill-Side’s product offerings in the next year. And we certainly would like to open another Hickoree’s physical shop in the near future; something in a street-level, storefront space. We just need to find the right location.
L+T: Any new designers that are on your radar? If so – who? And why
E&S: Lately we’ve been focusing a lot of our attention on lesser-known Japanese brands, especially ones that aren’t available in the US. There are so many amazing men’s clothing and accessories brands in Japan, and a lot of them suit our taste and the “mission” of Hickoree’s really perfectly. It often requires a lot of time and energy to develop relationships that will allow us to bring these Japanese brands to Hickoree’s, so we value them a lot once we get them. This past season we added Waste(Twice), Colimbo, Kanvasbak, Phigvel, Beauty & Youth, and Big Yank. A few Japanese brands that will be new additions to Hickoree’s this fall include Warehouse, Dubble Works, Blue & Gray, Sassafras, and Roberu.