Thornton, a California native, moved to Aiken when she married her husband, Aiken artist Hollis Brown Thornton. He was set up in his hometown, working out of his home and surrounded by family nearby.
“His lifestyle was perfect, so we weren’t going to change that,” she said. “So, I moved here.”
She began working in retail several years ago at Therapy stores in the San Francisco bay area. That was better than any college degree, she said, and taught her the ins and outs of running a profitable retail business. When she moved to Aiken, she knew she wanted to open her own shop eventually but never thought it would be this soon.
When she and her husband were eating lunch downtown, they saw 108 Laurens St. SW was available and Thornton said she knew it was perfect. The square footage was what she had imagined, and even though it was scary to take that first step, she said she just believed it would work.
“I knew what I wanted, and who to contact,” she said. “I just had to say, let’s do it.”
Thornton travels to Los Angeles every six to eight weeks to buy for the store, often just a whirlwind overnight trip.
She originally bought in Los Angeles because those were the vendors she knew, but it has become a feature of the store that her inventory won’t be found anywhere else in the area.
“I didn’t go there to be unique, it’s just what I knew,” she said. “Now it’s turned out to be really neat. I think it adds something downtown Aiken wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Besides a few staple items that Thornton keeps on hand, Threads will only carry as few of an item as possible. Her customers know that when they buy something from her, they won’t see anyone else wearing it. Her merchandise is almost all made in the U.S., and most of her accessories are from regional artists.
When she married her husband, she wasn’t excited about leaving the West Coast. She said she has been pleasantly surprised by the warmth and uniqueness of downtown Aiken.
“There’s such Aiken pride,” she said. “We’re really fortunate to have this spot.”
Threads is right in the middle of Aiken’s boutiques, which have formed a community. She opened around the same time as Jami Chandler opened her store, Aiken Dry Goods, and Chandler said it has been great to go through the process of owning a business with Thornton.
“She brings new and exciting things to downtown Aiken, and we work to promote each other’s businesses,” Chandler said.
Thornton has been pleased beyond her expectations with Threads’ first year, and she looks for the store to eventually spread throughout South Carolina and into Augusta. The warmth and hometown touch is most important, she said, and Aiken will always have her heart.
“People here want you to succeed,” she said.