Sally Hilkene

Location: Mission Hills, KS
Age: 53
Marital Status: Single
Education: Bachelor of Arts Degree, University of Kansas

When did you open Churchill?

2003. Before that I helped my former husband with my family’s business, Spot Shot Stain Remover, and I ran an interior design business out of my home. I had always wanted to open a funky little independent jewelry, fashion, and antiques shop, but being a mother was primary to me. When I got divorced we had to sell my family’s company. It was so hard for me to break my promise to my father never to sell the company, but it was out of my control.  About a year later I decided to open the store. My youngest son’s middle name is Churchill. I figured he’d be the one that sacrificed the most by me starting the store so I named it after him!

What was your vision?

I wanted the store to be a treasure chest–a fantasy. I wanted a place where you could put together a whole outfit from bottom to top, and then get a housewarming gift if you’re going to a party. I have just about everything except stamps and drugs!

Your jewelry is unbelievable. Where do you find it?

I go to New York, Italy, London and Paris. I look for up-and-coming designers. Some of the most unique pieces come from my adventures and travels. I was looking at antiques in Venice and the storeowner asked, “Are you interested in any antique jewelry?”  I said, “Of course.” Turns out he was the source for the old families on the Grand Canal. They’re very proud people, and they needed to liquidate their jewelry in order to keep up with renovations on their palaces. They didn’t want it sold anywhere in Europe. That’s how I got a lot of the Venetian pieces.


How would you define your style?

Bohemian, glam cowgirl. I’m jeans, boots and a lot of great jewelry with a simple white shirt or black turtleneck.

Do you have a signature item of jewelry?

A Maltese blackened diamond Venetian cross, which I found in Venice. And charms. My parents used to take us on educational trips when I was young— Europe, Russia, USA and Canada–and buy us a charm in every place. As I got older I started collecting big, huge charms. I still have the old charms and mix them with the big, fabulous ones I have acquired in my travels.

Who’s you favorite designer?

Dries Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester, Ralph Lauren, Christian Lacroix, Etro, Donna Karan. I love Haider Ackermann. He’s Belgian–fairly new. And I love Balenciaga and Lie Sang Bong.  I love anything with armour, studs, epaulets, military influence, and medals. That’s the biker chick in me.

ImageDo you have a signature perfume?

Jo Malone, Orange Blossom.

What about your beauty routine?

Basic soap and water. Honestly, Dial. But I’ll always use La Mer moisturizers. And I love Tan Towels. They give subtle color without making your skin smell.

What’s your secret favorite spot in Kansas City?

Knuckleheads. It’s an old biker bar in the grain bottoms of Kansas City, Missouri, with an outdoor stage and seating in old train cabooses.  Lots of great musicians come there to play.  Trains go right by the stage and slow down to hear the music, then toot their horn when they take off.

What’s your favorite restaurant in Kansas City?

Bluestem. The chef is a James Beard award winner, and he always uses fresh produce, most of it organic. Starker’s on the Plaza is another favorite as is Aixois.  I like to support locally owned restaurants.

What’s your favorite book?

Rare Bird of Fashion: The Irreverent Iris Apfel. Her style is all about accessories and she travels all over the world, which is what I like to do. Like her, I always like to find some sort of artifact that I can wear as jewelry.

Do you have a favorite wine?

A good Malbec. I’m actually traveling to South America to the Hess vineyard in Colome; the highest altitude vineyard in the world producing Malbecs. It was founded in 1831 and is Argentina’s oldest winery. The wines are in short supply and hard to find.

Who inspired you?

My mother was brilliant—a chemist, gourmet cook, and fashion icon.  She actually formulated a lot of the chemicals for our other Spot Shot product line. She was beautiful and dressed every day in couture. Every September she would go to Swanson’s—which was the premiere fashion store in Kansas City at that time—and buy the fall collections: Mary McFadden, Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, Geoffrey Beene, Ralph Lauren, Missoni, and Donna Karan.

What about your passion project?

Every month I have new passion projects. When the store opened I started the charity donation program. Every day of every month–not like 6:00 to 9:00 on one night–a percentage of sales goes to several local charities. This month it’s Literacy Kansas City, the Red Cross, and KU Cancer Hospital.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your career?

Always trust my eye. I only buy items for my store that I would wear myself. Also, I was raised to not pass judgment on people due to their appearance, and that has helped in business. For example, a couple from Western Kansas stopped in my store, traveling through KC on the way to a bowling tournament. They were in jeans and worn baseball caps. They bought a vintage Van Cleef and Arpels gold link necklace diamond pendant that retailed above 65,000.00.

What’s your biggest indulgence?

My stores.

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