by Joan Tupponce
Managers of lavish resorts know the Hilden America name, but most of their guests aren’t familiar with the South Boston-based company. “It’s one of the best companies I have ever seen and that no one has heard of,” says Russell Basch, Hilden America’s president and CEO, who purchased the company in 2006.
Hilden America provides luxurious table, bath, bed and spa linen to four- and five-star hotels throughout the U.S., Canada, South America. Central America and the Caribbean. The company sells 100 percent cotton linen and 60/40 cotton-rich linen.
The company, originally known as Halifax Cotton Mills, has been based in South Boston for more than 130 years. For several decades, the company made all of its own products. “It was a fully integrated textile mill,” Basch says.
The mill was bought by Hilden Ltd., a company based in the United Kingdom, in the late 1980s when textile manufacturing in the United States was declining.
Hilden kept the company’s cut-and-sew operations in South Boston and used the mill as a distribution outlet for its English linens. Basch learned about the
company when Hilden decided to spin off its U.S. operation in 2006. After he bought the company, “our only relationship with England was sharing a name,”
Bausch explains. “We became a wholly owned U.S. entity.”
Basch has spent the last two years aggressively marketing the company. Hilden America sells to resorts such as The Homestead in Virginia and The Greenbrier in West Virginia as well as The Breakers in Florida. The company’s South Boston headquarters houses one of the largest inventories of cotton linens for the hospitality industry in the U.S. as well as a cut-and-sew room. “Cut-and-sew allows us to get out nonstock items, custom orders and samples,” Basch says.
“The women who work in cut-and-sew have been in the textile business for most of their lives.”
The labor force in South Boston, Basch adds, “couldn’t be duplicated anywhere else. They are perfect for this type of business.”
When Basch discovered Hilden he also discovered South Boston where motorsports and outdoor activities draw thousands of visitors each year. South Boston
Speedway has been a host for NASCAR short-track racing events for 51 years.
The historic downtown area of South Boston is gaining attention, thanks to The Prizery, a 118-year-old tobacco warehouse that has been renovated into an arts
center with a 265-seat theater and an art gallery.
The area economy
South Boston is in Halifax County. One of the county’s largest employers is the Halifax Regional Health System with about 1,000 employees. Other employers
with more than 250 workers are the Dollar General Distribution Center; ABB Inc., a producer of power transformers; Presto Products, a manufacturer of
private-label, plastic film wrap and plastic bags; and Lasco Bathware, a maker of bath tubs, showers and whirlpools. South Boston, once prominent in the
textile, tobacco and furniture industries, has now diversified its economic base. Target industries include wood, plastics, distribution, technology and
motorsports. The county has several industrial parks, including the Riverstone Technology Park, which is now under development. Riverstone will focus on
technical manufacturing, nanotechnology, biotechnology and information technology. Two of the park’s buildings house inbound call centers for the Virginia
Department of Motor Vehicles and the Virginia Employment Commission. South Boston also is developing the J. Aubrey Houghton Industrial Park, a mixed-use
Where to stay
Russell Basch was impressed by the beauty of the Berry Hill Resort & Conference Center in South Boston when he first saw the property. The elaborate resort
is part of a 650-acre estate. Traditional rooms feature either four-poster canopy beds or sleigh beds, along with many antiques and reproductions. The
property also has two renovated historic cottages, an indoor pool, fitness center, stocked fishing pond and the Blackberry Spa offering a variety of massages
Where to eat
Whenever he is in South Boston, Richmond resident Russell Basch makes sure he visits Bistro 1888 in the historic area on Main Street. “It’s the finest
restaurant in Virginia,” he says. Its menu ranges from handcrafted pastas to New Zealand lamb. The restaurant also has an extensive wine collection. Other
popular dining establishments include Four Oaks Restaurant and Lounge and Ernie’s Restaurant, a South Boston fixture since 1958. The restaurant is known for
its down-home buffet.