Questions & Answers with community faces
Kennedy Autumn MacGirr (25) graduated in 2014 from Frankfort High School, where she was a fifth-generation Frankfort High School student on both sides of her family. Afterward, she attended Alma College, where she graduated in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication with a minor in women’s and gender studies.
During her high school years, MacGirr worked part time as a secretary for the Frankfort-Elberta Area Chamber of Commerce; additionally, she interned for Lakeside Shakespeare Theater—a rotating company of Chicago actors that has performed free “Shakespeare in the Park” in Benzie County since 2003—for five seasons. During her college summers, MacGirr also worked at Frannie’s Follies, Anet & Ollie’s, and Lynn & Perin Mercantile in downtown Frankfort, in addition to the job at Hull’s of Frankfort, a women’s clothing and accessories store that has been in her family for four generations; she has worked at Hull’s since she was 15 years old.
MacGirr’s great-grandparents, Roland and Harriet Hull, started Hull’s of Frankfort in 1956. The business was originally a laundromat, which began selling some women’s clothing and further evolved over the years. Maren Hull—MacGirr’s maternal grandmother—took over operations from her in-laws in the late 1980s, and Maren’s daughter/MacGirr’s mother, Mariah Hull, took over in the 2000s.
Then, MacGirr herself began learning how to run the business when her mother was diagnosed with glioblastomas, malignant tumors affecting the brain, in June 2019; she took over the store after Mariah Hull passed away in December of that year.
Continuing with our interview series on impactful Benzie County characters, The Betsie Current caught up with MacGirr while she was getting ready to put new summer merchandise out on the sales floor.
The Betsie Current: What made you want to work in retail? What do you enjoy about this line of work?
Kennedy Autumn MacGirr: The customers are what really drove me to want to take over the store. When I was younger, I really didn’t want to take over the family business. That changed when I was in college, working at the shop through the winters on weekends; this really gave me the opportunity to connect with all the locals who look forward to coming into Hull’s. I have ladies who come in that can tell me about what it was like shopping when my great-grandparents ran the shop, and that’s something incredibly special to me that I get to hang onto. After my mother passed away, it has been comforting having people come in and tell me stories about her, ranging from when she was a little girl up until recent years. It brings her memory to life in a new way every time, and I cherish that.
Current: What does a typical day of work look like for you?
MacGirr: My summers are very different from my winters. In the summer, I usually open the shop and get as much paperwork done in the morning as I can, in between customers and phone calls. Once I finish taking care of invoices, bills, and online orders, I typically start working on preparing any new merchandise that has come in, tidying up around the shop, or creating displays. In the winter, I work alone most of the time and have less merchandise coming in, so I can focus more on uploading my inventory to our online store. In years past, we used to work limited hours in the fall and close down for the winter, but with events like Fall Festival and Frankfort Beer Week, we’ve seen an increase in downtown traffic well into October. I choose to staff Hull’s myself on Fridays and Saturdays through the winter, so that I can continue being here for the locals.
Current: How has that changed since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Northern Michigan last March?
MacGirr: Honestly, I didn’t officially take over the store until paperwork was finalized in July 2020, so it’s hard for me to really compare running the shop pre-pandemic to post-pandemic. In terms of the storefront, COVID-19 definitely changed how we operated—we required masks for everyone in the store up until a few weeks ago, and through the bulk of the pandemic, we were pulling any clothing that had been tried on for at least 24 hours and steaming it before it returned to the sales floor, for sanitation purposes.
Current: How have you seen your work grow and change? How do you hope that it will continue to grow? What is next? Have you had any collaborations?
MacGirr: I remember my mother starting our online store in the early 2000s, and its growth has been exponential since then. Most of the people I ship to are folks who have been to our storefront but aren’t able to make it to Fankfort year round, and it’s great to have an option to ship to these customers. We also have some customers who find us online and have never even heard of Frankfort, which is nice for branching out. I want to continue growing our online presence, as I have more time to work on the website. This year, that’s been difficult, as we are currently operating with a total of four employees, including myself. We chose not to extensively look into hiring more people this year, as we want to take time to find the right people to add to our team. Moving out of the pandemic, I would like to continue my family’s tradition of pairing with local churches, businesses, and other organizations to bring back local Hull’s fashion shows. These are typically run by local organizations looking to raise funds, who supply the models, location, and light refreshments while our staff provides the fashions and descriptions. I remember going to these shows at The Hotel Frankfort as a little girl and showing off my own outfits alongside the models.
Current: What are the top three sellers at your store?
MacGirr: Our top companies right now are our Joy Susan purses, our Renuar slacks, and our Liverpool denim. I would like to continue expanding our inventory to include more natural fabrics, when possible, and am working to find more sustainable companies to carry. My current favorite up-and-coming eco-friendly brand is our Tagua jewelry by Soraya Cedeno, which is all fair trade and produced by Ecuadorian artisans who are paid equitably. My experiences with Model United Nations drove me to seek out more brands that are using environmentally sustainable practices and to look into what kind of conditions the people producing the goods are working in.
Current: What kinds of things do you do for fun, when you are not working? What other things are you involved with? How did you get involved with them, and why are you passionate about these causes?
MacGirr: Outside of work, the biggest passion in my life is Model United Nations. I got involved with the team at Frankfort High School and continued with it at Alma for all four years. In Model UN, a team is assigned to research the viewpoints of a specific country and/or non-governmental organization on assigned topics, then they take what was learned from their research to conferences in order to prepare mock legislation to address these global issues from a simulated international viewpoint. To give you a few examples from my years as a student, I represented the Russian Federation, Costa Rica, and Djibouti, to name a few, and wrote resolutions addressing topics including nuclear disarmament, cyber security, and addressing climate change. I love how I was given the opportunity to expand my horizons and really broaden my viewpoint through Model UN. The conferences I went to in high school featured students mostly from Michigan, but the conferences I was able to attend in college featured students from across the globe. Now I staff four conferences across the Midwest, which involves preparing learning materials for the delegates and moderating debate during conferences.
Current: What are the biggest challenges and rewards of living/working in Benzie County and in Northern Michigan, in general? What is the best or most rewarding part of your job?
MacGirr: One of the main struggles is the amount of people my age who move away from this area for college and choose not to move back. I completely understand why this happens; it just limits the pool of young professionals in Benzie County. The biggest reward is absolutely the beauty of where we live; I love being able to get out into nature basically any day that I need to clear my head.
Current: What could Northern Michigan do to attract more talented young people to this area?
MacGirr: Offer more year-round employment opportunities with better pay and benefits, plain and simple. Most young people currently have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, as the wages in our area have stagnated while the price of living—food, housing, etc.—continues to rise. I am seeing some changes actively happening in the current labor shortage, but I believe more work needs to be done to provide these opportunities for our locals.
Current: What else does Northern Michigan/Benzie County need?
MacGirr: The number one need in our county right now is affordable housing. Locals are being pushed out currently by people snatching up real estate to turn it into luxury condos, AirBnB’s, and vacation homes.
Current: What are your favorite local events and activities? Any favorite dining, recreation, hiking spots?
MacGirr: My favorite local event is definitely the Fall Festival. Fall is my favorite time of year, and I love seeing all the locals winding down and enjoying themselves after how crazy the summers get around here. I love frequenting all of the wonderful restaurants, breweries, and cafes in the area, but my current favorite dining spot is Birch & Maple in Frankfort. I love how experimental they are with their food, and I look forward to their fresh takes on seasonal local ingredients.
Current: What does your perfect summer day look like in Benzie County? How would you spend it?
MacGirr: If I’m not at work, the perfect summer day for me is pretty simple. I’d get a Perks caramel macchiato first thing while I’m running errands, grab lunch from the Crescent Bakery, and spend the rest of my afternoon either kayaking the Platte River or reading magazines on Frankfort beach. For dinner, I would, of course, go to Birch & Maple, and maybe take home a six-pack of Stormcloud’s Birdwalker Blonde, if I’m in the mood for a few beers.
Visit “Hull’s of Frankfort retail women’s clothing & accessories” on Facebook, or HullsofFrankfort.com to learn more. Call 231-352-4642 or email HullsofFrankfort@gmail.com for more information. The website sells a variety of products online and can ship anywhere in the United States or Canada; MacGirr recommends calling if you cannot find what you are looking for on the website.
Featured Photo Caption: Kennedy Autumn MacGirr (right) graduated in 2019 from Alma College and just a few months later took over operations of Hull’s of Frankfort, a women’s clothing and accessories store that has been in her family for four generations. Pictured with her sister, Maggie MacGirr, who is one of the store’s four employees, including owner Kennedy. Photo courtesy of the MacGirr family.