Blue Hills at Round Top: Building on Success
Blue Hills, the venerable 25-acre shopping destination on Highway 237 between Carmine and Round Top, will move into the next generation of creativity and commerce under the direction of new owners in 2019.
“Previous owners Mike Peters and Milton Grin did an exceptional job of creating something special,” said Corey Layne who, along with his sister Stephanie Layne Disney, will manage the venue on behalf of their Houston-based family business, Sixth Layne. “Blue Hills—as a brand and a venue—is built on a strong foundation of quality. Our vision is to enhance its existing excellence.”
Blue Hills will open March 23 – April 6 for the 2019 Spring Round Top Antiques Show. For the show, Sixth Layne is also adding about 4,800 square feet of tent space. The team anticipates having about 55 dealers including most of the dealers from the 2018 fall show along with some new faces.
“We’re excited to work with the stellar lineup of dealers who have long been part of the Blue Hills family,” Layne said. “They’ve been gracious in their welcome and in sharing their expertise.”
Mixing it Up
Since its founding, Blue Hills has attracted shoppers with an eclectic, high-quality mix of superior antiques, quality vintage, repurposed finds and art—fine and funky.
“Blue Hills has long been one of our family’s favorite destinations because of the incredible mix of goods—both old and new,” said Disney, an interior designer who began shopping the Round Top Antiques Show alongside her mother. “I don’t anticipate that ever changing.”
In fact, Disney, who will be responsible for curating the show, sees the mix as a competitive advantage because it reflects the trends driving home design.
“The best-designed and best-living homes, in my opinion, combine old and new,” she said. “It allows elegance and functionality.
The 30-something professional, who is relocating from Los Angeles to Austin, sees it as a trend that is here to stay.
In her home, where she and her husband are the parents to two active boys, Disney has several well-loved antiques alongside contemporary furniture upholstered in durable fabric.
“Young professionals and young families appreciate the elegance of bygone days, but they’re selective in what they choose—and the pieces have to fit into their lives,” Disney said.
Over time, Disney’s goal is curating the mix of goods at Blue Hills so the venue is recognized as a one-stop shop for expressing personal style.
“Right now, for example, a Blue Hills shopper can purchase an elegant French dining table and walk across the courtyard to find funky, fun linens to give them a 21st century pop,” Disney said. “Over time, I hope to enhance the experience with a subtle, overarching cohesiveness that makes it easy to pull a signature look together.”
The mix also provides something for everyone at a variety of price points.
“Blue Hills is accessible for people with a variety of tastes and a variety of budgets,” Disney said. “We’re going to continue in the tradition of having something for everyone.”
The broad offering of accessible merchandise has always been showcased against a pleasant shopping experience featuring well-arranged barns, easy, free parking, clean permanent restrooms, good food and country charm.
“Blue Hills delivers the shopping experience that I think people expect in Round Top—grass under their feet, open air barns and stunning views of the rolling hills,” said Layne, who brings years of commercial real estate experience in Texas to bear in the new venture.
In the near-term, the Sixth Layne team is tweaking that signature experience by broadening food offerings and hosting on-site events.
“Keep an eye on our website and social media channel to get the details as they become available,” Layne said.
To take advantage of the idyllic setting and demand for lodging, Disney has already re-done the interiors of the 3-bedroom/3-bath house and the bunkhouse on the property. “The Hideaway,” a small on-site apartment, is next up for a facelift.
“All of our dealers told us that finding lodging is a big deal—for themselves and shoppers,” Layne said. “We took that to heart.”
All of the properties will be available to rent through VRBO. Disney has plans to post their transformation on the venue’s social media channels to give people a taste of her aesthetic and extend the reach of Round Top.
“This a relational business,” Disney said. “Using social media and other communication channels, we want to help people discover the magic of Round Top and become part of the Blue Hills family of shoppers.”
In the long-term, the Sixth Layne teams wants the Blue Hills experience to be expansive and multi-faceted enough to hold shoppers from early morning to late evening.
“Right now we’re listening a lot, learning a lot and planning a lot,” Layne said. “We’re not in a hurry because we want to get the details exactly right and make Blue Hills a destination where shoppers don’t just pop in to visit a favorite dealer or two but plan on spending the day with us.”
Planted in Round Top
While the Layne family is new to the antiques business, they aren’t new to the Roundtopolis™.
“Our family had a weekend home in the Burton area for years,” Layne said. “We also had a place near Independence. I think when our family sold those properties we really knew we’d be back some day.”
In fact, parents Paul and Penny Layne found the Blue Hills listing while they were searching for a weekend property. The family, whose primary business is commercial real estate, was excited by the prospect of owning an established antiques venue, and due diligence ensued.
“Since we were kids, we’ve talked about starting a family business,” said Layne, noting Sixth Layne includes the six Layne siblings and their parents. “Blue Hills was an unexpected opportunity.”
Disney concurs, “We’ve always wanted a business where we could use our respective talents and build something together.”
The family’s talent pool includes four siblings with commercial real estate experience as well as an artist and an interior designer. Three of the Layne children are married, and their spouses bring accounting, marketing and media experience.
“Blue Hills lets us all do what we do best,” Disney said.
Layne continued, “It’s all we talk about when we sit around the table.”
Their excitement about the future is grounded in their history in the area. Disney recalled attending her first Christmas parade in Round Top when she was about 12.
“It was the most charming thing I’d ever experienced,” she said. “Round Top was unlike any place that I’d ever been—and I decided then it was a place that I’d like to be part of one day.”
Layne, who grew up spending weekends in the area, attended his first antiques show in the fall as a serious shopper and was “blown away by the experience.”
“To my knowledge, the Round Top Antiques Show is the largest vintage and antiques show in country—and perhaps the world,” Layne said. “The curation of the community as a whole is unreal, but the real magic is the people. Everyone is so passionate about what they do, and they’re having the time of their lives. It’s like a holiday on steroids.”
While Disney is an antiques show veteran, the fall show was the first time she’d attended since relocating to California several years ago.
“Things have changed since I was here last,” she said. “There are more options for shopping, dining and having fun after hours. Round Top, during the show and year-round, is now a destination.”
But, even with the changes, some things remain the constant.
“Round Top’s charm is intact—and so is the thrill of the antiques show hunt,” Disney said. “No matter how many times you come to show, there is always something more to find.”
by Roundtop.com Staff
photos courtesy of Blue Hills at Round Top