Tim Hamilton and Ron Wootten are partners in business and life. Together they own the gift shop Paper Skyscraper, which was voted “Best LGBT-Friendly Locally-Owned Retail Store” in this year’s QList — Best of LGBT Charlotte Awards. It has long been one of Charlotte’s favorite places to find the perfect item for even the hard-to-shop-for friends and family on your holiday list.
Where are you guys from?
Tim Hamilton: Grew up in Hickory, N.C., went to University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Moved here in 1985; my family lived here.
Ron Wootten: Grew up in Delaware. Worked for the DuPont Co. Was transferred from New York City to the Charlotte Marketing office in 1985.
How long have you guys known each other? How’d you meet, and when and how did you decide to open Paper Skyscraper?
TH: We have been together for 30 years. We met at Scorpio. Yes, the bar. We’ve been together ever since. We decided to open Paper Skyscraper in 1989. We each wanted to have our own business. Ron had a lot of retail experience from a high school and college job.
RW: And Tim’s background as an architect was the basis for the initial focus of the store and a bookstore on Architecture & Design.
How do you go about finding cool new items to sell in the store?
TH/RW: We are always researching, shopping and looking for new items or categories. We search online, through catalogs, at the New York gift show and stores in other cities. That’s a fun part of what we do. It’s really a treasure hunt.
What are some of the best and worst parts of owning a gift store?
TH/RW: The best part is our customers. We are fortunate to have made a lot of friends who we met as shoppers in our store. The most challenging part of retail is the hours. For most of the first 10 years in business, we worked seven days a week, whenever the store was open. And in the holiday season, we were at the store 12-15 hours every day.
What do you like to do in your free time?
TH/RW: We like to spend our off time at the beach with Patsy, our beloved Labradoodle, who is also the store mascot.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
TH: Ron gave me tickets to “Phantom of the Opera” when it first arrived on Broadway.
RW: Tim got Patsy, our Laradoodle puppy, for us, at Valentines.
What’s the worst?
TH: A gift card to Chili’s.
RH: A sea foam color Snuggie.
What general advice would you give for people this holiday season who perhaps aren’t great at gift giving or have a hard-to-buy-for person on their list?
TH/RW: Avoid the obvious. Choose something you would like for them to have, not just something you guess that they would like. It is not a guessing game. We recommend new and innovative gifts that might surprise, delight or entertain. Or even bring a laugh.