At First, Hannah Brown ‘Knew Nothing.’ Now? Her Shop Is a Community Staple.

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Deep River Mercantile co-owner Hannah Brown was recognized as one of Chatham Magazine‘s 2022 Women of Achievement

Hannah Brown

By Elizabeth Poindexter | Photo by John Michael Simpson

At first, Hannah Brown resisted following in her mother’s footsteps of working in the interior design and furniture decor industry. “I grew up in the business,” Hannah says of working weekends in middle school alongside her mother, Michelle Byrd, who owns a Raleigh-based design company. “As a kid, I said, ‘I’m never going to do anything like this.’” 

So she majored in history and religious and ethical studies at Meredith College and married husband Hunter Brown just after graduating from college. His job working on a chicken farm led them to Florida for two years. 

When Hannah and Hunter decided to return to their home state in 2013, they settled in Chatham County on a 50- acre property that backs up to the Deep River along the Chatham-Lee county line. The couple has a 1-year-old son, Easton, and expect their second child this year. 

“We felt really blessed,” Hannah says. ”We immediately had a community and felt like we were from Pittsboro.” 

Despite swearing she’d never mix glaze or tape off walls to paint again, she and Hunter opened Deep River Mercantile in downtown Pittsboro five years ago in a former dentist’s office. They’ve since relocated to a brick building with wide windows facing the intersection of Hillsboro and Salisbury streets. 

Hannah describes their storefront at 115 Hillsboro St. as a modern-day mercantile, selling mostly American-made goods, including cookbooks, candles and bourbon-soaked cherries. 

“Your home is so important,” Hannah says. “It reflects how you start the day; your whole mood can be changed. When I pick something for the store, it has to be the best.” 

She wanted to cultivate a store in which all members of the family – dogs included – felt welcome and comfortable. Deep River also offers custom-painted cabinetry and design services, similar to the work she did with her mother years ago. 

“It works well that our businesses go hand in hand,” Hannah says. “A lot of my skills I learned from her.” 

The pandemic shutdown in March 2020 forced the couple to close the shop for 54 days. “It was really tough for us to navigate in the beginning, because we are a greet-you-with-a-hug type of place. … We want it to be an experience when you come in,” she says. 

For other women considering becoming an entrepreneur, Hannah says she makes mistakes every day, and she does her best to learn from them. “I knew nothing,” Hannah says of her early days as a business owner. “I went in thinking: What’s the worst that can happen? We close? … Not knowing anything gave me a head start as far as confidence goes, because I didn’t even know what to be afraid of.” 

As Chatham County continues to grow, Hannah hopes she’ll be able to count her downtown neighbors as friends who come by the shop. 

“The whole store feels better when there are people in it,” Hannah says. “That’s what we’re built for.” 

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