POP Emporium’s Darren Hill has worked almost every job in the music industry, from T-shirt seller to opening for U2. The East Greenwich resident and owner of the eclectic storefront in Providence’s Warehouse District has lived a life in music, first as a founding member of the New Orleans punk band Red Rockers, and later as a manager of acts including Dropkick Murphys and The Replacements. Most weekends, you can find him at POP Emporium, a business that sells everything from baseball cards to mid-century furniture, making it one of the funkiest stores in the region.
How did the Louisiana native and former bass-playing rebel end up dealing antiques in Providence? Hill shared his story in a recent call from New Orleans where the band was rehearsing for their first show in 40 years. “The last time we played together was 1983. We started in a garage; we were best friends and always have been,” says Hill of the band that once scored an MTV hit with “China,” the lead single from the critically acclaimed album Condition Red.
Following Red Rockers’ break up, Hill moved to Boston in 1984. He connected with RI music legends Mark Cutler and Emerson
Torrey, formerly of The Schemers, and together they formed The Raindogs, along with Jim Reilly of Stiff Little Fingers. Later, Hill played with Paul Westerberg of The Replacements and other bands into the 1990s before family obligations took over. At that point, he began his career as a manager, a role he had informally served in previous bands. “The first band I signed was The Dropkick Murphys and then The Royal Crowns, Combustible Edison; my roster was mainly local,” says Hill. He currently manages The Replacements, The New York Dolls, and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, among others.
Now, as the owner of POP, Hill jokes, “It was supposed to be my retirement gig; it sort of snowballed quicker than I thought.” With an extensive inventory, POP is a space where you’ll fall in love with things you didn’t know you needed. Hill opened the business about 10 years ago, prompted by searches for one-of-a-kind items that you’d have a hard time finding elsewhere. “A lot of it is stuff that I accumulated touring on the road; I would chase down antiques. I look for anything that is unusual that you wouldn’t be able to find any place else, with an emphasis on art and mid-century furniture, lighting, and a lot of pop culture items.”
Lately, college students and production companies are among the store’s major customers. “The key is trying to find stuff that looks cool, not the expensive designer stuff. I try to find stuff that’s affordable, that people can buy,” says Hill. “A huge portion of what we do is sets, props, and decorations for film and TV. We’ve done 26 movies now. POP also allows me to exercise my creative urges by having shows, art exhibits, and other events. It seamlessly flows back and forth from my management company.”
POP is open most weekend afternoons; visit the website for details. 219 West Park Street, EmporiumOfPopularCulture.com
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