Before Julian Hill was 25, he accomplished something that millions before him had attempted to do by “making it” in New York. As the youngest African American ever hired by the New York State Department of Transportation’s Real Estate Division at the time, Hill had responsibilities covering all five New York City boroughs.
However Hill said it was his native city of Detroit, not New York, where he longed to make his mark, even when loved ones tried to convince him that his future was in the Big Apple.
“My father (Herbert J. Hill Sr.) founded Hill Realty in 1959, which is the oldest operating real estate company in Detroit,” said Julian Hill, now 50. “He received joy every time he helped a family get a house, which was really difficult for African Americans to do. What he put in me was more of a calling, and I’ve had an entrepreneurial spirit since I was 5. But I also saw my father work with all types of people, so as a young man with a dream and aspirations, I saw opportunity right here in Detroit.”
In his 20th year as the owner of Celebrity Car Wash & Detail Center at Woodward and Blaine — tucked between the Boston-Edison Historic District and Midtown — Hill says he is following his father’s example by spreading joy to his customers and community, and he displays that joy front and center with daily inspirational messages on his unique car wash sign.
With a smile and a twinkle in his eye, Hill declares that he is a “dream chaser” and is on a mission to help his fellow Detroiters do the same. His goal is to use every inch of his business space to respond to people’s need to be “felt.” Hill says it is an approach that continues to serve his business and the community well through the pandemic and especially during the holiday season.
More from Scott Talley: Four words guide Detroiter’s mission to help low-income job seekers: ‘How can I help?’
This Wayne County assistant prosecutor says ‘thank you’ by giving back to her community
“We always want to provide good service and a safe space,” said Hill, a 1989 graduate of Benedictine High School who believes his business is the only full-service African American owned car wash in the city of Detroit. “All of our customers are greeted by a warm, masked smile, and we treat them and communicate to them with respect. We never say we’re the best, but our customers know we try our best and they appreciate the depth of our effort.”
Setting the tone for the way Hill’s business deals with the public — even before a drop of water is applied to a vehicle — is a unique, two-sided message board attached to the business’ outside signage, which is used to communicate inspirational messages to the community. At the beginning of the workday on Dec. 15, the message read: “Prioritize Your Peace.” By 1 p.m., a new message appeared: “Trusting God’s Plan.” With both messages, Hill said his goal was to touch people positively.
“I post the messages for that mother or father that may be raising their children alone, or for the parents that are worried about their children’s education,” Hill explained. “… I try to think about what people in our area are thinking about as they are driving or walking, and then post a message that people can feel. I never did this for any notoriety, but we all need to do a better job of connecting with people, and this is how I try to do that.”
Call it a heartful message in a bubble, instead of a bottle.
Proof of how impactful Hill’s messages can be appeared just minutes after “Trusting God’s Plan” went up on the message board, as 65-year-old Detroiter Sharon Hicks pulled up on the curb in front.
“I have been taking pictures of his signs for five years since I came back home, and he always has words of encouragement on there and I put them up on my Facebook page,” said Hicks. “I’ve always wanted to meet him because that little bitty thing he is doing gives so much encouragement and I’m not the only one who has noticed.”
By Hill’s recollection, he has been posting messages on his sign for 18 years. He jokes that before he focused on the inspirational messages, announcements relating to the business like “Ladies Day” were posted and no one responded. Shortly after Hill pivoted to positivity and inspiration, a customer confided that he had to pull over on Woodward to reflect on one of Hill’s messages. Hill described the exchange as a moment of “fulfillment.”
He has never forgotten another period in his life when it was uncertain whether he ever would be able to touch people through any business endeavor.
“I must have been turned down by just about every bank in the city before I started this business,” said Hill.
But he will be forever grateful to Drextel Amy of Liberty Bank and Trust and Ray Waters, president of the Detroit Development Fund, for leading him through the process which eventually launched his car wash and detail center. “The entrepreneurial road is not a straight road. It’s not just graduating from high school or college and having it all laid out for you. There are twists and turns, and I want this ride that I’m on to be about helping other people and helping other entrepreneurs pursue their dreams because so many have helped me.
“We have a partnership with Henry Ford Hospital, which shows their commitment to working with people within the community. We also have a partnership with the Detroit Medical Center, the Wayne State University Police Department, the State of Michigan and the American Red Cross. We value these partnerships, just as we value the thousands of loyal customers that have supported us through the years.
“Where we are, we are surrounded by churches (including Historic People’s Community Church, Breakers Covenant Church International, St. John’s C.M.E. Church, Historic Little Rock Baptist Church and St. Matthew’s-St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church) and we have been embraced by the entire community in what is still an underserved area, so I hope I can inspire more entrepreneurs to be a part of this fabric.”
For someone who has become known for words he shares publicly, Hill reveals that he is actually extremely cautious about the words he communicates in any form. When naming his partners and supporters, he thinks hard to make sure no one is forgotten. Hill takes a similar approach when talking about his family. More than just wanting to acknowledge his family members, Hill says he wants his community to understand the important role a family can play in an entrepreneur’s journey.
“Family is really about inclusion and inclusion makes the world turn,” said Hill, who grew up not only working with his father in the family real estate business, but also with his mother, Martha Hill; oldest brother, Herbert J. Hill Jr. (who now heads the real estate company); sister Luella Hill-Kim; and brother Hubert Jason Hill. “Inclusion turns to motivation and then you have a bigger purpose. Now, I come into work every day and work with my wife (Lisa), who provides support to the organization, and my son (Dawan Perry), who is the real boss — I just give oversight — along with my mother-in-law Zoretha Coleman. It is a true honor and a blessing and we all feel the same about our customers and our community.”
On Dec. 15, a day when early rain and overcast conditions provided more downtime than normal at the car wash, Hill explained at length how he views his car wash staff of eight as family.
The elder statesman of the team, who wishes to only be known as L.A., elaborated:
“In between the (Grand) Boulevard and Highland Park is one big family,” said L.A., 64, who attended Alger Elementary school, Sherrard Junior High and Northern High School. “This is the North End, understand. People have been here for a long time and I have been here all of my life. Everybody knows everybody and the legacy must go on.
“At this car wash, our job is to satisfy these customers and take care of this community. The reason why it’s called Celebrity is because we have a lot of celebrities that come here — judges, lawyers; and we have contracts with Henry Ford Hospital and we do police cars. But within this neighborhood, we’re all family and when you come to see us here, we’re a family.”
Hill’s holiday wish for his community may be revealing a future message for his sign.
“I know it may sound cliche or corny, but my holiday wish is love for all mankind,” Hill said. “It brings me to tears, all of the negativity going on in the world, and we’re not thinking about each other. We have to do more than just fly by. It’s time for everyone to actively participate in the community with love to help people in need.”
About this series
We’ll be the first to admit, there’s been a lot of bad news dominating the headlines lately. And we know the toll that can take. So, to mark the season of giving, the Free Press is bringing you, our readers, six uplifting and inspirational stories about people who make good things happen in metro Detroit.
Contact Scott Talley at: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @STalleyfreep. Read more of Scott’s stories at www.freep.com/mosaic/detroit-is/.
Credit: Source link