Dear Hearts-
A Durham Love Letter

Durham’s two and half degrees of separation are a delight to marinate in…

Saturday night at The Pinhook, watching one of my favorite bands right now, Prypyat, make hauntingly beautiful melodies with the guitar, cello, voice, and whistle,  I heard another tale of interconnection. This was a show with a lot of friends in attendance. And perhaps the last show for the talented duo, Violent Dreams.

Amidst this community, I was relating to one of those friends, that I was stoked for the #DURM love letter our columnist, Buddy Ruski, was penning to the fabulous retail partners over on Foster Street, Dear Hearts.

Not only had the beautiful and uber-talented Ashlie White been shopping in the trendy, boutique, Dear Hearts, that very afternoon, but it turns out, she went on the road trip when they picked up the original Dear Hearts’ trailer back in the day.

White related that it was a vintage Shasta Camper, a word embedded with images of California mountains and Hindu deities. White hauled the trailer back to Durham. Donna and Stella set-up shop, and the rest is history.

Shopping local for the holidays in Durham is moving from a dream to a reality.—Ed.

dear hearts shasta



Columnist, Justin Laidlaw, aka Buddy Ruski, is a renaissance man. His interests range from the music business to politics, from Durham’s history and culture to the world beyond. He has been crafting a multi-part series on Race in America, read Part I here and Part II here. Laidlaw, aka Ruski, is one of the new generation’s multitasking, trans-categorize-able doer’s. He is a thinker, a fashion model, and a business manager.

Here he pens a Durham welcome letter to Dear Hearts, the new Durham spirited retailers’s at #618 Foster Street.

Dear Hearts- A Durham Love Letter

by: Buddy Ruski

Dear Hearts-

First and foremost, Welcome to Durham.(1) Sorry this letter did not reach you sooner. I think it may have gotten lost in the Post. You know, Government Shutdown… or something like that.

It feels destined, Durham and Dear Hearts. I think we will find it to be a lovely match. Y’all havin’ spent so much time a thrivin’ an’ survivin’ in cutthroat, major metropoli : New York and L.A., a lil’ Southern hospitality with a sweet tea and smile will be refreshing.

And yet Big Daddy Kane did say he found “Brooklyn in the South.” Durham is dirty and gritty, and a whole different spot when its Summer in this City.

Oh, and you are welcome to the barbeque. I will not fight you for it. I know it is the Southern equivalent of treason, but it is not my cup of sweet tea.

You fit right into our Durham riff. Coming up out of a food truck is practically a tradition in your neighborhood of Durham. Cocoa Cinnamon and Daisy Cakes both came up that way. Does Durham know that Dear Hearts’ tale of having done it truck first? Hope so.

Dear Hearts founders, Donna Orr and Stella Wingfield

Dear Hearts founders, Donna Orr and Stella Wingfield

As a novice fashionisto, I live for creativity and originality in clothing. But like so many in Durham, it is hard on a budget. Fashion’s vacuuming effect on wallets really scares away people like me. Durham will recognize and value Dear Hearts for being conscious of the people’s need for great looks at good prices. You will fit right into the city’s culture. I know you value friends and neighbors. Durhamites are rooted in the psychology of reduce, re-use, recycle.

We have an upcycling fashion movement. We are growing. Dear Hearts is going to be part of that growth. “With great power comes great responsibility.” Gentrification is threatening all across the city, and every citizen has a choice to make as to which side of the battle they stand. Large and small, our actions add up to a City and a community.

Durham will appreciate the vibe and way you are doing it. We like the culture we have established here, and we build inside of that culture, not on top of it. It is the reason we built apartments inside the tobacco warehouses, Geer St. Garden is a renovated service station, MotorCo a former auto dealership, and a Pop-up shop has formed inside of MotorCo… Which is why it is so perfect that you have flowered in the Shed Letter Press and now blossomed into the whole space.

In bringing vintage fashion to the downtown scene, you have established something that Durham needs in its nationally emulated DIY-business model. All our foodies have their Toast, Mateo’s, Saltbox, and Dame’s…and on and on… and American Underground solidified the tech scene… Fashion is the next frontier in this town that is cut from its own original cloth.

dear hearts logo

Fashion is the first impression created in presenting one’s identity. Every day, we choose outfits that we think best represent our mood, ideals, and style. You all give new life each day allowing individuals to create their own identity through clothing and fashion with a wonderfully, wide collection of pieces that you showcase on the daily. You do so in a way that allows a wallet, and a heart, of any size to find their way through the ventricle of Foster Street and to your open doors.

Durham welcomes the burgeoning fashion scene that is happening to the stage with Music, Visual Art, Spoken Word, Documentary Film, and all the other things already kicking it hard in DURM.

We can only hope there is another Fashion show coming soon. Maybe Dear Hearts will be a part of it. We already know you are in the center of the scene.

Welcome to Durham, Donna and Stella.

from Buddy Ruski and the whole Clarion Content crew.


(1) Thankfully that doesn’t mean what it once did.


Buddy Ruski does work.



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Columnist Justin Laidlaw is a renaissance man. His interests range from the music business to politics, from Durham’s history and culture, to the world beyond. The co-host of Clarion Content’s podcast, he is fast becoming a veteran columnist. He is a fashion model, a tech sceptic, a business manager and more.

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