New downtown business offers handmade clothing, hopes to fill niche for men and women alike

As Seen in the Jackson Hole News and Guide 

When Billy “Zeb” Smith and his wife, Kate, moved to Jackson Hole — or returned to the valley, in Zeb’s case — a couple of years ago they didn’t want to settle for remote work or founding another local film production company.

They wanted to be part of the community.

Growing up in New York City, the son of a fashion hotshot, Zeb spent months every winter and summer in Jackson Hole visiting his dad, David Smith, who moved to Wilson when Zeb was 3. Zeb spent the winters skiing and the summers hiking, climbing and generally “Huck Finn’ing [my] way through the Forest Service land that served as [my] backyard above Mosquito Creek,” he said.

“I didn’t want to be another guy who moved back, only to work remotely,” Zeb said. “I came back partly because of the mountains and rivers and all that, but also because of this community. And I didn’t want to just be on the outside looking in.” Thus, Grit General was created.
The “General” part of Grit General is an homage to the old general stores, while “Grit” comes straight from Zeb’s father.
“’Grit’ comes from my dad; I would come out here from the city starting at 3, 4 years old and my dad would always talk about ‘it takes grit,’” Zeb said, pointing out that his dad built his cabin in Mosquito Creek with his own hands and plenty of grit.
The new store at 165 N. Center St., about a half-block north of Town Square, specializes in durable Western menswear — though Zeb is quick to point out that much of the clothing and other items in the store appeal to women, as well. It has a Western look, feel and even smell to it. The latter is owed to how much leather is in the store, from the inviting couches and chairs to the rolls of bison leather for making bracelets and other items to the leather-strap satchels and leather-adorned clothing.
Zeb estimates that 80% of their products are made in the U.S., and he tries to source his products as locally as possible, with the bulk of the rest coming in from Italy and Japan.
Grit General has been open, call it a soft opening, since the beginning of July, but Zeb said he’s seen roughly 30 or more people visit the store each day, though their sign still wasn’t hanging in front of the store yet. The hours are somewhat fluid — advertised as “high noon to sundown,” as Zeb would like to spend dinners with his family when he’s able — though Zeb said they’ll keep the doors open as long as people are coming in.
The grand opening is scheduled for Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m., with live music to entertain the masses. But Zeb will still open the store five hours earlier, high noon.
If you want to kill a moment while a loved one or companion is shopping, Zeb and Kate encourage people to take advantage of the couches and chairs, perhaps even pulling the Gibson acoustic guitar from the wall and strumming a few chords. They want people to make themselves at home at Grit General, which they envision as more than just a store for people to stop in for a few minutes.

But while the focus is on clothing, Grit General offers much more, including handmade Native American bracelets and jewelry replete with beautiful turquoise and etched silver, and a custom leather bracelet-making stand with old-school hole punches and alphabet stamps that will bring out the inner child and camp memories for many.

“My old friend Jed owns Shiprock Gallery in Santa Fe with his wife, Samantha,” Zeb said. “His family has operated trading posts in New Mexico for five generations, so they’ve accumulated and curated the most unbelievable and comprehensive collection of antique Native American weavings and jewelry. We are so incredibly grateful to them for sharing some of their treasures with us and letting us be their northern outpost.”

Perhaps the biggest draw, though, are the handmade, custom-fitted jeans that feature Mercury Dimes and Buffalo Nickels in the fly, rather than the standard metal buttons found on most button-fly jeans. Though they may cost more than the average pair of jeans, at about $400 a pair, they are far from average. And with a lifetime warranty, they will quite literally last you the rest of your life and beyond. Kate notes, too, that many people she knows are willing to shell out far more than that for a pair of jeans that aren’t custom-fitted, don’t have the same quality denim and rivets, and most importantly lack the lifetime warranty.

Zeb and Kate have created a store that they said fills a sought-after niche, one that provides quality, handmade goods that aren’t easily matched. And they love the location, tucked in just to the north of Orsetto and to the south of Teton Tiger and Kampai, where they envision plenty of foot traffic.

And they might just have the greatest marketing tool of all. If you happen to be walking by or are waiting outside for a table to open up at one of the nearby restaurants and feel a tug at your pants leg, it could very well be soon-to-be 3-year-old Wilson “Pope” Smith encouraging you to take a gander at Grit General. Posy also spends plenty of hours at the store with mom, dad and brother.

Though Zeb and Kate’s son goes by “Pope,” his given first name, Wilson, is fitting. As Zeb explained, his son was named after the neighboring valley town, “the happiest place of my childhood, where I kind of always knew I’d return.”

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