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Employee of the Month: Aren Willingham


What is your job with Urban Outfitters?
I am currently a Sales Associate but I used to be the housewares team leader at the Kansas City store before transferring to the Detroit location. I arrange merchandise on the sales floor, maintain the stockrooms, and help rework the store each season by rebuilding walls, tables, shelves...everything!

What is the coolest part about your job?
Getting to wear whatever I want! Just having the freedom to dress with trends and styles and not be obligated to only wear the store's merchandise. That and getting to meet interesting people and celebrities all the time.

Which celebrities?
Oh shoot, well more so when I was in Kansas City than in Detroit, but I've met Ryan Adams, Andrew Bird, the guys from Alkaline Trio and Tommy Lee. Mandy Moore definitely used the bathroom in the Detroit store! The HBO show Hung was filmed in front of our store, so I met Jane Adams when she went shopping for a purse.

What are the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging is also the most fun for me: floor sets. I love building up the department and getting my hands dirty with paint and sawdust. It sounds funny because it's not my normal forte, but I think that's why I love it. Urban is the first company I've worked for that customizes their entire departments from scratch.

What are the best places to eat and shop in Detroit?
Eat at Slows! Great barbeque and they even have an amazing vegan option. Also, The Fly Trap for the best vegan breakfast food around. For shopping besides Urban and Value World? Regeneration in Ferndale and Lost and Found in Royal Oak for great vintage and resale shops.

There's a big bike scene in Detroit. Are you a bike guy?
I am very much a bike guy! I have a car sitting in front of my house and I ride my bike everywhere including work. The bike scene is definitely growing out here but it was much better when I used to live out in Kansas City...can't wait for it to get better here though.

Do you have other hobbies should we know about?
I have an acoustic folk project called Whiskey Red and I've been a sound engineer for more than 10 years. I do photography, graphic design work and have recently started working on music video sets. The music video thing has been my newest adventure and I'm loving all of it. We actually just got home from The Land Of Nod Festival where we filmed Of Montreal, Murder by Death and others.

What is exactly is Whiskey Red?
Whiskey Red is a project I started a few years back. The lamest way of describing it is a mix between Iron and Wine and Fionn Regan. Super chill finger-picky folk music; I'm in the works of putting out a split later this fall and releasing an EP on iTunes. I've never toured professionally with my music, but I'd like to one day.

You have a pretty serious beard going on.
I've had my beard for just around seven years and I've only shaved twice—both times were probably the worst mistakes of my life!

Five best beards of all time?
Not in any particular order but: Jonathan Kindler of The Chariot, Allen Ginsberg, Andy Williams from Every Time I Die, Ulysses S. Grant, and of course Jesus!