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Oldest Hat Shops in the US

Mark Elliott

New in Town
Messages
12
Hats and American history go hand in hand. And while researching my new book (The Brim and the Crown), I wanted to give a shout out to some of the oldest hat shops in the US. They are:
1.
(1883) HENRY THE HATTER (Detroit, MI) – The oldest hat retailer opened its doors in 1883, and the 128-year-old store (actually two locations now) is a local, and well-loved institution. What Henry Komrofsky founded so long ago has twice been named Hat Retailer of the Year, and continues to offer some of the best production fedoras by Baily, Borsalino, Biltmore, Selentino, Mayser, and Westerns by Stetson.
2. (1894) MEYER THE HATTER (New Orleans, LA) – Countless family-owned hat stores in New Orleans have come and gone; only one remains: Meyer the Hatter, located just outside the French Quarter. In 127 years of continuous operation, five generations of the family have worked here ... and some still are. For serious hat guys, this is a destination-store; a vintage shop whose staff really knows hats.
3. (1907) BATSAKES HAT SHOP (Cincinnati, OH) – One of the two oldest custom hat shops in the Midwest. It survived two world wars, a Depression, and several recessions. But six days a week, hatter and owner Gus Miller – age 89 in 2021 – is still there to open the downtown shop and turn on the steam for the day’s work. Batsakes was established by Gus’s relatives in 1907, and since then has made custom hats for generations of Cincinnati businessmen, and numerous music, film, political, and sports figures.
4. (1907) SHUDDE BROTHERS (Brookshire, TX) – What could John Wayne, Tom Mix, and ex-heavyweight champ George Foreman possibly have in common? At one time, they all bought Western hats from Shudde Bros Hatters, the oldest hat shop in Texas. Established in downtown Houston in 1907, the shop has since moved a few miles away, but is still an active family business. Neal Shudde, the founder’s grandson, has been shaping, restoring, and customizing Stetsons and Resistols for 49 years … and he’s still at it.
5. (1908) DELMONICO HATTERS (New Haven, CT) – Once upon a time, downtown New Haven had 27 hat stores … now, there’s just one: DelMonico Hatter. How did it survive wars, a Depression, several recessions, and historical changes in men’s fashion? The Internet. DelMonico’s third-generation owner, Ernest, recognized early on that online sales would be a game-changer. Now 85% of their sales is online … around the country, around the world. The shop has one of the largest hat inventories in the US, and their staff has a high hat IQ. Their website offers all the best name brands, as well as 13 pages of hats produced exclusively for DelMonico’s by hatters in Italy, Spain, France … even Stetson.
 
Messages
10,474
Location
vancouver, canada
Hats and American history go hand in hand. And while researching my new book (The Brim and the Crown), I wanted to give a shout out to some of the oldest hat shops in the US. They are:
1. (1883) HENRY THE HATTER (Detroit, MI) – The oldest hat retailer opened its doors in 1883, and the 128-year-old store (actually two locations now) is a local, and well-loved institution. What Henry Komrofsky founded so long ago has twice been named Hat Retailer of the Year, and continues to offer some of the best production fedoras by Baily, Borsalino, Biltmore, Selentino, Mayser, and Westerns by Stetson.
2. (1894) MEYER THE HATTER (New Orleans, LA) – Countless family-owned hat stores in New Orleans have come and gone; only one remains: Meyer the Hatter, located just outside the French Quarter. In 127 years of continuous operation, five generations of the family have worked here ... and some still are. For serious hat guys, this is a destination-store; a vintage shop whose staff really knows hats.
3. (1907) BATSAKES HAT SHOP (Cincinnati, OH) – One of the two oldest custom hat shops in the Midwest. It survived two world wars, a Depression, and several recessions. But six days a week, hatter and owner Gus Miller – age 89 in 2021 – is still there to open the downtown shop and turn on the steam for the day’s work. Batsakes was established by Gus’s relatives in 1907, and since then has made custom hats for generations of Cincinnati businessmen, and numerous music, film, political, and sports figures.
4. (1907) SHUDDE BROTHERS (Brookshire, TX) – What could John Wayne, Tom Mix, and ex-heavyweight champ George Foreman possibly have in common? At one time, they all bought Western hats from Shudde Bros Hatters, the oldest hat shop in Texas. Established in downtown Houston in 1907, the shop has since moved a few miles away, but is still an active family business. Neal Shudde, the founder’s grandson, has been shaping, restoring, and customizing Stetsons and Resistols for 49 years … and he’s still at it.
5. (1908) DELMONICO HATTERS (New Haven, CT) – Once upon a time, downtown New Haven had 27 hat stores … now, there’s just one: DelMonico Hatter. How did it survive wars, a Depression, several recessions, and historical changes in men’s fashion? The Internet. DelMonico’s third-generation owner, Ernest, recognized early on that online sales would be a game-changer. Now 85% of their sales is online … around the country, around the world. The shop has one of the largest hat inventories in the US, and their staff has a high hat IQ. Their website offers all the best name brands, as well as 13 pages of hats produced exclusively for DelMonico’s by hatters in Italy, Spain, France … even Stetson.
I was fortunate to buy a vintage Batsakes a few months back and restore it to some of its former glory. It has been an ambition to travel to Cincy to order a hat from Gus but this covid thing keeps delaying the trip. Also I am refurbishing an old Shudde Bros hat for a client.
 

dkstott

Practically Family
Messages
718
Location
Connecticut
Ditto for me, they're local. I love going into the old store to browse their selection of hats

Delmonico's is local to me and a pleasure to do business with. For all who do have a local B&M retailer be sure to support them when you can as a customer.
 

K5MOW

Familiar Face
Messages
64
When will your book be ready to purchase. Of course in 1911 JJ Hat center. Don’t believe that was the name of it in those days.

Roger
 

Mark Elliott

New in Town
Messages
12
Gus is undoubtedly the oldest hat shop owner in the US. But the oldest active custom hatter in the US today is a 79-year-old in a small town north of Boise, Idaho. He told me he got into the hat business in the late 1950’s by buying second-hand and pawn shop hats for a dollar, then restoring them and selling them “off his head”. I’ll share more his story later.
 
Messages
10,474
Location
vancouver, canada
Gus is undoubtedly the oldest hat shop owner in the US. But the oldest active custom hatter in the US today is a 79-year-old in a small town north of Boise, Idaho. He told me he got into the hat business in the late 1950’s by buying second-hand and pawn shop hats for a dollar, then restoring them and selling them “off his head”. I’ll share more his story later.
Can't wait to hear it. I love Boise, great town. If travel ever gets easy again I shall head down that way and get him to make me a hat!!!
 

K5MOW

Familiar Face
Messages
64
Gus is undoubtedly the oldest hat shop owner in the US. But the oldest active custom hatter in the US today is a 79-year-old in a small town north of Boise, Idaho. He told me he got into the hat business in the late 1950’s by buying second-hand and pawn shop hats for a dollar, then restoring them and selling them “off his head”. I’ll share more his story later.


Do you sell signed copies.
 
Messages
19,192
Location
Funkytown, USA
I was fortunate to buy a vintage Batsakes a few months back and restore it to some of its former glory. It has been an ambition to travel to Cincy to order a hat from Gus but this covid thing keeps delaying the trip. Also I am refurbishing an old Shudde Bros hat for a client.

All I can say is that I'm pleased as punch to have had Mr. Miller make me a hat. It's a great lid.
 

glider

A-List Customer
Messages
389
Levine in St Louis has been around since the early 1900s also. They actually had a large hat factory in St Louis at one time, it wasn't very far from where their shop is now. Nice place to visit and buy from. I think they do a fair amount of internet business.
 

glider

A-List Customer
Messages
389
Actually, Levine opened for business in St Louis in 1903. The third generation Levine's now run the store and a 4th generation young man has started working there. It is not uncommon for celebrities to stop by and purchase a hat when they're in town, the Stones have been there and purchased hats.
 
Messages
19,192
Location
Funkytown, USA
Gus is undoubtedly the oldest hat shop owner in the US. But the oldest active custom hatter in the US today is a 79-year-old in a small town north of Boise, Idaho. He told me he got into the hat business in the late 1950’s by buying second-hand and pawn shop hats for a dollar, then restoring them and selling them “off his head”. I’ll share more his story later.

This is a confusing post. Mr. Miller makes custom hats as well. Batsakes is not just a retail operation.

To my knowledge, the oldest hat shops still operating and making custom hats are Batsakes and Peters Bros (1911). Does Shudde make customs?
 

jkingrph

Practically Family
Messages
848
Location
Jacksonville, Tx, West Monroe, La.
Several years ago I purchased one from Delmonico, and several from Meyer. Meyer really gave fantastic service, I was wanting one of the better grade Stetson Open Road hats in real Panama straw, not Shantung and was worried about sizing. I normaly take a 7 1/4 but none in stock so the young man I talked to said he was like me in sizing, and tried one on himself and said it should work, so I agreed with the promise that I could return it if it did not fit. It did and resulted in me ordering several more over the ensuing years. Living in E. Texas, I honestly have not heard of Shudde Brothers. There is another in San Antonio, across the street from the Alamo where I purchased a couple but that has been so long I cannot remember anything about them except for the tremendous stock they had at the time.
 

Mark Elliott

New in Town
Messages
12
Following up on my first set of Oldest Hat Shops in the US:

(1911) JJ’s HAT CENTER (New York City) – The city’s oldest hat shop is a cathedral to the fedora. How could any hat lover walk through the doors of this old-school Manhattan shop and not buy one (or more) hats? Open six days a week, JJ’s is something of a paradise for hat lovers. And thanks to one of the store’s salesmen (Kevin Todd Gerber), JJ’s is featured in nearly a thousand instructional YouTube videos. The store is busy most days, and also does a lively online business with customers all over the world.

(1911) PETERS BROS. HATS (Ft. Worth, TX) – One of the few remaining legacy merchants in downtown Ft. Worth. These days, Peters Brothers – which began as a shoeshine parlor in 1911 – is still family-owned and operated now by a fifth generation. Tourists and celebrities in sports and music come and go, but the ranch and rodeo community is year-round, and consider Peters Brothers Hats a must-visit. Especially during the annual, month-long Ft. Worth Stock Show & Rodeo.

(1915) THE HAT STORE (Houston, TX) – At 106 years old, The Hat Store is the oldest hat shop in Houston. Established in 1915, the shop has catered to generations of ranchers, bronc and barrel riders, and music, film, and political celebrities. The walls are adorned with their autographed photos … wearing their new hats, of course. In 2018, the family-owned Hat Store sold to another Houston family, and the business of customizing hats continues without losing a beat.

(1917) PARIS HATTERS (San Antonio, TX) — No one can argue that Paris Hatters isn’t a Texas institution. Established in 1917, it remains a popular, third-generation, family-run hat store whose customers include ranchers, working cowboys, Alamo tourists, celebrities (Johnny Cash, BB King, Bob Dylan, Tommy Lee Jones), a king, a pope, and four American Presidents. The store’s original décor hasn’t changed much, and they still use a hand-cranked 1930’s cash register. The store isn’t as old as the Alamo, but definitely worth a visit.

(1918) PAUL’S HAT WORKS (San Francisco, CA) – Just as World War I ended, an immigrant nicknamed “Paul” opened a hat shop in San Francisco’s Outer Richmond neighborhood near Golden Gate Park. Fast-forward 100 or so years, and a young woman named Abbe has become the latest owner of a shop that is still at its original address. She and her crew make, finish and sell classic dress felt for men and women, and work with only pure beaver felt, pure rabbit felt, and Ecuadorian straw.

(1921) HEIMIE’S HABERDASHERY (St. Paul, MN) — The story begins in 1917. Heime Andler, a young tailor, escapes the Russian revolution and opens a tailor shop with hats and a few accessories. Years later, his son, Ralph, a B17 navigator in WWII, returns home and together they open an expanded retail location. After Ralph’s passing, the store is sold in 1995, and a decade later, a third – and fourth generation – reopen Heime’s. And between 2010 and 2019 they expand again. As always, Heime’s is a cornerstone of St. Paul retail. Today visitors will find a men’s haberdashery like no other; menswear, full-service tailoring, a barber, even a tobacconist. And ready-to-wear dress hats, of course.

(1927) TEXAS HATTERS (Lockhart, TX) – The custom hat shop begun by the Gammage family in 1927 is still going strong. Manny Gammage, the second-generation owner, put Texas Hatters on the map in Texas and among celebrities in film, music, and politics. Among his claim to fame was creating the original “Gus” hat for “Lonesome Dove” actor Robert Duvall. With Gammage’s passing in 1995, the face of Texas Hatters is Manny’s daughter, Joella, and her husband – and hatter – David Torres. Together they continue to create the Western and dress felt – and movie/TV hats – on which the shop has a reputation for craftsmanship and quality.

— excerpted from The Brim and the Crown (2021)
 

Mark Elliott

New in Town
Messages
12
This is a confusing post. Mr. Miller makes custom hats as well. Batsakes is not just a retail operation.

To my knowledge, the oldest hat shops still operating and making custom hats are Batsakes and Peters Bros (1911). Does Shudde make customs?

Thanks for your post. According to Shudde’s web site, they only sell ready-to-wear hats, but do restore and shape existing hats. As for Batsake’s, I’ll revisit that. I got the feeling from the website that Gus wasn’t doing custom any longer. -Mark
 
Messages
19,192
Location
Funkytown, USA
Thanks for your post. According to Shudde’s web site, they only sell ready-to-wear hats, but do restore and shape existing hats. As for Batsake’s, I’ll revisit that. I got the feeling from the website that Gus wasn’t doing custom any longer. -Mark

Website? Batsakes doesn't have a website. However, you're right. I just called the shop and Mr. Miller indicated he's not doing customs anymore. It must be a recent development, though, as there's a profile Facebook page out there (not affiliated w/ Batsakes) where a gentleman indicates he received his custom last July. Is this book based primarily on internet research or did you reach out and interview any of the hat shop owners?

So here you go, @belfastboy. Move to Cincinnati, walk into Gus's shop and tell him you're taking over the custom business!
 

Mark Elliott

New in Town
Messages
12
Frunobulax, the Batsake profile was based on reporting from Cincinnati Magazine, WCPO-TV Cincinnati, and other Ohio/based periodicals … all found online. So, yes, a lot of the basic research for the book was via the Internet and one-on-one conversations over a period of 11 months. And, as you learned from my posts, neither Gus - nor Shudde’s - is doing custom work.
When I get ready to publish a second edition, I’ll be sure to send you a draft so you can check everything.
 

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