A thin face? Prominent ears? Long nose? High forehead? Receding chin? Fear not — the folks at The Hat Store in Nevada City have just the hat for you.
“It all has to do with the shape of your head, the fit, the silhouette, the shape, color and texture,” said David Casazza, co-owner of The Hat Store. “With several thousand hats in our inventory, we’ll help you find the right one.”
The store is known for its extensive selection of hats, and customers travel from as far as the Bay Area for just the right one. Some customers will spend a couple of hours deciding on which single hat to purchase, said 13-year retail clerk and buyer Sheila Keene-Larson, yet others — such as a recent female patron from Reno — will spend more than $1,000 on a broad range of styles in a matter of minutes.
Twelve years ago, Greg Spotts went looking to buy retail space on the sunny side of the second block of Broad Street. When he heard that a long-time hat store was for sale, he jumped at the chance.
“I bought the space with the intention of liquidating the inventory from the hat store,” said Spotts. “I wanted to make it into a homemade ice cream shop.”
But Spotts said he was “bombarded” by hat vendors, who wooed him by taking him to trade shows in Las Vegas and reminding him that the hat store had been successful.
“I decided that food products were a lot of work,” he said, with a laugh. “Plus, hats don’t go bad.”
Not long after deciding to keep the hat store open, Casazza came on board as an equal partner, and, in 2003, they opted to completely remodel the 1860s’ building.
“We did a complete remodel — the building was almost razed,” said Spotts. “But the original brick walls are still intact, and the storefront is historically accurate.”
After seemingly endless construction and city permits, the final result was worth it, said Casazza. The store ended up winning several architectural awards and was featured in an issue of Qualified Remodeler magazine.
“There are two comments we hear often when people come into the store,” said Spotts. “‘What a beautiful store’ and ‘What an amazing selection.’ We’ve got hats from all over the world.”
Popular hats include the Tilley hat line, which are considered the Cadillac of outdoor hats, said Spotts. They’re handmade in Canada and machine-washable. Some of the higher-end hats include the Borsalino from Italy and the American-made Stetson. Also popular are Bailey of Hollywood, Christy’s of London, Toucan from New York, the Wallaroo Hat Company and others. The popular cotton and wool Parkhurst hats from Canada were originally made for women going through chemotherapy, said Casazza, but the soft fabric and colorful styles created a broader appeal.
The Hat Store also carries driving caps custom made for the store, and a recent coup was obtaining the licensing to carry the much-coveted New Era authentic sports caps, which are worn by professional athletes on the field.
The store also sells accessories, such as scarves, walking sticks and elegant hat boxes. Products are not sold online because hats need to be tried on, said Spotts, but the store does offer mail order and gift cards. For every $100 a customer spends, $10 will be knocked off the next purchase.
Although Casazza and Spotts still go to trade shows, these days vendors are more likely to come to them.
“They know we’re worth it,” said Casazza. “Plus we can spend more time checking out each hat.”
Keene-Larson said she has the perfect job because she loves working with people.
“I’ve been in retail for over 35 years — Greg and Dave are wonderful to work for,” she said. “Here I meet customers from all over the world. It feels good to help people with a specific event coming up — like the mother of a bride — and knowing that I helped them to find that perfect hat.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com or call 530-477-4203.