Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Phoenix hatmaker's business brimming from comeback

Twenty-five years ago, Rich Roundtree-Glisson quit his job at Sperry Flight Systems Co. in Phoenix and hit the rodeo circuit, selling cowboy hats out of the back of his pickup. He was pursuing his dream of self-employment with an interest in headgear he picked up from a friend, Steve Speros, who cleaned and blocked hats at Butler's Western Wear in Phoenix. "I was sick of my 9-to-5 job and was looking for something I could do on my own," Roundtree-Glisson said. Today his business, Heritage Hats in Phoenix, has the state's largest selections of Western and dress hats and customers from all over the country. His inventory of about 3,500 hats ranges from the gigantic 5-inch-brim Resistol Open Crown popularized by Hoss Cartwright (Dan Blocker) on the 1960s "Bonanza" television series to sleek fedoras with natty bands, which, after decades in decline, are making a comeback as a fashion accessory. There are also pork pies, bowlers, traditional top hats and panamas, which are handmade in Ecuador. Prices range from under $30 for a standard wool hat to more than $1,000 for one with mink fur in the felt. His customers are Arizona ranchers, actors, U.S. presidents and, increasingly, younger buyers looking to make a fashion statement with a traditional dress hat. Dress hats, which have been out of favor for more than 40 years, are storming back in popularity, giving a sizable boost to his business. Sales of dress hats such as panamas and fedoras are up more than 325 percent this year and are outselling Western hats 3 to 1, Roundtree-Glisson said...AP

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