Courtney said his interest in customized felt and straw hats began while traveling in Colorado, where he encountered the art of customizing hats for each customer.
In December 2018, Courtney began working to open ‘the tiniest hat shop in Texas’ in the H.D. Gruene building, which is owned by his father-in-law, Pat Molak.“[My family] had kind of a little 200-square-foot sliver of the antique store that they were kind of kicking around ideas, and I just said, ‘Hey, you know, why don’t we throw a hat shop in there and see how it goes,’” Courtney said.
He had gathered ideas from the hat shops he visited and began making customized hats for friends and family.
However, the time it took to make a hat and the price he had to charge would be too much for a shop, he said. So he pivoted to selling fully made hats that could be customized.“So, at the hat store, where we have straw hats from $50-$500, it serves a wider range of customers, and we just thought it was a better business plan,” he said.
The shop sells more than 100 brands of hats, and each one can be shaped to fit the customer’s head before bands, feathers and personalized brands are added.
The hat shop has done well, and Courtney said the team is continuing to learn what customers want and how to anticipate trends.
“There’s just a tremendous learning curve,” he said. “We’ve only been open a year, so we’re still learning. It’s been very cool to see [customized hats] catch on and people coming in now requesting that.”
Like other local businesses, the hat shop had to modify its operation due to the coronavirus pandemic and closed temporarily in March and April before reopening with added cleaning measures, occupancy limits, mandatory mask wearing and curbside pickup options.
Courtney said the local community and travelers who come through Gruene have continued to support his business, and his team is excited to continue growing the shop. “I think road trips are a little bit more prevalent than air travel, so thankfully that has been pretty good, and we’ve been very blessed to be in a good, safe community,” Courtney said. “We’re really looking forward to the fall season.”