Having a unique and useful product isn’t always a guarantee for success, especially in a crowded marketplace like hats. But when you have a great product and an entrepreneurial spirit, there is no telling how big something may get.
That was the case for Richard Atwood when he got requests from friends for palm leaf hats that he would bring back from trips to Mexico. The material had some unique advantages to traditional straw hats, and he could sense an opportunity.
Fast forward a few decades and another Atwood has found a way to expand the business and bring felt cowboy hats to the market straight out of a factory in downtown Frankston, competing with the biggest names in the business and winning fans with old-fashioned quality craftsmanship.
“I admit I’m a bit of a hat snob, I always have been,” said Brooks Atwood, Richard’s son, and now business partner. “I have always shaped my own hats, but I haven’t really always known what a good hat was. As you learn more, you understand what goes into these hats and I just want to make the best hat you can get in whatever price range you are shopping for.”
Seeing all of the material and processes that go into a quality hat is part of the draw for Atwood’s downtown Frankston shop, which is attached to the hat factory. Lined with antique machinery, the old brick building looks like a scene from a century ago.
“People love to visit the shop, and you certainly feel better about spending the money when you see the process that goes into it,” Brooks Atwood said. “And really the key is getting the absolute best material to work with that you can get. We only get the best.”
And while the factory and store have an antique feel, the community of Frankston has a personality to match, with a traditional feel that is reminiscent of a bygone era.
“I live in the house I grew up in and I know most of the people around here,” Brooks Atwood said. “It is a lot like Mayberry around here. When we were working on my wife’s shop down the street, the hardware man stopped by at closing time and gave us the keys to his store in case we needed anything … he said we could just write it down and we would settle up on Monday. That doesn’t happen much anywhere else anymore.”
Most Atwood hats make their way to retailers around the country, but it may be worth a trip to Frankston to get a hat, and bit of education to go with it.