Interview with Paris Hatters Family: San Antonio
Was the store always a hat store?
At the beginning, for a limited time, it was a used clothing and hat store, then my father and my uncle started selling name-brand hats. When they started they didn’t know how’d it go and they just gathered steam as time went by. We are celebrating 100 years this year. We’ve been with Stetson pretty much 100 years. We carry over 300 dozen hats in stock, in over 15 colors, we carry hats sizes from 6.5 – 8. In our western line, we carry from a 3X all the way to a 1000X…that’s the highest that Stetson makes.
How much do the hats cost?
We cater to all walks of life. I have hats from $20 to $5500.
Why is the store so unique? (Specifically Abe’s wife Myrna answering)
There is a lot of magic to the store. We have all of this wonderful merchandise, but the other aspect of the success of the store is where we are. We are in San Antonio, Texas. We have the legacy of the Alamo two blocks away. We are such a historic place and Stetson is so symbolic of Americana. The Mexican culture is very rich. We have people come in from all over the world to see our city and see us. This store is a piece of Americana. And it’s because of the way we are as Texans with our culture, and it’s because of the romance and mystique of the Stetson hat. So all of that together makes for a very appealing blend for everyone who walks in. Along with the fact that we give them what they want, they walk away with an exact sculpture for their head…in any color and any quality.
Someone told me once that we sell happiness here. We have a whole experience…it’s not that they are going to come here just to buy a hat, they are going to come here to be treated as individuals and walk out the door not only having a hat, some fun with us and exchanging stories, but getting just the right thing that they’re going to have for the rest of their life. It’s an experience, not just a retail exchange.
Why is it called Paris Hatters?
Back in the day my father carried stuff from Europe. The common idea is that everything that was the best and the finest came from Paris. We didn’t think it would be a longevity thing…It just happened as time went by.
What has been a major effect on the success of your store?
There was a point where San Antonio had over 20 hatters and they started to fall away. There was a steady pattern where we just hung in there and things were fine, but then when the movies hit we saw a big resurgence in western with Urban Cowboy and it never ended, it just kept on going after that. We do a lot of hats for movies. I did three hats for Lonesome Dove. We did two hats for All the Pretty Horses and numerous hats for The Newton Boys.
There has also been a snowball effect. In our history, when we started with that increase from John Travolta wearing a hat, then there came more movies with more people wearing hats, and then we also had the advent of the world wide web. That took us from being well known among Texans to being well known pretty much all over the world. It just mushroomed even more. And of course, Stetson, with their fame and their quality has also helped.
How have you seen more recent changes in San Antonio affect your store?
We are very happy that we have the type of city government that keeps the city on the for with travelers. We just were There is so much that draws people to the city. And the city is always thinking of ways to bring us even more traffic. That’s a variable that helps us tremendously. The city is very tourist oriented. The conferences, the parties, the events…it’s a great blend for us to take advantage of being right downtown.
How do you see the next generation impacting Paris Hatters, particularly your daughter, Alexandra?
She brings a new perspective that is more socially adept. She understands marketing, the use of social media. She understands what young people want. She brings another beautiful perspective to what we know and have been doing for 100 years.
She has a lot more modern way of doing things. Quicker, easier ways of getting to the same end.
Who was the most memorable celebrity or figure who you sold a Stetson to?
Well, he was not the funniest, but the most iconic. The Pope…Pope John Paul II. Well, he’s a saint now so you can’t beat that. We “hatted” a saint! The Pope is not just there to accept gifts from just anyone, and the reason he accepted the gift is that it came from the Archbishops of Texas. It was their symbol of Texas and it’s why they chose to give him a fine Stetson. That’s how we became involved.
When someone walks in the door can you tell their hat size?
Would you say people are buying more hats now than before?
Absolutely. Hands down, especially the younger generation. Fedoras, Open Roads…ten years ago you couldn’t get a teenager to wear one. Now more than ever we have younger men buying hats. They are more comfortable wearing hats now than they used to be. We have a generation of kids who are more fashion-forward.