Hats off to Paul's!

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Text by Nicole Gluckstern. Photos by Gabe Magaña hats20909.jpg hats10909.jpg Richmond District residents and fedora aficionados who mourned the temporary closure of Paul’s Hat Works on Geary will have no excuse to go out on the streets hatless again, now that the 91 year-old custom haberdashery has reopened its doors with new ownership at the helm. For the first time since its inception, Paul’s will be an entirely woman-run, worker-owned operation, but the focus and craft of hat-making by hand is one they’ve inherited from three generations of hatters, all the way back to Napolean “Paul” Marquez, who founded his namesake storefront in 1918. hats30909.jpg Olivia Griffin, Kirsten Hove, Wendy Hawkins, Abbie Dwelle Trained in traditional hat-making by previous owner Michael Harris, who’s been hatting for about forty years, Paul’s new owners, Abbie Dwelle, Olivia Griffin, Wendy Hawkins, and Kirsten Hove are hoping to breathe new energy into a time-honored craft, one toquilla palm fiber body and grosgrain ribbon at a time. hats50909.jpg Olivia Griffin persons the counter A whirlwind tour of the premises at the grand opening gala last Saturday revealed a cosy retail floor, a vintage glass-paneled display cabinet, a museum-quality array of hat blocks and brim shapers, and a slightly diabolical-looking conformiteur, a hat-shaped device with vaguely medieval head vise undertones, used to measure the circumference of the skull (a completely painless process, I am assured). hats40909.jpg Wendy Hawkins and a potential customer try out the conformiteur Because it’s still the season for straw, a wide variety of Panama hats were on display, ranging from high-end superfine weaves to the coarser “creative” line -- a pocketbook friendly choice for hard times. “If you take care of it, a Panama hat will last you a lifetime,” co-owner Wendy Hawkins says, showing off 75 year-old model. Now that they’ve finally opened their doors, will the spirited proprietors of Paul’s succeed in their mission to “bring the hat back”? Only time, and perhaps your wallet, will tell. hats60909.jpg Paul’s Hat Works 6128 Geary Blvd, SF (415) 221-5332 http://hatworksbypaul.wordpress.com

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