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Springfield, MO

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Business Spotlight

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by Kris Am Hegle

SBJ Contributing Writer

The back room of The Hat Shop is filled with bridal hats, belts and a few saddles that are tagged with neon-yellow sales tickets. Orders are piled everywhere. Owner David Myers is busy shaping a cowboy hat brought in by a customer.

"Some people spend a lot of money on clothes to project a look," Myers said. "You can get the same effect just by wearing a hat. A hat gives you attitude. A hat tells people what you want to present. It's like body language."

A quick run through the racks at The Hat Shop illustrates what Myers means. Top hats, artistically styled berets, fedoras, ladies' hats trimmed with feathers or sequins, denim hats, boating hats, cowboy hats and the "Over the Hill Hippie" hat complete with a gray ponytail all project a different mood when donned.

"I encourage people who come in here to have fun and just try on hats," Myers said. "We're not a boutique. We're more like a specialty shop."

Like a boutique, however, The Hat Shop does do a lot of custom work and special orders. When a customer found a hat he liked on the sales floor that wasn't the right size, Myers offered to custom-make an identical one for the same price.

"Part of the reason I'm able to attract and retain business is because I have a wide selection and good prices," Myers said. "You'd have to visit half a dozen shops to see this kind of selection, and maybe you wouldn't find a hat that fits you. I'll make a customer a hat that fits them like a glove, and it'll cost the same as one right off the shelf."

A self-trained hat maker, Myers does all of the shop's custom work himself. He also does some tack work, including saddles, chaps, belts and other leather accessories.

In the span of a half-hour, Myers has gone from working on a bridal hat to working on a saddle.

Some of the custom orders filled at The Hat Shop are unusual. Attached to one neon-yellow sales ticket is a movie starring Clint Eastwood. A customer has asked Myers to make a hat like the one worn by Eastwood in the movie.

Recently, Myers cleaned, restored and repaired Box Car Willy's fedora, which the entertainer has worn throughout his career. Other entertainers in Branson have had Myers block or reshape the crowns of the hats used in their production numbers.

A full-service shop, Myers also shapes hats "to give them the right effect." In fact, he got into the hat business after a friend asked him to shape his cowboy hat for him. Soon, another friend asked if Myers could make him a hat. He did, and quickly found himself bombarded with requests.

"I knew it was time to start my own business when a friend stopped by my house one Sunday afternoon to get his hat shaped before he went to a rodeo," he said.

In 1991, Myers opened The Hat Shop in Lebanon. To reach a bigger market, he relocated to Springfield in 1996. Although the move allowed him to reach more customers, he soon discovered the new location near the corner of Cherry Street and Glenstone presented other challenges.

"It's hard to see the shop from Glenstone," Myers said. "People don't see us until they're past the place to turn. I'm thinking about changing locations in the future."

Still, Myers said, location hasn't proved to be a problem when it comes to attracting tourists to his shop. Originally, two large billboards located east and west of Springfield on Interstate 44 directed travelers to The Hat Shop. When a strong wind downed one of the signs, decreased business.

"Unfortunately, I haven't been able to replace that sign because there wasn't any billboard space available, and the state legislature has put a limit on new billboards," Myers said.

Much of Myers work comes from repeat business, but he's always looking for new ways to expand. Recently, he launched his own Web site,

www.TheHatShop.com,

in an effort to attract customers nationally. In the meantime, Myers said, he's still working "to make Springfield a hat town."

THE HAT SHOP:

Business philosophy: "If you can put it on your head, I can do it at The Hat Shop."

Year founded: 1991

Address and phone number: 1825 E. Cherry St., Springfield 65802; 863-1010.

Web site: www.TheHatShop

.com

Owner's name: David Myers

PHOTO CAPTION:

David Myers helps regular customer Cheryl Briggs with a hat suitable for formal parties.

PHOTO CAPTION:

David Myers has had his 8-year-old business in Springfield since 1996. [[In-content Ad]]

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