124 Years – Downtown says goodbye to the nations oldest hat retailer – Henry the Hatter – Detroit, MI

Last week, it was announced that the nations oldest hat retailer, Henry the Hatter would be closing their downtown Detroit location.  After 124 years in downtown and 65 years at their current 1307 Broadway St. location, they are being forced out after their landlord terminated the lease agreement back in April.  I could go left here to talk about the “New Detroit” (let’s call it what it is, GENTRIFICATION) but that’s a topic for another day.

When I heard the news, it immediately took me back to my childhood and brought back memories of my uncle Sonny, who seemed to visit Henry the Hatter on a weekly basis.  I knew I had to make a trip downtown with my camera to capture the mood of the store and employees.  I spoke with Henry the Hatter owner Paul Wasserman, who was more than happy to answer a few questions and pose for a photo.  _UPS2589 copy_UPS2513 copy I asked Mr. Wasserman what the past few days have been like since the closing was announced and he told me “the love being shown is unbelievable.  You wouldn’t even believe how many stories I’ve heard about 3rd and 4th generations who were all introduced to our store by fathers and grandfathers”    _UPS2517 copy_UPS2516 copyHe stated that “the last few days have been like being a guest at your own funeral”   he must have noticed the look on my face as he continued, “but in a good way.  Most people never actually get to hear all the love and well wishes, as we often wait to share them until it’s too late and they’ve passed away”   _UPS2520 copyHe finished by saying, “what’s happened over the last few days really solidifies what I’ve done over the last 40+ years” _UPS2521 copy1Henry the Hatter was originally founded in 1893 by Henry Komrofsky on Gratiot Ave._UPS2531 copyAfter Komrofsky’s death, Henry the Hatter was sold to Seymour Wasserman (father of current owner Paul Wasserman) _UPS2544 copy_UPS2534 copyIn 1952, the original Gratiot Ave. store was demolished and the business moved to their current Broadway location._UPS2538 copy_UPS2678 copy_UPS2555 copyPaul Wasserman joined his father in the hat business in 1973 and is still the current owner today.  His father passed away in 1998 at the age of 83_UPS2541 copy_UPS2586 copyPresident Dwight D. Eisenhower wore a hat from the store to his 1956 inauguration_UPS2591 copy_UPS2560 copyOf course, I couldn’t leave without picking up something for myself.  Salesman Javon Garrison helped me to locate the perfect seersucker linen Kangol ball cap.  _UPS2561 copy_UPS2574 copy_UPS2594 copyThe 2nd location in Southfield (opened in 1991) will not be affected by the move.  The last day of business at 1307 Broadway will be August 5, 2017.  Mr. Wasserman has hopes of keeping the business in downtown Detroit and will definitely be relocating the famous red neon sign and green awning.  All of the press coverage has caused a swell in calls and visits regarding a new location.  Mr. Wasserman did inform me that he has been extended offers for great new locations, but he had to keep that info “under his hat” until things were finalized.

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2 Comments

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  1. Steve great job capturing this history. I have my own memories of going there and “the older lady,” (name forgotten) took me through the experience of finding the right hat (not a cap) for me! I still have several as well as an Apple in every color. Yeah Gentrification is real and a gift/curse for Detroit where we need improvement but not at the expense of those jewels that have been a mainstay for decades. I wonder if Cedric the Entertainer knows????

    Like

  2. Awesome read and images. Nice work!

    Like

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