By Kathy Feist
Cowboy hats. Derby hats. Outback hats. Greek fisherman caps. Cadet hats. Scottish golfer hats. Fedoras of every kind. Easter Sunday hats. Kate Middleton hats. Fur hats. Stocking hats. Floppy hats. Hats of every style and every class, from high end Stetsons to cheap cotton garden hats.
The Hat Store at 13141 State Line, also known as Exclusively For You, sells hundreds of styles to keep a person’s head fashionable and, most importantly this time of year, warm.
Welbon and Betty Monroe started their hat store seven years ago. ”I wanted to buy a hat for a birthday present. I looked but had a difficult time finding one,” recalls Welbon. Having just retired from the Army’s Junior Reserve Officers Training Corp, Welbon was also open to a new career. Betty was still in charge of her own gift basket business called Exclusively for You. When the two saw a small hat kiosk at a mall in Florida, the proverbial light bulb switched on.
The two opened a hat kiosk at Ward Parkway Shopping Center in May 2009. By January they had moved the business to a store in the mall. In 2014, they moved the business to its current location. “We looked all over,” says Welbon. “We wound up here. The Price Brothers built the place out for us.”
The 1500 square feet store is twice as big as what they previously had. “We have a better offering now,” says Betty.
The Monroes are happy to be away from the mall hours. However, their store has become more of a destination place due to the lack of walk by traffic. And with Pita Blu next door gone and Lichtenberg’s Fine Jewelry soon to leave, the Hat Store has its share of challenges. The Monroes says there is talk of a new restaurant opening soon next door, which will bring more business to the area.
The Monroes say they are one of a few hat stores between St. Louis and Wichita and they are proud to be one of them.
They also have begun carrying jewelry, scarves, gloves, socks, bow ties, sunglasses and other accessories. Large red hat boxes line the wall. Each can hold about three hats.
In addition, gift boxes for hats have arrived in time for Christmas.
The Monroes say a lot of their sales are for parties or costumes. On the walls, above the hats, are vintage advertisements for hats. They remind us of a time when going outside without a hat was unthinkable. But then as now, nothing adds style like a hat.