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Salmagundi Tips Its Hat to Style and Community

With 9,000 hats in stock, the Jamaica Plain hat shop has the largest and most diverse inventory in New England.

Andria Rapagnola and Jessen Fitzpatrick, the owners of Salmagundi.
Andria Rapagnola and Jessen Fitzpatrick, the owners of Salmagundi.
Salmagundi, 765 Centre Street, caters to nearly any kind of "hat person." Don't believe it? The store has about 3,000 hats in its showroom and another 6,000 lined up in a basement storage room the length of the shop.

The hat offerings, for ladies and gents, are diverse in every way possible, much like the loyal customers who shop there. The traditional and seasonal items run a wide price range, appealing to everyone from hat connoisseurs with high end taste to working guys and gals.

Owners Andria Rapagnola and Jessen Fitzpatrick, who married 11 years ago, started the business in 2007, traveling to street fairs and festivals along the east coast as they tried to settle on a location for the store.

They opened in JP with 700 moderately priced hats. Since then, they've grown their inventory and their stellar reputation. They were even named the number one hat store in America by the National Headwear Association, an honor not often bestowed on a young start-up shops.

With a clientele ranging from people in their mid-20s to mid-70s, it's likely the customer-driven couple will remain part of the vibrant Centre Street community for years to come.

Andria Rapagnola and Jessen Fitzpatrick and recently discussed the store's beginning, its customers and the world of hats. Here is an excerpt from that conversation.

On opening the Jamaica Plain store:
JF: We opened shop in 2007.
AR: We worked on the space for three months. We did the whole renovation ourselves, so that was a big undertaking.
JF: We did everything ourselves because this was the first business that was our own business. Before that we ran another business for somebody and before that we both came from corporate jobs.

On going into business during a recession:
AR: People thought we were nuts for opening a hat store. We had a lot of people that were psyched for us and a lot of people that were like, "you're out of your mind." It was good for us. Opening in a recession is kind of cool because it only gets better. You go through the tough stuff first. I think it helped us pay attention to what customers really want.

On the name, Salmagundi:
JF: We knew we were going to be a hat store and we wanted to mix in other things, like accessories, but also, more importantly it was the mix of people that we're catering to, that make up this place.
AR: We liked the definition that is, "a mixture of people and ideas that form an incoherent whole," because that's pretty much what happens in here.  

On the selection:
JF: It's untraditional as a hat store that we have a full price range. Usually, you go into a hat store and it's moderate, under $100 or in the low $100s. And some hat stores start in the $300s and end in the $1,000s. But there's never a place where anyone can come in and get the hat they want at multiple prices.

On catering to customers:
JF: The primary aim for the place is to get people in what's right for them, because if they get what's right for them then that's the best advertisement ever. They're feeling good.

On pricing:
JF: We're always trying to make sure we're not out of line in our pricing. We're Googling because we know everybody else is going to Google. You have stores out there in the world that are charging way more than they should and then they're having these dramatic sales.
AR: We don't really do that (have sales) because we price everything as it is. We don't play fun and games.

On the clientele:
AR: You've got people from everywhere. People from Boston, people from New England, some of the richest people, some of the poorest people. Everybody's interacting and having a good time. We really enjoy characters.
JF: Probably about 8 out of 10 people who check out have traveled here and about five percent a week are traveling from out of state. And that's part of the reason we stock 9,000 hats at all times.

On how they ended up in Jamaica Plain:
JF: We were already from here so we kind of opened in our backyard, but it was more because we had the best response here.
AR: Well, Jamaica Plain is a great place because it's welcoming to everybody. Every walk of life can come here and be comfortable.

On the atmosphere of the shop:
JF: It's a social thing, like the barber shop or salon, everybody knows you and you're hanging out.
AR: It's like your favorite bar.

On starting their own business:
AR: I always wanted to have my own business since I was a kid. I'd be watching the Olympics, watching the gymnastics with streamers, and then I'd go outside and get some sticks and tape cray paper to them and sell them to the kids in the neighborhood. So, I always wanted to have my own thing and Jessen was the same way. We have both always been into fashion.
JF: And we're both into people.

On making their own hats in the store:
JF: Going into the fifth year (2012) we had continued on with diversifying and also we started making our own hats. The only reason we started making hats for the shop was because we weren't finding those hats in the industry. Basic hats that people wanted weren't being offered, it was the strangest thing.

On selling hats at salmagundiboston.com:
AR: We actually just launched it.
JF: We're taking the online business differently than people normally take it. We're trying to take it as seriously as the shop. Right now, when you're ordering stuff online if the hat brand you're buying says it's medium, you hope that it is. We're trying to take that full service aspect to the web.
AR: Most of our orders online have been people who've been to the store and live elsewhere or live in a different part of the city and can't make it.

On being a full service hat shop:
JF: Full service meaning there's someone here fitting you that has knowledge of the industry. We do full service restoration on hats. We block hats, we clean hats, we change ribbons, we cut brims and put new sweatbands in.

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