April 3, 2011 in City

Doug Clark: Wolf’s Hattery brimmed with style

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Christopher Anderson photoBuy this photo

Dave Wolf of Wolf’s Hattery and Mercantile is getting out of the business after years of working with every style of chapeau.
(Full-size photo)

Businesses come. Businesses go.

Nobody gives a hoot most of the time.

But once in a while the demise of an enterprise warrants a word or two of eulogy.

And so today we say happy trails to Wolf’s Hattery and Mercantile.

By month’s end this small and rustic concern at 2617 W. Northwest Blvd. will be no more. Owner Dave Wolf says he’s ready to find something else to occupy his time.

But while I wish him the best, I must join the chorus of his customers and fans who are mourning the idea of a Spokane without a Wolf’s.

This is no mere closure. This is the end of an era.

Wolf, you see, is a practitioner of the mostly bygone craft of hat making.

Fedoras. Western hats. Replica Indiana Jones hats.

Wolf can make them all.

But being a professional hatter is only part of it. Wolf’s was the place to take your hats to get cleaned and restored as well as to treat your dome to a new lid.

“All my customers are just kind of pissed,” says Wolf, adding a soft laugh. “They’re grumbling things like, ‘I hope it falls through.’ ”

The “it,” Wolf adds, is a deal he struck with Baron Hats, the famed Hollywood firm that has created hats for countless television shows and movies, including the recent remake of “True Grit.”

Wolf says Baron purchased his entire store: the aged shoeshine stand, the signage and fixtures, plus all the rare wood crown and flange blocks that date back to the early 1900s.

Baron even bought the antique hatboxes.

Wolf won’t divulge what he’s making but says he’s satisfied with the terms.

“I don’t have any plans,” says Wolf, 44. “I’m just focusing on getting it sold.”

Wolf’s journey to this unusual line of work started after graduating from North Central High School. He landed a job as a boot salesman at Olsen Bros. Clothery, a landmark Spokane store that was devoted to western and ranch wear.

An observant guy, Wolf saw the business being conducted out of the hat department. So when Olsen’s closed, Wolf bought all the hat restoration and hat-making gear.

Then, in late 1997, he opened the doors to a new career.The store was well-stocked with hats of all styles and materials, although Wolf’s had always had a heavier accent on western wear.

One time years ago I got carried away during a visit to Wolf’s and wound up shelling out $150 for this great black Stetson cowboy hat.

Oh, yeah. I put it on and looked like a genuine member of the Mild Bunch.

But when I got home the excitement dissipated enough to where I could start thinking clearly again. I looked in the mirror and realized I was never going to set foot out of the house wearing a cowboy hat. But it still looks really cool hanging on my hatrack.

It was a bit sad visiting Wolf the other day. The last time I was in the shop was to get my black Borsalino fedora reshaped into something more like what Bogart used to wear.

For the last several months, Wolf has been selling off his inventory to prepare for closing. The place now looks nearly picked clean.

Some straw hats are left. Some belts. A couple of western vests …

It’s sad.

Wolf is still taking in hats for cleaning and blocking. But right now the hat maker is his best customer.

“I’ve got about 10 hats,” he says, adding that he plans to get them all in tip-top shape before the doors close. “I do everybody else’s hats and never touch mine.”

I hope this rad hatter finds what he’s looking for. The business he gave Spokane was one of kind, and he deserves a tip of the hat.

Doug Clark can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or dougc@spokesman.com.


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