103 year old JJ Hat Center Survives 9/11 Aida O’Toole Explains

JJ Hat Center has been operating its business since 1911 which makes them 103 years old.  Aida O’Toole, the new owner with the firm’s business being family owned for many years “but the third generation sold it off,” says Aida on being asked as to how she came to handling the reins of the business.

Aida’s background was not in hats but she came to work with the companies part time about 25 years ago and eventually, worked through it, and one day eventually bought the firm. Now, Aida’s son, Sean O’ Tool has just entered into the execution of the business operations, as well.

The firm has opened two new centers, one at Manhattan’s East Village and the other at Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Both the shops are named as Pork Pie Hatters. The former was established in 2011 and the latter in 2012.What is unique about these two is that they follow the same principles as their original flagship store in terms of quality and service but also provides an atmosphere that is amicable to the neighborhood location.

Sean does not seem to be slow at all in perceiving the business and expanding its scope. The two satellite offices are his brainchild.   Since so much had been known about the brand, I was prompted to ask the major achievements or awards they would like to share in an interview.

The answer that I received from Aida was not only modestly inspiring but also heart wrenching. After all, as most successful say that if there are no obstacles on the road, the boost to be successful would perhaps die.

For Aida, there were hindrances to, such hindrances that she bravely fought and emerged as the winner. Aida recollected that the firm had won Retailer of the Year Award in the late nineties but for Ida, this did not mean much. The fact that the firm survived the tough times of 9/11 when there were regular threats from the police due to the proximity of the Empire State building and the days when all the employees of JJ Hat Center had no knowledge as to when they could leave as the two blocks from the firm were shut allowing no movement, was worthy of accolades that any other formal recognition.

She considered this as an “achievement as I took great strides to survive those tough days. The situation of the hat industry has indeed gone through a sea of change. Old players have lost business, and new players are struggling to survive. In the midst of all this, JJ Hat Center even after changing hands still stands strong as a brand whom people have faith upon and is still considered to be a reliable brand in the hat and headwear sector catering to men, per say.

Aida says that her firm manufactures men’s hats solely, and they are the oldest surviving firm in New York. “There was a time when there were as many as 48 independent hat stores in Manhattan alone but today there are none.

“Even New York had three major hat stores even in the recent past like ten to twelve years ago. Out of those three, two of them withered away. Although there are newer start-ups that are smaller, trendier stores coming up, I hope they will embrace the traditional hat styles soon, and there will be more such stores in New York.

“So this is a sad and happy occasion at the same time. Sad is due to the closure of business of the old, established brands in the industry and happy because the younger generation seems to have taken hats as one of the trendy fashion accessories. What is an achievement for us is that when such a trend was not in vogue, JJ hat could still stay afloat in the business that she considers as an amazing feat for the firm,” mentions Aida.

For more information on JJ Hats visit  http://www.porkpiehatters.com