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10/01/2009

Hats off to a good story

Richard Lautens, Staff Photographer

 

Occasionally a little gem of a story comes out of the blue and can really make your week.

Last week I had to go from Toronto to London, Ontario to make a couple of portraits for a feature I was working on.  Just before leaving, my assignment editor asked if I could ‘pop’ by Guelph on my way to work on another story. Personally I consider it more of a long extra drive on an already long day than a pop however.

As it turned out, it was a wonderful little story about the Biltmore hat company that has been running for close to a hundred years.  I had heard of them but thought they were long out of business.

I have always liked hats.  As a child I had a hat collection from around the world and in university I loved by gray, fur-felt, 2 ½ inch snap brim fedora from Issie Rotman’s hat shop on Spadina.

Going into the shop in Guelph was like going into a museum.  Most of the machinery has been there since the beginning I think and perhaps some of the employees as well.

The new owner of the company with the pencil thin moustache and well-matched hat looked right out of the Cotton Club era.  It was a wonderful combination of small-town hospitality and wonderful light streaming through the windows.

My only regret was that I had very little time there before I was back on the road.

Check out the Star on Saturday or thestar.com for the full story.

 

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Owner Eric Lynes is seen behind his desk.

 

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Wayne Paylor sands the brim of an RCMP hat.

 

 

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An old Biltmore box sits next to some Panama type hats on a display rack.

 

Richard Lautens/Toronto Star

 

 

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