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Millions of hats have gone out the door since Edward Levine's grandfather opened his store on Washington Avenue in St. Louis.

"He was operating a cleaners in Kansas City when he damaged a man's suit and had to sell the store to replace it,"
Edward recalls. "He had been cleaning hats, too, so he moved to St. Louis and opened a hat store. That was a hundred and one years ago."
Edward's father continued the business, just as Edward and his wife, Carole, do today. "My twenty-three-year-old son has joined the business and is the fourth generation," he says.

According to hat salesmen who call on Levine, his is the largest retail hat store in the world in both floor space and hats displayed. Men's hats account for 95 percent of sales. In the showroom, no hat is stacked on top of another. Instead, each style is displayed neatly on a shelf, with the same style in different sizes resting on either side or above and below.

More than fifteenn thousand hats are stocked on three floors in the building, along with thirty thousand hat bands used to customize a hat .Edward carries brands such as Dobbs, Borsalino, Akubra, Selentino, Knox, Kangol, Stetson and others. Because of the volume Edward does, some manufacturers sell specific labels only to Levine Hat Company.

Hat prices vary, of course.  Some baseball-type caps sell for just over two dollars, while the most popular seller is a classic fedora with a small brim retailing for about forty dollars.

As of fifteen years ago, hats are no longer produced in quantity by the company, but James Peterson, a twenty-five year employee, still hand-makes hats by request."  When someone says, 'But you must make me a hat, what am I going to do?"  Edward says,shrugging. "We make thema hat . " Custom made hats sell for $225 to $500. In addition to shipping hats nationwide and worldwide, Edward sells hats on the internet .The Levine Hat Company is located at 1416 Washington in St.Louis. For information, call 314-231-3359 or visit www.levinehat.com

 —Jim Winnerman

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