In the late 1870s, a young ambitious lad delivered hats walking from a St. Charles Avenue hat store to customers in the Garden District. Within a few years, the same young man moved up to cleaning and brushing fedoras and fashionable top hats. Next, he became a successful salesman. Then, at the age of 32, he secured a $500 loan from his mother and got a representative from Stetson to vouch for his character so that he could get his first delivery of hats. That man was Sam H. Meyer, who, in 1894, opened what would become Meyer the Hatter, the South’s largest hat store.
The small shop prospered over the years selling Stetson hats and men's ties. Then in 1961, the store moved to a 5,000-square-foot building at 120 St. Charles Ave. Today it’s a well-loved institute and the fifth generation of Meyers is still selling caps and hats to thousands of New Orleanians and tourists from all around the world.
Sam Meyer, the grandson of the original Sam, at age 94, is still working at the store three days a week. His wife, Marcelle, 92, works in the store too. Their sons, Paul and Michael, the fourth generation, and Paul's wife, Pascale, all work full time. Their sons, Cedric and Christopher, the fifth generation of the family, are proud to be a part of the Meyer Hatter team helping customers find the perfect chapeau for every occasion.
The business doesn’t make hats on site but buys high-quality stock from all around the world. It sells top brands such as Dobbs, Biltmore and, of course, Stetson.
“Spring is our best season because there’s the French Quarter Festival, Easter and then JazzFest,” says Paul. “Jimmy Buffett came in about 7 or 8 years ago during Jazz Fest when we were very busy, so nobody noticed him. I recognized him and started helping him. He asked to see a Gold Saints Fleur de Lis baseball cap that was on display and put it on. The Times-Picayune showed a picture a couple of days later of Jimmy wearing our Gold Saints cap on stage at Jazz Fest.”
Elvis Costello, known for his dapper pork pie hat, was once a customer and just the other day Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac came in to browse.
Other celebrity shoppers have included Kermit Ruffins, Cyrille Neville, writer Ronnie Virgets and the late WWL’s Frank Daivs, who bought his Greek fishermen hats from the store.
Paul Meyer says the best way to care for a hat is to never pick it up by pinching the crown. It’s best to pick up the hat either by the front or back of the brim.
“There’s a hat for everyone,” he says. “The hat just has to have the right color and the right shape. And, most importantly, the right style. People wear hats to keep their heads warm and to keep them shaded from the sun but really the main reason one wears a hat is for style and looking sharp.”
Jody Dickerson, endodontist and local musician, is an ardent customer. He owns eight caps, four straw hats and two or three fedoras from Meyer’s.
“To match a white linen suit and two-tone shoes, I bought the perfect hat from them to give me that Huey Long look,” he says. “My fedoras give me that Cary Grant/Mad Men feel. It’s just a treat to go downtown to Meyer the Hatter and buy a hat. It’s that little thing that makes you feel good about yourself.”
Meyer The Hatter
120 St. Charles Ave.
1 (800) 882-4287
1 (504) 525-1048