Steamboat Hatter brings age-old art to downtown |

Steamboat Hatter brings age-old art to downtown

Steamboat Hatter owners Sam Daniels and Kay McKenzie have opened a workshop and retail space at 111 11th St. in downtown Steamboat Springs. Daniels said being neighbors with Creekside Cafe and The Laundry has helped bring interest and traffic to the new retail location. (Photo by John F. Russell)

The art of making hats is on full display at the new Steamboat Hatter location in downtown Steamboat Springs thanks to an idea owners Kay McKenzie and Sam Daniels dreamed up in the middle of a pandemic.

“Our vision is that we have a place where customers can come in off the street and watch us building the hats and have a really hands-on experience,” McKenzie said in a Steamboat Pilot & Today article back in March.

Earlier this month, that dream became a reality when they opened a retail location at 111 11th St., Unit 104, in the Old West Building across the alley from The Laundry restaurant.

McKenzie and Daniels started creating custom hats in fall 2020. They have been taking custom orders and selling their creations through their website.

“We just liked the Western culture associated with making hats, and the tradition and all the tools that are involved and just the idea of pursuing an antiquated art was kind of a challenge,” McKenzie said. “I think it was really the challenge that drew us into this.”

In their new location, the artists are surrounded by unique tools, vintage sewing machines and a workshop filled with everything they need to fit, shape, sew and create one-of-a kind western cattlemen’s hats and fedoras.

Upstairs, customers will find a gallery filled with ready-to-wear hats in a number of styles, weights and sizes. Daniels and McKenzie created a space that is inviting, and they hope to host other artists and bands there in the future.

“We have custom ready-to-wear hats in the window or upstairs,” Daniels said. “Customers can also come in and pick a felt and a color, and we will make them a hat.”

Sam Daniels is surrounded by tools, many vintage, of the hat-making trade as he flattens the brim of a custom hat he is currently working to create at Steamboat Hatter. (Photo by John F. Russell)

Customers can choose from hats starting at $900 for a 100% beaver felt western-weight hat or $450 for a hat made from stiffened Merino wool in a dress weight. The shop also offers rabbit felt options.

“We use premium fur felt, and it’s nice and resilient. It lasts a long time and has natural water proofing,” Daniels said. “Our base-model hat will be fine in light rain and light snow, and when you get up to our higher range with beaver fur, it will be fine in a downpour.”

Those who want to further personalize their hats can choose add-on items including distressing, pencil curls, custom hatbands and accent stitching, as well as several personalized gold foil lettering options for the sweatbands. Hats can be molded for an exact fit, and brims can be sized to individual tastes.

Artist Kay McKenzie sews a sweatband for a custom order at the Steamboat Hatter's new location at 111 11th Street in downtown Steamboat Springs. (Photo by John F. Russell)

Custom hats take between two and six weeks to create, and the shop will package and ship them to out-of-town customers.

Daniels said every hat they create is unique and is really a one-of-a-kind piece of art. He said he can also work with customers to refresh older hats with a new hat band, new stitching and/or reshaping.

The upstairs gallery at Steamboat Hatter has a comfortable vintage feel. Owners Sam Daniels and Kay McKenzie said they hope to display other artists’ work in the space and may even host some music from time to time. (Photo by John F. Russell)

“We catch a lot of walk-ins, and almost every person that walks by slams on the brakes,” Daniels said. “People are blown away by it, and 99% of people that walk into this shop have never seen anything like this.”

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