We had the good fortune of connecting with Jennifer Webley and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jennifer, what is the most important factor behind your success?
I believe the success of our brand comes from our attempt to be an all encompassing hat shopping experience. Our attention to detail and our efforts to truly satisfy our customers motivates us to keep improving. I feel like there are so many choices for consumers that when someone decides to spend their money on our hats they must have a great experience and walk away with a hat they love. I recognize that people have a lot of choices so I want to show our appreciation by catering to their demands. I make every effort to find the right hat for someone when they walk through our door. Our store is a visual wonderland so folks leave feeling like they have had a bit of a treat. We have a hat museum with representations of hats through the ages and from different cultures. We make most of our hats using antique equipment. We show our customers how hats are made and let them participate in the design of their hats. A lot of people have no idea how a hat is actually made so we will take them through the entire process and stay engaged with them along the way.
What should our readers know about your business?
I was a collector of hats from my teen years. I have always had an interest in the design and structure of headwear and was greatly inspired by old movies. I decided when my children were going off to college that I would learn how to make hats so I took workshops read a lot about it and pretty soon I found myself wanting to open an old fashioned hat shop and sell my wares. It really mattered that customers felt transported to another time when they walked through the doors. I feel I successfully created a wonderful shopping experience for folks. I can’t say that it was too difficult because I built it up slowly and acquired tools for making hats as needed. The biggest risk was when I decided to buy the Shady Brady brand. It was a brand that was unfamiliar to me and it was a fairly large financial commitment I was concerned about the amount of inventory I would have to distribute. It turned out the brand had a large following not only in the US but also overseas. When Covid hit and the store was largely closed we decided to pivot to an online presence and that was when people started to realize the Shady Brady brand was still out there. Sales have been very solid so in the end I have been able to sell the inventory and we have started adding to the line with our own designs.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Sonoma County is in the heart of wine country. We live in a stunning place with huge opportunities for hiking, biking, shopping and sightseeing. I would start by recommending some of the wineries in the area such as Iron Horse and Cline Family Cellars. We also have an astonishing number of world class restaurants such as Single Thread in Healdsburg or The Farmhouse Inn in Forestville. I would visit some of the incredible breweries such as Old Caz in Rohnert Park or Russian River Brewery in Santa Rosa. I would travel to West County and visit the little towns of Freestone and Occidental and head down Coleman Valley Road (regarded by locals as the most beautiful drive) to Bodega Bay. Shopping in the small towns of Sebastopol, Healdsburg, Petaluma, and Sonoma are very popular. The Farmers Market in Occidental is renowned.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to thank my husband and my children for recognizing that there was something to my idea and for supporting me in so many ways. My family has helped me with sourcing materials, social media, photography, modeling, moving everything several times and allowing me to bounce ideas off of them.
Elizabeth Webley Jennifer Webley John Webley Tayla Nebesky Sarah Monroe