Authentic Felt Hats with Fresno’s Nicholson Hat Co.
Jun 30, 2019 11:00AM
● By Kayla Anderson
Story by Kayla Anderson
Photos courtesy of Nicholson Hat Co.
EARNING A BACHELOR'S degree in food science from Fresno State University and a master’s degree in nonprofit management from a university in London, Keryn Nicholson never thought in a million years that she would be the proud owner of a San Joaquin Valley-based hat company.
But as the saying goes, the path is never a straight line to get to where you are going.
Headquartered in Fresno, Nicholson Hat Co. specializes in creating custom hats from the finest quality Tennessee-sourced felts.
She became interested in hats as a little girl hanging out with her beloved dad Michael, who always had Stetson hats around. Keryn’s favorite was his “Open Road” hat with a short brim and cowboy-style crown. She always borrowed her dad’s hats and reshaped them to make them fit her own head.
Fast forward to when she graduated from college, Keryn figured she wanted to do something nutrition-related and travel. She joined the Peace Corps and went to Ethiopia for a few months, but after several people in the group got ill, she came back to the Fresno area and got a job at Fleet Feet. Two years later, she went to England to get her master’s degree.
“I always wanted to create something myself, whether that was an organization or some kind of business, something that I started,” she says. However, being in the nonprofit world, Keryn still felt like something was missing, so she started experimenting with food, art and vintage clothing.
“Our parents raised us on a dime, so I was always shopping at thrift stores and started creating my own style,” Keryn adds. For instance, she would take ripped Levi’s jackets and jeans, adding patches to them and repurposing T-shirts, then resell her twist on clothes at craft fairs and vintage shows mainly in Los Angeles.
It was at one of these shows in LA when Keryn met a seasoned hatmaker who invited her to visit his workshop.
“I fell in love with this guy’s hat shop. I just knew that was it for me,” she says about the experience. Afterwards, Keryn cancelled a planned trip to Morocco and used the money to buy a hat steamer instead.
“I called my parents and said, I know this sounds so random considering I have a master’s degree in nonprofit management and I wanted to do something with nutrition, but I want the Nicholson name to carry on and I’ll be the only hatmaker in the Valley. Let’s give it a go,” Keryn says.
With her parents’ support (and artist/boyfriend Paul Jebian encouraging her to keep creating), Keryn continued her path of researching, meeting designers, building relationships and making hats using antique turn-of-the-century equipment from the early 1900s. She launched the Nicholson Hat Co. in February 2018.
She posted her first hats to the @nicholsonhatco Instagram account and the quality handcrafted hats were well received.
“I get 80 percent of my customers online through social media,” she says.
From start to finish, it takes Keryn about five or six hours to build a hat – the most popular being the camel-colored “summer festival” style that’s trending now.
Since the Nicholson Hat Co.’s inception, Keryn has sold around 65 hats and locals have been especially supportive of her business. She gets a handful of requests each week and was the first hatter to show at the Clovis Rodeo this past spring.
Sharing a building space with Jebian in The Old Tobacco House, the couple is concentrating on growing both of their businesses. Keryn’s next goal is to hire more staff – her first employee being her father. As Michael gets close to retirement, Keryn thinks it would be fun to work with the man who got her hooked on hats.
“This business feels like it fits,” Keryn says about launching the Nicholson Hat Co., and even though she doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon, Keryn
says she and Jebian did reschedule their trip to Morocco this September.
Nicholson Hat Co. hats can be found at the Daughters of Simone bridal shop or schedule an appointment by calling (559) 385-0909. •
Find them on Facebook and Instagram