2012-08-02 / Business
Entrepreneur tips his cap to new customers
“The (local) department stores didn’t carry anything close to what I was looking for,” Romiski said. “I couldn’t find fedoras, I couldn’t find derby hats, I couldn’t find pork-pie hats. . . . The only option was to go to Hollywood and spend a fortune.”
Since his business opened on Thousand Oaks Boulevard in November, the 35-year-old entrepreneur has earned a reputation for stocking his shelves with hard-to-find selections, including cowboy hats, ivy caps, bowlers and top hats.
“I opened the store as a means of getting customers the kind of hats you can’t find around here,” Romiski said. “Our prices vary (but) you can find a great hat for under $25.”
The Newbury Park resident lives by the motto that there is a hat for everyone—even if they don’t know it yet.
“In a few days, anyone can become a hat person,” he said.
Romiski, a Simi Valley native, said his love affair with head wear comes from personal experience.
“When I first put on a fedora, I thought I looked like Freddy Krueger,” he said, referencing the 1980s-era horror villain.
But his peers disagreed.
“All of a sudden I started getting compliments,” Romiski said. “I kept wearing it and it became a part of me.”
Hats are making a comeback, he said.
“Young people and older people are now wearing the same styles. An older man may come in looking for a pork-pie hat, but someone in high school might look at the same hat and say, ‘Wow, that’s really cool. I want that.’”
The Cal State Northridge graduate is no stranger to sales.
He sold doughnuts at age 12, and when he was 13 he worked as a door-to-door salesman.
“First, it was newspapers. Then it was candy.”
But schoolyard sales proved to be an even more lucrative business.
“I sold firecrackers and gum,” he said with a laugh. “I have a lot of experience in sales.”
More than 20 years later, Romiski provides customers with a different type of pop.
“A hat is the last thing you put on and the first thing people notice about you,” he said. “We help them choose hats that complement their clothing style.”
Newbury Park resident Chris Miller called the store a happy place.
“When you’re down and out, going to the hat store just lifts you up,” she said. “You feel much better. . . .
“Tom’s good at putting things together,” Miller added. “I love going in.”
Romiski is proud of the selection his store offers.
“When the store first opened, a girl came in looking for an orange fedora,” Romiski said. “She had lost hers in Malibu the year before and had been searching for a new one.”
The young lady was in luck.
“When I had one, she was really jazzed,” Romiski said. “It made my day.”
Eager to satisfy every customer, the store owner will go out of his way to make sure they find the right fit.
“Some people want their hats customized,” he said. “We accessorize the hats and offer embroidery for decoration. I’ll take a feather and attach it with some glue to give it a different look.”
Hats can also be made to fit.
“We can stretch them or add padding,” Romiski said. “The customer can get hats custom-made to their exact comfort level.”
Making people comfortable is part of the job.
“A lot of (chemo) patients come here,” Romiski said. “They’re very sensitive to what kind of hat they want, and we try and find a hat that fits them well. . . .
“We give those customers special attention. It’s a very sensitive topic, and we try to make them feel (at ease). It’s rewarding to watch them feel satisfied with their hats.”
Whether they’re for fashion or function, hats can be a fun addition to any wardrobe, Romiski said.
“Tommy has hats that can’t be beat,” Miller said. “Everyone should have a hat.”
To learn more about Hats of Style, visit www.facebook.com/hatsofstyle or call (805) 496-2926.
The business is at 1362 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd.