Small Illinois Business is Putting America Back in Hats

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Start-up small business experiences rapid growth in dress hats for men and women.

It all started when TheFedoraStore.com President, Duane Dewsbury, went shopping for a nice hat. "I was looking around at all of the men's stores for a nice hat," said Duane, "and everywhere I went I was told they didn't carry them, but that many people were asking for them." TheFedoraStore.com is an Internet business operated from Lindenhurst, Illinois.

Duane continued that it didn't take a rocket scientist to understand that there was a niche market here and he decided to test the waters. "I decided to get a box of hats from a wholesaler in San Diego and see how they did on eBay," said Duane." He said they (hats) were all the same, drab grey color soft floppy c-crown fedoras, and they all sold quickly. "I figured the low mark-up had something to do with it, but I also knew that there weren't many others selling hats," he added.

Duane told us that his business philosophy is quite simple. "Provide a quality durable product at a very competitive price. Quality, Value and the best customer service, that's it!" he said.

From there TheFedoraStore.com expanded away from eBay (although the eBay store still exists) and set up an online storefront. "I realized that if I had problems finding a nice dress hat in Chicagoland, then there were plenty of other hat enthusiasts out there without local retailers in their area." Duane said if he built a nice store online, he knew they would come. "Sure, there are plenty of other online retailers that I compete with," said Duane.

Duane told us the single most important part of his business is to keep his customers happy and returning. "Customer satisfaction is our number one priority," he said. "I have been in retail for some time, and if your customers aren't happy they won't come back. We have improved our website to make the shopping experience pleasant and easy online." Duane said the new website is very automated and secure. Customers can create an account and track their orders without worrying about their personal information being accessible to unauthorized parties.

"Every bit of information we have can only be accessed by me," he said. "I am a small business experiencing tremendous growth. However, I still hold a full time job in the retail industry. When TheFedoraStore.com grows to the point where it could get hard to keep up with, then I can quit my other job and devote my full day to it. I have no reason for anyone else to access any of the data we collect," he added.

Duane Dewsbury joined the United States Navy in 1981 and served as a military journalist and public affairs officer for 20 years. He is a disabled veteran that is very active with the veteran community, and a past post commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Since his retirement from the Navy in 2001, Duane has served in positions as sales manager, finance manager and general manager in the automotive retail industry, and still does. "It's a fun business," he said, "but I would like to devote all of my time to hats when the growth of sales permits."

"I will do what I can to live up to our slogan, Putting America Back in Hats. The only way to do it is to keep our customers happy," said Duane.

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Duane Dewsbury