George Dunlop is not just out to sell fine hats in his new store, HooDoo Headwear; he wants to give customers the same magical, almost life-changing experience he had when he was introduced to fashionable hats about five years ago.
"We're opening the store to introduce and resurrect the magic of wearing a hat," Dunlop said. "We've called the business HooDoo Headwear because hoodoo is a kind of magic and wearing a hat casts a spell on you."
Dunlop, who has been involved with fashion and design his entire adult life, plans to open the store, 111 N. Marion St. in Oak Park, with his wife this week. The grand opening party will be held in mid-August. The store will offer traditional and designer hats in both men and women's styles, ranging in price from $35 to $350, he said.
Dunlop plans to offer various headwear styles, including fedoras, porkpies and designer couture hats, primarily of American make, but also products from designers in places like Italy and London.
"We've got a collection of hats here unlike anyone else in the city," he said. "These are designers who are exclusive to HooDoo Headwear that other people don't have for 100 or 200 miles."
Dunlop said he hopes to help customers understand and embrace the variety, along with the good feeling someone gets wearing a hat that fits. The right hat serves as an extension of someone's individual style, he said, and if chosen well, provides a confidence boost. He plans to let customers explore the store to find the perfect hat that can give them the type of transformation he felt when he first started wearing hats.
"There are a thousand different kinds of hats for a thousand different kinds of people," Dunlop said. "You've got to find the hat that matches your personality and your individual look and the event you are trying to wear it to."
He is available to help customers narrow their choices, but he isn't in business to sell people anything that's not right for them.
"I encourage people to just express themselves and find that little something different that nobody else has," said Dunlop, adding that his ultimate goal for the store is to bring "new fun and excitement" to the older tradition of fashion in headwear while carving out his own spot in Oak Park.
"We want to establish a presence in the neighborhood, get to know everybody and maybe see if we can make a couple of bucks in the process," he said.
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