Sunday, July 15, 2007

Arnold Hatters, aka Knox Hats (the original)


Knox was knocked out, along with the entire block, when the city used eminent domain to give the real estate to the Times for their new skyscraper on 8th Ave. The hatter moved to a new location, but it's just not the same as this showcase of hats.

excerpted from: When Change Rains Down, You're Going to Need a Hat
The New York Times, March 9, 2005

ARNOLD RUBIN knows hats. A plaque attesting to his stature in the field of felt and fur adorns the only wall space in his store not obscured by homburgs and fedoras. It announces to all that he was named Hat Retailer of the Year in 2001 by the Traveling Hat Salesmen's Association of America.

''For excellence in the retail headwear business,'' it says.

A lot has happened since then, beyond the hat salesmen's decision to change their group's name to the Headwear Association. The state decided to revitalize a stretch of Eighth Avenue, a little south of Times Square. The New York Times decided to build a new headquarters on Eighth Avenue, a little south of Times Square. Someone invoked those magical words, ''eminent domain,'' and presto: say goodbye to several small businesses on Eighth Avenue, a little south of Times Square.

Among them, Arnold Hatters, also known as Knox Hats, which had been at 620 Eighth Avenue for more than 40 years and whose owner could trace his Times Square hat-selling lineage to 1926.

New York is ever evolving, the urban planners say; change is its nature. But paying the practical cost of that change are not the urban theorists above, but the locksmiths and hatters below. Mr. Rubin had worked to build a presence at that location, and had personally chased pimps and crack dealers away from his store's entrance -- save for those few interested in seeing, say, a Biltmore grand beaver homburg in a 7 1/4.

Now, at 68, he had to start all over.

For four months in late 2003, this city's choral cacophony did not include the voice of Mr. Rubin and his two grown sons, Peter and Mark, as they renovated a new store farther down Eighth Avenue, just south of 37th Street. Finally, late that December, Arnold Hatters reopened, shouting its motto in full throat:

''Much is said by what you wear on your head.''

Some citizens have heeded that advice, though not as many as when the old store used to benefit from Times Square and Port Authority foot traffic. Business is off about 40 percent, which means that choice words are still reserved for The Times and the state. But the Rubins refuse to dwell too much on the past. They have hats to sell, thousands of them.

text Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

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