Mad Hats seeks to fill niche for chapeau seekers

Removing a white, brimmed Panama hat from a collection of men’s hats hanging behind him, Eslam Eltokhy then flipped the Biltmore-brand hat onto its back on the glass counter to expose the $89.99 price tag.

Eltokhy is the co-owner of the Mad Hats store that opened at Northgate Mall in March. The store has upscale collection of men’s Panama hats and fedoras, colorful church hats for women, cowboy hats and children’s sun hats.
Some retailers can sell higher-end hats for several hundred dollars, he said, but he believes his store he will be successful as long as he keeps prices reasonable and the atmosphere upbeat.
So far, Eltokhy said business is exceeding expectations.
“The more time goes by, the more people will know we’re here, the more business, obviously, will pick up,” Eltokhy also said.
The independent store is a family launched partnership between Eltokhy and his aunt, with management help from his mother, Soheir Eltokhy.
The concept was born after Eltokhy, who previously worked at a Northgate suit store, said he noticed customers coming in, and asking where to buy hats for men. He said he thought the store would fill a void.
He said he’s selling hats priced at up to $169.99, and pointed to a wall where he said he had hats in the $29.99 to $39.99 range. He also pointed to children’s hats selling for $9.99. He said he buys hats from Dorfman Pacific, a California-based wholesale provider of men’s hat brands including Stetson, Tommy Bahama and Scala.
The fedora hats are the most popular, he said, adding that he believes they catch on as people see professional athletes and actors wearing them. He’s also selling wallets, money clips, handkerchiefs, shoe shine kits and bandanas.
And although Eltokhy said he’s seen changes at the mall since he’s worked there, he said he believes business is picking up.
“I think Northgate is picking up as well,” he said.
At the mall to get his watch repaired, Granville County resident Curtis Cairns said the mall needs more unique stores like Mad Hats.
Cairns said he often has to buy hats in-store, rather than online, to make sure of the fit and hat shape. He said he’s had to send quite a few back that he bought online.
He walked through the store Thursday, explaining that he was a regular patron of The Hat Lounge, a men’s hat store that closed at Northgate at the end of 2011.
He said he’d visited hat stores around the country and internationally, and that was one of the best he’d seen.
He stumbled upon it at the birth of his second son at Durham Regional Hospital. He was hungry, ended up at the mall’s restaurant Pan Pan Diner, and found the Hat Lounge.
“This type of fashion … (store will) help put the mall where it needs to be,” he said of Mad Hats.