Refurbishing NYC’s Historic JJ Hat Center

A few months ago I was commissioned to restore a storefront over on 5th and 32nd st, JJ Hat Center. They’re long time clients, partners of the good folks over at Pork Pie Hatters. I’ve done a lot of work for them over the years, building their website, designing custom hat blocks, making marketing materials, and creating the branding for their series of handmade hats. This was a whole other level of project, though.

To start, the building used to be an IBM adding machine factory and showroom. When JJ’s took it over, they installed a lovely wood exterior. So, on the plus side, there is a lot of old NYC richness both inside and out. On the downside, the wood exterior had fallen apart in the intervening years. Part of my job was to see through the decades of wear and tear and come up with a plan for refurbishing everything to resemble the original without spending thousands on custom parts. Fortunately my friend Clark put me in touch with a few very talented carpenters. So, with some meetings and design drawings, they were rolling on building the elements for the exterior. Continue reading

Pork Pie Stamps

I’ve been really excited to work with Pork Pie Hatters over the last few months. I’ve made hat stands, hat blocks, and some fun laser cut experiments for them and it’s been sincerely fascinating to find ways to blend their classic hand crafting tools and techniques with the kind of digital fabrication that can bring mass production polish to boutique small run items.

As part of defining the look of Pork Pie Hatters products and bringing some cohesion to their packaging, they commissioned me to make a set of huge stamps to brand their cardboard hat boxes. Since these giant roller stamps would be inconvenient to hide away in their stores, I decided to make the whole design fit with the old school aged wood aesthetic of the rest of their equipment. Continue reading

Pork Pie Door Installed

As a follow up on my previous post, I’d like to show you how the door for Pork Pie Hatters looks all installed on its building. After many hours, repeated calls to the contracting dispatching depot, bribes, and stress everything’s settled. Now there’s a beautiful, stylish, and above all functional door on the front of that business.

The door is a custom solid ash apothecary style door. It’s got a light stain and is sealed with several coats of flooring grade urethane. I’m hoping that it’ll deepen and develop character after the years of abuse NY will have to offer. I’m also hoping the oiled bronze hardware I chose will tarnish and develop as more and more people handle it.

You can check out photos of the door, the shop, and what everything looks like in situ on flickr.

Pork Pie Door

It’s interesting seeing friends from long ago reaching that age where they become the people that they’re going to be for the rest of their lives. I’m seeing people unfold, becoming adventurers, business owners, makers, builders, and thinkers. It’s exciting.

To wit, a high school friend, Sean O’Toole has opened a hat store on the Lower East Side of Manhattan: Pork Pie Hatters. Having come from a haberdashing household, he’s well suited to owning his own hat shop. Upon reconnecting with him after a few years completely out of touch, I discovered he was in want of a maker.

Sean commissioned me to design a custom door for his shop complete with old world apothecary style signage.  I was happy to oblige. After some tense negotiations with various door sellers, some shipping delays, and a foray down hand sign lettering the finished product is strapped to the top of my car and awaiting delivery Friday. I’m excited to see it on the shop.

I ended up going with vinyl lettering for the final signage, but you can see a time lapse of me painting the letters myself below. I wasn’t entirely happy with the results, so they had to go. It was fun trying, though. Video after the jump… Continue reading