Hat maker turns hobby into inspiration
February 28, 2021
With over 50 years in cosmetology, Frederick Martin Qualls decided to retire from the industry and open a hat shop in Carbondale last February.
“Making hats is my hobby and I was planning to open this business after my retirement,” Qualls said.
Having once been incarcerated himself, Qualls goes to local jails to speak with inmates about how they can still accomplish much in life and to not let their time in prison define who they are upon release.
“I was inspired to open up a hat store to reinvent myself to show the incarcerated that they don’t have to depend on nobody to open up a business,” Qualls said.
With the help of God and some money from his social security checks, Qualls was able to open the hat shop at 201 W. Walnut Street.
“With the help of God you can do whatever you put your mind into.You don’t have to depend upon the government to take care of you,” Qualls said.
Unfortunately, Qualls opened his business just before the start of the pandemic, which caused him to close for 3 months, leaving his newly made hats unable to be sold.
Due to the pandemic, he doesn’t get many customers, but he said he is getting a good amount of orders. His website showcases the hats he makes and he is planning to shift to online ordering rather than receiving phone orders.
To make the hats, Qualls first buys the hat body materials from a supplier warehouse in Marion. He starts preparing the hat giving it a healthy dose of steam. Steam makes the hat pliable so that it can be molded into different shapes. He uses a wooden frame where he places the hat and stretches it up to a desired shape. The hat is then left to dry for a few hours after which he affixes the band and other decorative materials using the machines in his workshop, which is the last process.
Hats are priced anywhere from $55.00 to $175.00. With hats made of silk, straw, wool, rabbit and beaver fur, the price will increase based on the quality of material used in making the hat.
It is the hope for Qualls to give jobs to people who have disabilities and to those coming out of institutions.
“My main focus is to teach people how to make hats,” Qualls says.
Staff Photographer Subash Kharel can be reached at [email protected] or on Instagram at @pics.leaks.