Monday, April 28, 2014

Travels and tales

Good rainy Monday morning, everyone.  Hope the weekend was good where you were.

My wife and I returned from one of our periodic weekend getaways last night.  We customarily travel the short distance to Cincinnati, which is about ninety minutes from our home city of Lexington, Kentucky, for some time away.  We enjoy these little sojourns quite a bit, as we're in a pretty different environment than at home, and the cost of traveling there (both in travel and time) is pretty small.

Had a couple of novel experiences on this particular trip that I thought I'd share.  The first was a visit to an establishment in downtown Cincinnati that I'd always wanted to experience, Batsakes Hat Shop.  I'd heard of this place for some years, as I'm a great hat fan (would be hard pressed to count the number of hats and caps that I own for various purposes and activities) and it's the nearest "traditional" hat shop.  If you Google that business name, you'll see newspaper articles and all kinds of other entries, including reviews on Yelp and other such websites.

So I knew a little about it, and knew they were a very old-line, traditional business.  So on our way north Saturday morning, I mentioned to my wife that I had always wanted to go there.  She was on board with the idea rather quickly, so we ventured into the downtown Cincinnati area to find this local treasure.  Found it with little difficulty, although finding a parking spot at a meter presented a bit more of a challenge.

We entered the shop and were immediately greeted by a mature man who operates a shoe-shine stand inside the store.  That pretty much sums up the idea behind this store....the way things used to be.  I can imagine in the days when this shop first opened that a man who stopped by to shop for a hat (or to have his existing hat steamed and blocked, something these folks also do) would also want to have his shoes shined.  Anyway, the next person to greet us was an elderly lady with a very pronounced accent, asking what brought us into the store.

I explained that I had always wanted to treat myself to a "good hat," a fedora (traditional hat like men wore routinely fifty years ago) and she asked if I was interested in high quality.  I said that I was, so that clarified how she could help me.  I told her that I wanted something that would look appropriate with my head size, which I noted is probably 7 7/8 or 8.  She produced a couple of hats that looked like good possibilities, and while I won't go into how much I ended up spending, let's just say I won't buy a hat at this price very often!

Tried several colors and two different brim sizes, and surprised myself for choosing a pretty neutral color (fawn is probably the best description of the color) and a two-and-a-half inch brim (I honestly thought I'd pick the broader one).  Wife approved heartily, so that was that.  While in the shop I also took advantage of their good selection of Tilley Endurables hats (make sure to check this line out if you spend much time outdoors playing golf, gardening, etc., as their hats provide the BEST sun protection out there) and with my wife's help picked out a broad-brimmed olive-colored model.

My new fedora was then cleaned and steamed, and placed in a very heavy protective box for secure transport and storage.  This was done by a very interesting fellow named Gus Miller, the proprietor and the nephew of the founder and original owner.  He's Greek (I suspect the lady who waited on us is, too, and may well be related to Mr. Miller).  He told me he hoped I enjoyed my new hat, and I simply said, "You're Gus Miller, aren't you?" and extended my hand.  He then entertained us for ten minutes about how he got started there at the age of fifteen, with the idea of becoming a "big wheel," as he put it, only to have a broom and dustpan provided to him.

Great establishment, very nice people and high quality merchandise.  Retailers, is it so hard to produce all three at the same time?

One more quick anecdote from the trip....we were having dinner at Mitchell's Fish Market, another favorite stop of ours when in the area (part of the Cameron Mitchell restaurant group, none of which have arrived in Lexington.....yet) and our server, a very nice woman who obviously sees a lot of people, asked toward the end of our meal how long we had been married.  I smiled and said that we had been married nearly 28 years.  She nodded and smiled, and said how great that was to see, that we clearly were not only a couple but were also friends and still enjoyed each other's company.  So nice of her to notice, and we were impressed that she was that perceptive.

We had perfect weather, too, which was great.  This is particularly true because this morning it's raining here in Lexington (no complaint, my latest attempt to grow new grass in the front yard needs all the help it can get!) and is due to continue for the next day or two.

A great couple of days.  Hope they were good for you, too, and that the next few are as well!


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