Every season, styles change. We are asked to keep up with the new trendy colors, hem lengths and shoe heel types. Materials go in and out of vogue, belts go from thick to thin, jeans from bell to bootcut to skinny. Who has time to be fashionable? Luckily, there is one thing that hasn’t changed, that still looks smart, that still helps make a wardrobe both fun, and depending on the style, functional. Hats.
1110 Texas Avenue downtown has become the newest location for hat manufacturing. Caddo Bros Hat Company is a one-off, completely customizable hat maker that takes your head measurements to make a hat that is yours and yours only. You choose the type, style, materials, colors and ephemera (headbands, feathers, badges, etc.) to make the hat one that will live with you for years. Do hats make the man (or woman)? Would Raylan Givens have the same U.S. Marshal swagger without his hat? Would Abe be honest without his stovepipe? You know the answer.
Historic Texas Avenue is the worldwide headquarters of Caddo Bros Hat Company. The business reeks of smallish town America- from its location in a former Schorr Furniture store that locals still remember from the slogan, ‘the working man’s store!’-to the vintage decor that looks like everything you grew up with and should not have thrown out because it is desirable again.
It is appropriate that this business should be here, on a strip that was the birthplace to dreams. The avenue is part of the original Texas Trail, the one-time muddy and dangerous path that led from Louisiana to that foreign land known as the Republic of Texas. In the 1920s through 50s, the ‘Nue transformed into Shreveport’s hub for Black-owned businesses. As those businesses moved to the suburbs, the once stately avenue became home to furniture store row and later, to empty buildings, used car dealerships and weedy, unkempt vacant lots. Thankfully, that was not to be the end of this story. History-loving younger business owners are moving in, the avenue’s fortunes are looking bright, art and commerce and interest are thriving. The transformation was accelerated when C & C Mercantile and Lighting moved to 1100 Texas Avenue in the middle of the Covid pandemic in 2020.
Caddo Bros Hat Co. is the perfect addition to the authenticity that is C&C Mercantile and Lighting. C & C is home to ArtiFact, an Artisan’s Factory that nurtures local artists who use the space to paint, create, display and sell, and to Caddo Bros Hat Co., a small batch headwear business that was originally intended as a creative outlet for persons with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, a business that might eventually turn a profit, but would provide skills, purpose and a paycheck in the meantime.
In order for Caddo Bros to have a chance, owners Derek Simmons, wife Lauren Ross Simmons and friend James Carmody knew they needed to create demand along with their handmade, small-batch hats. They also had to recreate manufacturing methods that seemed to be lost, or, at the very least, hidden. The methods and skills are being perfected each day, and the hats made of wool felt, rabbit, straw and other natural materials, have come into their own.
When possible, materials are made or harvested in the U.S. The hats are made for one head, sized according to measurements provided for the hat’s soon-to-be owner. There are men and women’s hats, traditional styles from Pescador to Panama, to newer fashionable ‘cowgirl chic’ to wide brim Fedora to leather patch trucker hats. Ribbons, braids, pins, buttons, buckles, feathers, and cherished mementos can be designed into each hat to make it even more special.
It has been a steep learning curve for Lauren, Derek and James. Together, these three have the skills to build a lighting fixture, rewire an electrical plug, create one of a kind art, lay pipe, dance, raise chickens, act, start a successful business…but handcrafting custom hats was a skill none of them had. “It’s been a learning curve,” says Derek. Whatever magic they are making on Texas Avenue is working. Caddo Bros. is flourishing, more space is needed, more employees are being hired.
The hats, that take roughly 20 hours to produce, are getting noticed by national media, and are becoming ‘stars’ of photo shoots. These new pieces of fashion are old hat no more.
To learn more about getting a hat made especially for you, go by C&C Mercantile and Lighting, 1110 Texas Avenue, Mon.-Fri., 10 am- 5 pm or Saturdays, 10 am- 2 pm, call 318-424-4406, or email here.