Harlem woman, owner of 100 hats, saved ailing hat company

Georgiette Morgan-Thomas is known among friends for never being seen without a hat, but she surprised them by investing more than $100,000 to take over the Philadelphia company she’s renamed American Hats.

NEW YORK — The straw hat with ribbon and a silk flower slid easily on Zina Burton-Myrick’s head as she looked in the mirror, cocked her head to the side and then dipped her knees a bit to view herself from various angles. There was silence as everyone in the showroom in Harlem waited for the verdict.

“I’m feeling this. This is it,” said Burton-Myrick, 54, a representative for the United Federation of Teachers, who wanted a hat for a convention.

Nearby, the Rev. Georgiette Morgan-Thomas, who owns the showroom on Strivers’ Row and has been a part of the Harlem community for decades, gave a clap of approval before stepping in to make adjustments.

Georgiette Morgan-Thomas

Age: 68

Background: Retired in May as director of Harlem services for Goddard Riverside Community Center, after 20 years at the New York City social-services organization

Goal: Hopes to open a second factory for American Hats in Harlem

Source: NYT

“The hat is empowering. If you go back and look at pictures of women in the suffragette movement, they were all wearing hats,” Morgan-Thomas said. “It gives a woman good posture. When something is on your head, you hold your head up straight.”

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Morgan-Thomas would know. She owns more than 100 hats and is known for never being seen without one. Though, at 68, she never expected to own a hat factory.

But in 2015, when her friend Harriet Rosebud, a hat designer, mentioned that the ailing S&S Hat Co. in Philadelphia was for sale, Morgan-Thomas jumped at the opportunity.

“I just said, ‘I’ll buy it.’ Then I said, ‘What did I just say?’ ” Morgan-Thomas recalled at the factory in May.

She invested more than $100,000 and took over in January 2016, renaming the factory American Hats.

“She just doesn’t say she likes hats — she lives it, “ Rosebud said. “When she doesn’t wear a hat, people sometimes don’t recognize her. I’ve seen it happen.”

The company quickly lost a $32,000 annual order, and a manager left. Morgan-Thomas, who had planned to handle only the managerial and marketing aspects, leaned on her employees to learn the basics.

“We weren’t taking over a business that was successful,”…

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