STEVENSVILLE - Allison Kenagy has a passion for hats, and she’s turned it into a business.
Kenagy opened The Hat Bar in downtown Stevensville in July, offering a space for people to customize their own hats.
She’s taken what she’s learned through her business, The Hat Edit, to help people be creative and spend more time in her small town.
Kenagy started adding flare to her hat collection in the spring of 2022 after being inspired by a Texas business where people can decorate their cowboy hats.
“And I was like, ‘Oh, I can do this,’ so I just started decorating my hats with things that I had in my house, then I would go to antique stores and flea markets and find really cool things, and it kind of just, like, blew up from there,” Kenagy says.
At one point, she had collected so many supplies and decorations, that she started to make hats for other people.
She was creating them in her garage and posting pictures on social media, and people started to reach out for commissions– the beginning of her business, The Hat Edit.
“I was like ‘Okay! I think this is a business’,” she says.
In the winter of 2022, Kenagy held a booth at the Missoula Christmas Market with a 'hat bar' where people could design their own hats.
She had so much success, that she started to offer The Hat Bar more often.
She hosted group events in her garage, where people were able to choose their own hats and accessories, but she knew she would eventually need a larger space.
Kenagy moved into Studio on Main, a century-old building in downtown Stevensville in July of 2023 and since her grand opening, the business has been booming.
“My goal when I started out was like, if I could just make 20 hats a week, I’ll be able to pay for the space, pay for the business, and it will be well worth everything, and it has superseded that,” she says.
Since July, people have come from as far as Canada to make a hat with Kenagy.
She’s glad her business can bring in more customers for the Stevensville area.
“I feel like we’ve brought business to Stevi as well,” she says. “They come in here for The Hat Bar, but all of a sudden they’re going to go eat something somewhere, or they’re going to go shop or get a coffee or a tea. So that’s been cool to know that people are coming from Hamilton and Missoula for The Hat Bar but then they’re going to go to other businesses while they’re here.”
Kenagy has many styles and colors of hats for participants to choose from and every accessory from feathers to guitar picks.
She also has several brand designs that people can choose from to leave a burn mark on the brim.
More than the pretty decorations, Kenagy encourages people to include family heirlooms or pieces with sentimental value.
She herself has used photos of her late mother and grandmother, and even family jewelry as accessories.
“It’s not just like, being really crafty and having this pretty hat, you’re actually doing something that you’re going to carry with you that’s special to your heart, so that’s been really, really fun,” Kenagy says.
While she sometimes employs help, the sessions are typically run by Kenagy herself.
Yet, despite making hats almost every day, she says she’s still not sick of the process.
“One of my slogans is a ‘hat is a halo of happiness,’ and you almost see that; they put their hat on whenever it’s done and they’re like ‘okay, we can’t go home. We’re going to go do something else because we have to wear our hat’,” she says. “So that’s kind of fun too, you just see them light up and it brings that happiness to them, which is really what I want.”
Kenagy’s slogan comes from children's author An Na, and every hat made by The Hat Edit is sent out in a box with the quote printed on the inside.
Her customers seem to embrace the idea.
“It’s a way for me to sort of put on a character, I guess, or just a feeling for a particular day. You know, it helps me just feel fun,” Jennifer Agee, a customer at The Hat Edit says.
Agee has made over 10 hats with Kenagy. She’s always happy to make the drive from her home in Missoula to visit The Hat Bar.
“It’s just a way to be creative, and I really like the fact that it’s local,” Agee says. “So supporting local businesses I think that’s always a good thing to do, and it’s women-owned.”
While Kenagy says she was never much of an artist growing up, she’s always loved hats.
She remembers at three years old, her parents had to sneak her favorite Cabbage Patch Doll hat from her head while she slept for fear that Kenagy would refuse to take it off.
“So yeah, I must just really like how they feel on my head to wear one almost every single day.”
She’s taught herself most of the techniques but gathers a lot of inspiration from other ‘hatters’ around the country.
Kenagy plans to keep The Hat Edit open for as long as possible. This winter, she’ll begin a milliner apprenticeship to learn how to make hats from animal pelts.
“It will just be so neat to be like, with my hands, I’ve created this hat that is perfect and only fits this person’s head," she says.
The cost for hats ranges from $50-150, and accessories are an extra $3 to $12. Kenagy says the total cost is typically between $120 and $150.