The shop was closed when we passed by after dinner, but the Goorin guys were still there, rearranging the hats on the shelves, mixing & matching the colors & forms just so, getting the visuals ready for tomorrow's opening.
The King Street store is long and narrow, with the slightly old-fashioned, but comfortably hip feel that Goorin Bros. cultivates. The hats are stacked atop one another on shelves to the ceiling, fedoras & cloches & bowlers & gatsbys, browns & greens & soft purples & reds arranged as if haphazard; but watching them now, through the glass, we could see that it was anything but random.
When we'd been there in the afternoon I'd begun to suspect, watching Chris scamper up the shelves, that they might be slightly other than human, these slender young men, with fine features, and wisps of facial hair. The way that they, and their female colleague, moved through the store, tending to customers and phone as if it were an effortless dance, as if it were all just great fun. Now, watching their quick, slick movments and the way they balanced their arrangements I thought of the old tale, The Elves and the Shoemaker...
Tapping on the glass didn't get their attention, so I pulled out my phone. Chris answered and I said, "I'm just outside. We were passing by..."
Instantly one of them was at the door, "Please, come in, come in... You have a hat to pick up...?"
"Well, it's my Stetson, actually. I left it here this afternoon to be cleaned. I don't know if you've had a chance..."
"Just finishing it up..." another one said, he of the twirled mustaches, coming out from the back, giving it a few more flourishes. "Chris did a fabulous job. He's the master."
My hat looked better than it has in very many months. I'd come in that afternoon, tipped off to the place by Mr TomCat, who'd bought a dandy flat cap a day or two before. My Royal Flush Stetson had gotten quite bedraggled and I was looking for a replacement. Chris tried many options, skittering among the shelves and the styles, knowing my size without asking, coming close but, we agreed, not quite finding the one that was right. He was crestfallen, but optimistic that the next time I came in, just the perfect hat for me would be there. In the meantime he offered to keep my hat and get it cleaned and reshaped. "This is very good felt," he said, fingering the brim. "Beaver... maybe some rabbit..." He might've been a young Olivander, fingering a wand.
Now, with my finely refreshed hat in hand, I looked at the three, all smiling, bright eyed albeit weary from the busy day. I fumbled, "And what can I owe you..." "Oh no, nothing at all." "Happy to do it." "A free service."
"Well, I'll certainly be in the next time I come through Charleston. In the meantime, I'll send everyone here that I can."
I know that I will buy a hat from them one day. The perfect hat will arrive. I wonder which one it will be.