JP CENTER—Flo Zimmerman of JP stood in front of a mirror at the recently opened Salmagundi hat and accessories store at 765 Centre St. and adjusted the cap on her head, tilting it from side to side for the best look.
Finally, her sister, Rose Zimmerman, nodded her approval, and the two suddenly broke out in laughter.
“It’s a hip hat store,” said Rose, visiting from San Francisco, “the kind I might see back home.”
Flo picked up another hat to try. “I like how the store is styled. The space really works. And they play great songs.”
Her words were music to the ears of Jessen Fitzpatrick, owner of the new shop along with his wife, Andria Rapagnola.
“We’re passionate about what we do and worked hard to make a space so comfortable that people don’t want to leave,” he said, describing the ambience as “an eclectic, upscale feel, like something you might find in metro areas of Chicago, San Francisco or SoHo. But at a reasonable price point.”
Fitzpatrick went on to say he and his wife “want the quality and fashion level of our store to be competitive on a national scale…and plan to go online at sometime in the future.”
Andrea Crawford from JP said, “I’ve been in here several times and already have bought a hat for myself and brought in some friends. It’s a nice little independent shop that brings something unique to JP.”
Salmagundi, which means “a mixture of things,” lives up to its name, offering a variety of scarves from $35 to $180; jewelry, most handmade in the US; wallets, including biodegradable ones; and leather belts from Italy.
But, make no mistake, the headliners in this product list are defiantly the hats: Ivy hats, newsboy hats, eight-corner hats, Hyde Park hats, outback hats, 5950 caps, diamond and derby hats, coquette and cloche hats, and, for the connoisseur, custom-designed hats.
“We have a diverse stock that matches the diversity of the area,” said Fitzpatrick. “Andria has always been into fashion and is good at predicting trends. We keep our stock fresh by dealing with about 12 different vendors, and we only carry a couple of the same items at a time.”
At first glance, it might seem that opening a retail shop with such specialized goods could be a tough fit in the present economy, but the couple says they have the experience and have done the homework required to succeed.
Rapagnola, a graduate of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, worked as a visual stylist for Neiman Marcus, among others. Jessen studied business at several local colleges and worked most recently for New Balance.
The couple also worked together running a small import start-up business for the past two years.
They began testing the Boston hat and accessories market last year as outdoor exhibitors at events like the South End Jazz Festival, Wake Up the Earth and the JP World’s Fair “when we noticed the city didn’t have any hat boutiques,” said Fitzpatrick.
With the help of the Small Business Administration, they took courses and put together a business plan.
“I saw a lot of small businesses fold while working at New Balance, and I learned from their mistakes. I never take success for granted,” he said, adding, “The first 10 weeks of business has been fantastic, beyond any of our projections.”
Elene Moore, who’s run His & Hers (Julia’s) hair salon next door for 36 years, called the couple “nice kids. I wish them all the luck in the world. They’re certainly devoted to their business, which is very stylish and something that JP needs.
“I hope they stay around a long time,” she said, noting during the past 10 years four different stores have occupied their space.
“We’re taking things step by step. Our goal is to become a fixture in JP and hopefully open another store down the road,” said Fitzpatrick. “We want the whole business district to be successful. It’s all about bringing more shoppers to JP.”
Salmagundi is open Tuesdays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. (closed weekdays 1-3:30 p.m.); open Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sundays, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information call 522-5047.