Rev. Georgiette Morgan-Thomas

WCBS 880

'Sweet Spot' With Mike Sugerman: Harlem Woman Buys Hat Factory, Saves Jobs

April 06, 2018 - 6:30 am

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- A Harlem woman likes to wear hats so much that she bought a hat factory.

By doing so, is trying to keep jobs in America.

The Rev. Georgiette Morgan-Thomas is a hat lady.

“I wear hats every day,” she told WCBS 880’s Mike Sugerman. “A hat was the completion of an outfit.”

She had 100 hats in her collection. But the factory many of them came from was going out of business.

So, at the drop of a hat, she made a decision.

“And then I said, ‘I’ll buy it!’ And then I was like: ‘What did I just say? I’ll buy it?”

So two years ago, after a career in Harlem community health and the church, Morgan-Thomas, 68, and her son took $100,000 of savings, and bought the almost 100-year-old S&S hat factory. 

The factor is all the way in Philadelphia, and Morgan-Thomas commutes from her Harlem home.

“I saw this as an opportunity for me to one, to save jobs for people who had invested most of their life in this factory,” she told Sugerman as she scurried around the factory. “Two, to be able to be an example to others that we can manufacture again in this country.”

Morgan-Thomas saved a dozen jobs, including Bob Redel’s. He had given 30 years of his life to the factory.

“It’s good that she took it over, and she’s trying her best to swing this; turn around, you know?” Redel said.

Is it working?

“I’m hoping so,” Redel said.

Rev. Morgan-Thomas piped in: “The hat industry had declined a bit. Church membership was declining. Women were not, and people in general were not getting as dressed up to go to church anymore, and so you had a declining customer base. We realized that we couldn’t do things the same way they had been done, because if we did, we would get the same results.”

She rebranded the factory as American Hats, opened a storefront in Harlem, and started making newer, hipper hats like fedoras. She changed hat-making techniques, and last year sold 3,000 hats – an increase of 40 per cent.

“I’m hoping that other Americans will say: ‘You know what? I can do that too.’”

So hats off to the Rev. Morgan-Thomas, who put her hat in the ring, and is making a go of it.