Crown & Brim combines a Western mountain chic with urban sensibility on Park City’s Main Street
Crown & Brim/JW Bennett
Where: 364 Main St., #2E
Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Saturday; and Sundays or any time by appointment
There’s a new artisan hat store in town that blends Western mountain chic with an urban flair.
Crown & Brim, which is transitioning into a new brand name, JW Bennett, recently opened on the second floor of 364 Main St., with the entrance located on 4th Street near Swede Alley.
The shop showcases custom, hand-made hats and beaded bands created by founder Sarah Kjorstad, who said she crafts the hats out of felt with hat blocks and steam, the same process used by hat makers in the 1800s.
Kjorstad gets the felt from the Winchester Hat Company in Tennessee, and her husband, a bird and elk hunter, supplies her with feathers and leather for her hat bands.
The inspiration for the hats is a blend of Kjorstad growing up on a ranch in Wyoming and living in the coastal cities of Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, in America’s northwest.
“I have roots in the rural, but love the urban side of things,” she said. “And fashion has always been something I’ve been interested in.”
Kjorstad started her company in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, two years ago to fulfill a creative itch.
“I wanted to do something that was inspirational and fulfilling that would work around my family life,” she said. “Hats worked with the vibe in town, and I wanted to create something that was unique that they could feel comfortable wearing here and back home in the city.”
In just a little over a year, Kjorstad’s hats took off.
“I was shocked, grateful and blown away from the response I received from the community and other areas,” she said.
The success, however, intimidated Kjorstad, because of her lack of business experience.
“I know how to make hats, but I really didn’t know how to run a business,” she said. “I had started this as just something fun for me to do.”
Kjorstad’s concerns about her flourishing business eased when she met Lara Azria-Reucassel, who would become the operations, finance director and parnter of the Park City store.
“Lara’s dad and friend came into my Jackson Hole shop one day, and bought some hats,” Kjorstad said. “The next time they came back, Lara came in with her dad, and he pitched the idea of selling the hats in Park City.”
Azria-Reucassel texted Kjorstad the next day.
“We had coffee, and I immediately felt a connection with her, because of her great energy,” Kjorstad said. Furthermore, Kjorstad found that Azria-Reucassel has a background in business, and her family is involved in the international fashion world.
“I love working with numbers and finance, but I also have a good eye for design,” Azria-Reucassel said. “When I watched Sarah create her hats, I noticed right away that she knew what she was doing. The felt is worked in a great manner so it doesn’t just look like a western hat that you will wear on a ranch. Sarah hand-stitches the designs on the side of the hat, and you can easily wear them in the city with a gown or silk dresses.”
The two first met in June and began working together in July, and that’s when Azria-Reucassel, a Park City resident, found a vacant shop location on Main Street.
“One day, I was walking up and down Main Street, and saw a space that was similar to what Sarah has in Jackson Hole,” she said. “It’s a huge space on the second floor across from China Bridge, and it is filled with a lot of natural light.”
After securing the lease, Azria-Reucassel and Kjorstad began painting and remodeling the 1,000-square-foot space for retail.
“Sarah and her assistants also worked hard to create inventory,” Azria-Reucassel said. “Since we don’t have a production studio in Park City, we wanted to make sure we had enough inventory for customers to come in and choose their sizes, and see the different styles and forms they could have.”
In addition to its regular hours, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, the store is available by appointment by calling or texting 435-640-6155.
“If there is a group that would like to come in after hours for a fitting, shopping and design session, we offer that as well,” Azria-Reucassel said.
At the moment, the shop carries all the Crown & Brim hats, and the plan is to start selling bandanas that have been created by Kjorstad, according to Azria-Reucassel.
“We want to expand into a whole look and lifestyle of Western mountain chic and will expand into belts and scarves and denim accessories,” she said.
Expanding Crown & Brim to Park City also spurred Kjorstad and Azria-Reucassel to change the store’s name.
“When I first named my company, I didn’t think it would spread as widely as it had,” Kjorstad said. “So I looked at names that wouldn’t conflict with anyone else in Wyoming, but as it grew and Lara came on board, we talked about creating a brand.”
Kjorstad decided on JW Bennett, which is an expression of her life, family and heritage of growing up on a Wyoming ranch.
“J and W come from the first initials in my parents’ names, and Bennett is my grandmother’s maiden name and my dad’s middle name,” she said. “We have a brand for cattle on the ranch that is an upside-down JW. So, I decided on this because I wanted to show honor to them and the person I’ve become business wise and creatively.”
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