"Selling Palm Leaf Hats

for over 25 years"

Also: Felt Hats, Hat Bands
Stampede Strings,
Shaping, Cleaning, Custom Work

Tony Wilson-  830-816-2334



While visiting Luckenbach and stopping at the Snail Creek Hat Shop out back be sure to be on the
look out for the Armadactyl (Armadillus Horriblus Luckenbachtus). Legend has it that the skies around Luckenbach were once filled with these mysterious creatures. Occassional sightings are still reported near the front of the General Store, when the moon is just right and you drink just enough beer.

 

Take a look around the hat shop!

TONY WILSON

“Now you’ve got some Hattitude!”  Blue eyes grinned beneath a broad brimmed felt. Luckenbach’s beloved hatter, Tony Wilson, sends another satisfied customer out into the infamous Texas sun. “I like that one on him best,” he comments as he watches the custom shaped palm leaf hat disappear into the crowd.

The “go to” Hill Country haberdasher of renowned musicians and actors, Tony also outfits working cowboys, loyal locals, and visiting tourists.

Selling hats is his business and making happy customers is his game. And it works too! It is not uncommon for Snail Creek Hat Company customers to come back every year to buy “their hat”…and get their annual “Hattitude adjustment”. Tony knows his business. He smiles and settles back into his chair on the porch of the little stone house across from the Luckenbach bar and general store.

Make no mistake, a very interesting life journey has lead him to this moment of contentment…

His fascination with hats started early. Born in San Antonio, Tony had moved, along with his family, to Boerne by his teenage years. By his sophomore year in high school, he had traded his first hat, a green felt fedora, for a Silverbelly with a distinctive crown blocked higher in the back, to this day his favorite style, a “Gus” crease.

It wasn’t long before Tony discovered Luckenbach. He and his partner in crime and best friend, Antler Dave were some of the original “regulars”. Back then, times were tough and Tony would sometimes hitchhike from Boerne, although it was often simply a long walk since many a vehicle traveling “Sisterdale Road” was reluctant to give a ride to a pony-tailed gent.

However, at the end of many of these walks, Tony was rewarded with the opportunity to spend time with his singular hero, Hondo Crouch. He was fascinated by Hondo’s, in Tony’s words, “studied innocence”, Hondo’s simple, humble delivery of carefully conceived humor.   So inspired by The Clown Prince, Tony wrote a popular column in his high school newspaper reporting on the Luckenbach news and Hondo’s latest adventures.

Of all the original Luckenbach characters of Hondo era, few remain. Despite his youthful appearance, Tony Wilson can rightfully claim to be an Old Timer! A frequent regular “back in the day”, Tony was a fixture, swapping stories and playing dominos with all the locals. However, the natural evolution of things took over and he soon found himself an official bartender insuring his place in Luckenbach’s history. Tony’s journals from that time period chronicle the everyday goings on of Hondo’s special world.

But Tony was to run parallel lives. Together with his friend and companero to this day, Boo Dale, Tony attended Rendezvous, reenactments of the Fur Trade Era, which, in many ways were not out of character since Tony was also a trapper. A natural trader with a good eye for interesting antiques, his Rendezvous “trade blanket” soon parleyed itself into a contemporary retail trading business featuring Old West collectibles and antique trade beads.

Tony’s early retail ventures included an annual booth at Kerrville Folk Festival as well as the occasional special event, including shows at Luckenbach.

A very special event in Tony’s personal life was to win back the favor of his long time love, Cassey, whom he met in his early bartending days at Luckenbach. In fact, their life involving hats and Luckenbach has come full circle starting over twenty years ago when Tony first sold hats from the old timey dancehall façade that he fashioned out of Texas barn wood and displayed in front of the Old Blacksmith Shop to their current thriving business and selling from the stone building on Snail Creek next to the outdoor stage. Unfortunately, the old blacksmith shop was destroyed in the flood of 2002.

Together, Tony and Cassey have traveled widely and have had many adventures, the most important of which is their current life together, which is 26 years long and going strong.

One of their early journeys took them down to Guatemala, with Cassey’s mother, Donna, a recent resident, as their guide. Tony’s primary goal was to seek out and acquire collections of antique trade beads, historically heavily traded in Latin America, for his business. Although intent on finding a stash of glass beads, Tony found his treasure in the form of a stack of 5” brim palm leaf hats. The palm leaf hats commonly found in the US up to that point were short brimmed. The discovery of the broader brimmed hats presented an exciting marketing opportunity. Tony purchased the whole stack. They sold out immediately at his next show.

Back to Tony’s connection to his anachronistic Fur Trade friends, Bobby Bridger, an entertainer and also a descendant of Jim Bridger, the famous mountain man, asked Tony and Cassey to create costumes for the production of his musical, Ballad of the West. Along with the period clothing that was required, there was also the need for the appropriate headwear.   Yes, hats! Having a practiced eye for objects with old time patina, Tony went to work on a group of felt hats to make them fit into the 1830’s era. Since he was in the business of selling hats, Tony took this opportunity to make a few extra “character” hats. As with the broad brimmed palm leafs, these hats were a hit.

Meanwhile, back in the palm leaf arena, Tony secured an exclusive with hat manufacturer and importer, Pueblo to People, a not for profit organization, for the 5” brim Guatemalan palm leaf hats. As their sole distributer of the broad brimmed palms, Tony brokered thousands of hats to American retailers as well as retailing some in his normal venues.

Many things were to change within the next three years, not the least important was the fact that Pueblo to People closed down.   Already closely affiliated to the organization, hat business man Jimmy Pryor, took this opportunity to pull together the resources that were already in place and create a for profit entity, Sun Body hats.

Tony then made the best decision for his business and turned his energies toward establishing a more extensive retail presence.  He then proceeded to buy wholesale stock from Jimmy, starting a great business relationship which continues to this day.

For the next 7 to 8 years, Tony and Cassey travelled around the country selling Tony’s distinctive palm leaf hats at music festivals, chili cook offs, and special events.

Then, 10 years ago, a wonderful opportunity opened up for Tony’s hat business when Luckenbach offered the use of the charming stone building on the banks of Luckenbach’s lazy little Snail Creek. And so, Snail Creek Hat Company was born.

Ever since then, Tony, with the ever present support of Cassey and help of companero, Boo Dale, has offered custom shaped palm leaf hats along with a fine selection of felts and character felts to the delight of countless customers and fans!

And even if you have never owned a hat, Tony will always sell you a hat that fits your head and your style…with Hattitude!
 

Tony Wilson Bio Written By: Frannie Sing